Laying Out Anti-boycott Plans, Culture Minister Miri Regev Booed at Israeli Film Festival

A mainly student audience protested when the culture minister vowed not to support voices seeking to tarnish Israel’s image, but applauded when she promised funding for art in the periphery.

Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev speaking at the Cinema South International Film Festival, at Sapir Academic College, June 9, 2015.
Yehuda Peretz

Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev was booed on Tuesday while addressing a film festival in southern Israel. Speaking at the opening of the Sapir Graduate Films program of the Cinema South International Film Festival, at Sapir Academic College, Regev declared that she would not give a voice to anyone seeking to insult Israel’s soldiers or to tarnish the image of the state. The mostly student audience responded with boos.

“Anyone attempting to delegitimize Israel will do this without our support,” Regev went on to say. “We had the crisis with FIFA and with Orange, who apologized because they understood that Jewish power is translated into consumer power. We can’t keep apologizing for our existence as the state of Israel. I’m all for pluralism that allows people to express their positions, but I’m against slinging mud and supporting boycotts. I’ll fight to increase budgets to support and expanding art, but I’ll direct them away from people hurting the state and toward those who want to develop. Art and culture are food for the soul. As minister of culture it’s my job to ensure a diversity of voices in Israeli society, [but] currently we are in the midst of a diplomatic campaign and we must do everything possible to stop giving ammunition to our enemies.”

Prof. Aner Preminger, who teaches in Sapir’s filmmaking program, stood up and shouted in protest, and other audience members shouted that it’s not a democracy if people cannot express themselves freely. Most of the audience applauded when Regev said she would continue to support the arts and film in the country’s northern and southern regions.

“This is democracy,” Regev said in response to the boos and the applause. “I’m happy to see what is happening here — the shouting expresses pluralism, which will take shape in Ariel, Kiryat Shmona, Nazareth and Sderot. The Ministry of Culture and Sports will support those who don’t delegitimize Israel.”

Sderot Mayor Alon Davidi hushed the audience, saying the interjections were “not how things are done in Sderot” and adding that he and the college president are available for private meetings.

“We have here a minister who looks at the north and south before considering the center of the country, and we need someone like her to advance these regions,” Davidi told the audience.

After her address, Regev said she was accustomed to hearing such remarks from people in the art world. She told students that she would continue to meet them “in the name of pluralism and democracy — we’ll enable freedom of expression to everyone, everywhere in Israel.”