A Prize for the Zionist Snitch

Despite her sincere efforts, Culture Minister Limor Livnat is losing the battle to turn Israeli culture into an ideological manifesto.

Whoever made Limor Livnat culture minister is cynical, even cruel. Obviously in this job, she has no choice − either betray her rigid principles when they clash with culture, sooner or later, or betray culture, which opposes rigid molds.

Livnat’s Betar Zionist instinct can be counted on to prevent her senior position from influencing her − she’s even better at this than Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman. If she were agriculture minister, the tomatoes would sing “Two banks has the Jordan” and the cucumber, head held high, would complete the verse: “This is ours and that is as well.”

Sure, it’s all right to have principled positions, but Livnat must be saved from herself. Her ardor, reflected nowadays in managing the “prize for Zionist creative work” project, arouses nothing but derision. Now’s the time, regardless of the embarrassment, to tell her about Israel’s establishment in 1948 − that there are no more wastelands to be turned into flowering gardens. For her peace of mind, perhaps a tour of some blooming wastelands could be arranged; for example, destroyed Arab villages such as Ma’alul and Umm al-Zinat. That will soothe her tormented Zionist soul.

Arab artists may not apply for the Zionist work prize. But a careful search, with a bit of creativity, will find that there’s room to grant the prize to Palestinian artists. “Hurray to the conqueror of a village,” Palestinian author and poet Mahmoud Darwish writes. He also says: “Father, why did you leave the horse alone?” and “A small evening, a neglected village.” Painful but incisive testimonies of the Zionist project’s accomplishments. Because really, who can highlight the greatness of Zionism’s accomplishments better than its victims?

The derision increases when you consider that the Zionist prize in the “people’s favorite” category went to an Im Tirtzu video. Everyone knows that Im Tirtzu, Livnat’s pet, watches closely for any leftist bias at the universities. Well, please meet the cherry on the Zionist creative work cake − the snitch. Congratulations to the Zionist snitch.

But on a more optimistic note, we could say that things aren’t that bad. The Culture Ministry doesn’t yet keep lists of cultural figures. Likud MK Ofir Akunis hasn’t yet been invited to lecture the ministry staff on the doctrine of his spiritual mentor, Joseph McCarthy. Artists don’t have to pass admission exams or ideology courses. And above all, we don’t yet have a political commissar supervising the theaters and publishing houses. In the era of the right-wing government including Akunis, Elkin, Danon, Regev and Michaeli, this is nothing to sneeze at.

The truth is, Livnat is trying. She attacked the artists who boycotted the settlers in the occupied territories. She slammed Shlomi Elkabetz’s film about the occupation’s horrors, “Testimony,” and a few months ago pleaded with the Tzavta Theater to prevent Mohammed Bakri from appearing.

But the bottom line is that despite her sincere efforts, Livnat is losing. The reason isn’t in her qualifications, heaven forbid, but in the material she is in charge of − culture. Because culture is a stiff-necked creature. It must breathe free air, exceed conventions, be the discordant voice in the monotonous choir.

Culture will not be bent. You either respect it or break it. And if you break it, it will be no different than an ideological manifesto, even if it is written in rhymes.