Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev is sick and tired of the lack of cooperation from the Finance Ministry, and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, with her plan to encourage art on behalf of the government – and to silence artists who do not toe the line with the right-wing government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. After all, that is why the “Nakba Law” and the “Boycott Law" were passed.
But the Finance Ministry, which has the authority to deny government funds, has refused to enforce these laws. Regev claims that Kahlon has worked to makes these laws worthless. The facts are that every one of the 98 requests to enforce the Nakba Law submitted in the past year were rejected by the Finance Ministry’s legal adviser, including 17 requests that came from the Culture Ministry.
Where was Kahlon when Regev wanted to revoke funding for the Jaffa Theater over an event in honor of the Palestinian poet Dareen Tatour, or when sections of letters from Palestinian prisoners were read during an event initiated by Einat Weizman, “Prisoners of the Occupation”? Where was he when Regev demanded he fine the Tel Aviv Cinematheque for the Nakba festival? In light of Kahlon’s lack of cooperation, Regev decided to once again push for the “Loyalty in Culture” law, which would transfer to her ministry the authority to revoke government funding to cultural institutions. If this amendment passes, Regev will no longer need to wait for Kahlon.
The Culture Ministry, or in other words Regev herself, could cut the budgets of institutions or revoke them completely for one of the following reasons: Denying the existence of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state; incitement to racism, violence and terrorism; support for an armed struggle or terrorism; marking Independence Day as a day of mourning; and vandalizing or dishonoring the Israeli flag or other state symbols. In the past, the Finance Ministry objected to the amendment, but this time Kahlon has given his support for it. His willingness to recklessly abandon control over cultural institutions to Regev, who is attempting to undermine Israeli culture through funding it by political views while attacking freedom of expression and art, is most worrying.
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For many Israelis, Kahlon represents hope that forces still exist inside the government that seek to block the destructive processes promoted by Likud and Habayit Hayehudi. It seems Kahlon wants to absolve himself of this heavy responsibility. It seems he has concluded that leftists will not vote for him for stepping into the breach. He prefers to concentrate on selling cheap mortgages, without the political headaches. The proposed cultural loyalty amendment is contemptible, and befits a totalitarian regime. It has absolutely nothing to do with loyalty to the country – only loyalty to the rule of the right. It is intended to silence critics and a part of an onslaught against the opposition, minorities, gatekeepers - law enforcement agencies, the judicial system and the media. It cannot be allowed to pass.
The above article is Haaretz's lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.