Regev Seeks to Cut Off Tel Aviv Cinematheque Over Conscientious Objectors Event

Israel's culture minister has asked the attorney general to examine whether the state may withhold funds from the establishment on grounds it is hosting an illegal event, a charge that the Cinematheque denies.

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Culture Minister Miri Regev in the Knesset during the preliminary vote on a private member's bill to repeal the Book Law, Mar. 23, 2016. Regev stands at the podium in the Knesset plenum.
Culture Minister Miri Regev.Credit: Emil Salman

Culture and Sport Minister Miri Regev has asked Attorney General Avihai Mendelblit to check as to how support may be withheld from the Cinematheque in Tel Aviv, ahead of an Aug. 1 event for conscientious objectors.

The planned event, entitled “Who is afraid of freedom of conscience?” follows 19-year-old Tair Kaminer's release this week after spending 159 days behind bars for refusing to serve in the IDF, as a conscientious objector against the occupation of Palestinian territories.

A movie called “Clean Conscience” directed by Uri Barbash will be shown and Kaminer will sit on a panel afterwards with three Israel Prize winners to discuss the issue.

The event is organized by the Festival for Solidarity with Cinema, Activism and Human Rights, and has been held on an annual basis at the venue for the past four years.

Regev wrote the attorney general that Kaminer had asked to be released from IDF duties “because serving in the IDF means participating in the crimes of occupation.”

“This is an event aimed at encouraging draft refusal. It is not refusal to a specific order, but encouraging general refusal against the army, which is against Israeli law, a crime for which Tair sat in jail like others before her,” Regev wrote.

Regev said she saw it as a “serious situation where a cultural estsablishment supported by the state, such as the Cinematheque, provides a stage for activites that violate the law. Therefore I would ask to instruct the legal authorities to come up with a legal solution to withhold support to any establishment providing a stage for activites that undermine the country.”

Pini Shatz, program director at the Cinematheque in Tel Aviv, told Haaretz that “since this is about a debate about objectors and not to encourage objectors, I invite Miri Regev to attend herself and add her voice to the panel. In any case the organizers are the solidarity festival who are renting out the hall for this event and we provide this service just as we would provide it to any other group.”

Mendelblit has previously permitted Regev to deny funds to cultural groups on grounds they were supporting activites “against the principles of the state,” though he has denied her request to condition funds for all cultural establishments on a prior examination of their activities.