The actor Ohad Knoller may not be a comic, but he’s got a sense of humor, that’s for sure. When he met with Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev in his capacity of chairman of the Israeli Actors Guild, he posed a question to her: I’ve been writing a script for two years now, he said, and I want to know what’s allowed and what’s prohibited, from the minister’s perspective.
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Irony, satire, soft sarcasm? Regev responds like a bowshot at even the hint of an insult, but it seems that the irony here went over her head. She answered him in all seriousness that she would shortly be publishing criteria. After all, I pay, as she said in an interview, and they are ungrateful.
Regev is angry at people who so far have tried to present her as ignorant. It’s had to know whether to laugh or cry over the ongoing dialogue of the deaf between the culture minister and the artists. Not necessarily between her and the representatives of the cultural institutions or the artists’ organizations – but between what she represents and “culture” itself. Regev is fighting the people she has marked as “cultured” – as possessing the cultural capital that in her opinion they have no right to possess.
Indeed, there is no doubt that the definition of “culture” or “cultured” is relative; it sometimes goes along with a great deal of hot air – but Regev’s anger is undifferentiated. She has still not lifted a finger for those who do not benefit from “culture,” whatever that means, for those who do not receive funding, exposure, access. She only represents the insult to people incited against “artists” who are “demonic” and “arrogant,” identified with everything that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hates.
She represents the insulted nationalists, and therefore she also makes strange, childish pronouncements, statements that are in a certain sense unfortunate, like that passenger who wanted the (arrogant and impatient, let’s admit it) flight attendant to sell her chocolate.
Knoller confirmed laconically that he had indeed been speaking ironically. Poor Regev. She met with the representatives of the artists and got clobbered, when all she wanted to do, in her mind, was to pay back the people who had mocked her.
There is no reason to laugh at Regev personally – clearly not. But there is a reason to weep personally. Every citizen can weep now. Because anyone who shouts “I paid” is not in the least ready to formulate a complex stance. Sometimes one pays precisely to receive something one cannot control. Sometimes one pays to be surprised.
The most interesting case of relations between the regime that pays and what it receives in exchange is found in the story by Hans Fallada, whose book “Alone in Berlin,” has, ironically, become a bestseller in Israel in recent years. The government paid him, but in exchange it received an oppositional masterpiece.
After the dust settles from the arguments with Regev, she and Israeli culture may find out that these were days of flourishing and blossoming of a genre that has so far not been popular – antiphrasis. What, after all, is Mikhail Bulgakov’s “The Master and Margarita” if not the fruit of a literary genre that was created in the context of an “I paid” regime? And literature will not be the only thing to flourish to comfort us. The harder it is to criticize the right-wing pseudo-democracy, the greater the need will be for cryptic parodies, encoded satires and perhaps allegories as well. The possibilities in the area of abstract art, dance, music and performance art are huge. Regev promised Knoller to publish directives soon. So that we’ll know.