Cronyism Unleashed in Israel's Culture Ministry

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Dr. Haim Perlock is a physician, a businessman, a medical insurance expert and a Likud party crony. Ahead of the 2009 election he contributed 10,000 shekels ($2,840) to fund MK Limor Livnat’s campaign in the Likud party primary. In 2010, Minister of Culture and Sports Livnat appointed Perlock as chair of the National Council for Culture and the Arts.

Legally, the council’s job is to advise both the government and the minister, and it’s responsible for formulating the criteria for allocating state funds to institutions of culture and art. Livnat has set another goal for herself: to replace Israel’s cultural establishment so that the council “will not be a reflection of the Tel Aviv bubble,” but will instead grant “prominent representation to the social and geographic periphery,” and will include “members characterized by a wide range of ages, specializations and occupations, origin and opinions.”

According to an investigation published in Haaretz (Tamar Rotem on January 31, 2014 in Hebrew), the culture minister’s pluralism manifests in the appointment of following council members: an architect and business partner of chairman Perlock, a doctor who belongs to the extreme right of the Likud, and a columnist from the newspaper Israel Hayom, Dr. Dror Eydar, who Livnat has identified as having “special qualifications.” An unknown woman with no recognition in the field was appointed as the head of the Plastic Arts Department of the council, but she is married to a former senior official in the insurance company that employs Perlock. Only a minority of council members are professionals with professional standing in their fields.

Those involved in the cultural arena describe Perlock’s behavior as aggressive, and detail his attempts to intervene in appointments and delay funding. Seven members of the Plastic Arts Department resigned in protest over the change in management, and singer Hanan Yovel quit the council after only three hours, following an insult from Perlock.

Livnat - who espouses self-censorship of artists in order to improve Israel’s image abroad, who pressured theater troupes to perform shows in Ariel, who instituted the prize for “Zionist creative achievement” - has drained the Council for Culture and the Arts of professionals, and has handed it over to an aggressive crony.

“Like everywhere in the world, artists are often identified with the left and that is also true in Israel,” Livnat said in a past interview in Haaretz. She was angry at artists “who do not listen” to a minister from the right, “and it causes them to be detached from reality.” Livnat seems to be trying to force her world view on the artists, who she identifies as her political enemies; and Perlock is her enforcer. The State Comptroller must immediately investigate the type of appointments to the National Council for Culture and the Arts, and the actions of its chairman.

Limor Livnat. November 17, 2013.Credit: Moti Milrod.

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