Israel’s Kulturkampf – ‘Culture’ Minister Miri Regev’s War on Subversive Art
Israel’s Kulturkampf – ‘Culture’ Minister Miri Regev’s War on Subversive Art
Israel’s Kulturkampf – ‘Culture’ Minister Miri Regev’s War on Subversive Art
The McCarthyist Attacks on Israel’s Dissident Theatres is Symptomatic of a Settler Colonial Regime
At the beginning of October I received a letter from an old Israeli associate, Professor Avraham Oz of Haifa University. Avraham is a professor of theatre and a long standing supporter of the left in Israel.
The letter (see below) was an appeal for funding. The Alfa Theatre in Haifa was threatened with the loss of its state funding because of the attack on dissident culture in Israel.
A particularly nasty type of informer, Shai Glick, had been busy writing to government departments and anyone else who will listen to him, branding any manifestation of support for the Palestinians as support for ‘terrorism’.
It is a phenomenon we see in this country and now in the Labour Party with people acting as informers. I wrote to one such person only the other day, a Sim Elliot in Brighton Labour Party, who had informed on a local left-wing activist, Paddy O’Keefe, who had the temerity to associate ex-MP Ian Austen with Israeli funding. Informers hold a particular place in Jewish history.
‘the rabbis [of classical Judaism in late antiquity], in inveighing against it, often resorted to hyperbolic language, e.g. in saying that slander, talebearing, and evil talk were worse than the three cardinal sins of murder, immorality, and idolatry. Of one who indulges in lashon hara they say that he denies the existence of God, and that the Almighty declares “I and he cannot live in the same world”
The damage that informing could do was demonstrated during the Nazi era when informers, in particular Jewish informers, led to the deaths of many Jews hiding out from the Nazis such as the ‘U boats’ in Vienna. There are few words to describe such people. It is a measure of the ‘anti-Semitism’ moral panic in the Labour Party that creatures such as Sim Elliot have emerged
It is ironic that Israel’s government, paralysed as it is by political stagnation and the indictment of Netanyahu on criminal charges, should emulate the Kulturkampf of the Prussian state when it waged war on the Catholic Church. What Bismark began Goebbels finished.
Israel’ ‘Culture’ Minister, Miri Regev, has been to the fore of this assault on Israeli cultural organisations. Previously Regev has said that she is proud to be a “fascist” and considers fascism to be an integral part of Israeli culture. At the end of last year she was temporarily halted in her attempt to introduce a cultural loyalty bill. If passed it would have allowed the Culture Ministry to deny funding to cultural works that disrespect state symbols, consider Independence Day to be a day of mourning, or incite to violence or terrorism.
In other words any play which is based on the events of the Nakba, which to Palestinians is a day of mourning, would not only be defunded but would be subject to concerted attempts to ban them if they were held on government or local authority premises.
In 202 Regev attended an anti-refugee demonstration in the South of Tel Aviv and declared that the Sudanese are a cancer in our body“. She provoked a pogrom against the Black African refugees who eke out a poverty stricken life in the city, 20% of whose wages are stolen by the State as a ‘deposit’ to be repaid if and when they leave the country. They are not entitled to health care nor do their children receive education.
Regev was outraged when her critics dressed her up in Nazi uniform. Under the IHRA that would be considered anti-Semitic! She did in the end apologise for her remarks saying she regretted comparing cancer patients to refugees
The State of Israel has learnt well from the treatment of Jews in other countries but we should not forget that Zionism is nothing if not consistent. In the diaspora it held that anti-Semites were right to object to the presence Jews in their midst. Zionism has always been ‘understanding’ about anti-Semitism
Chaim Weizmann, the first President of the Israeli State and former President of the World Zionist Organisation wrote in his autobiography Trial and Error (pp. 90-91) about the leader of the anti-Semitic British Brothers League, William Evans Gordon MP, who campaigned at the beginning of the 20th century against the immigration of Jewish refugees from the Czarist pogroms:
‘our people were rather hard on him. The Aliens Bill in England and the movement which grew around it were natural phenomenon which might have been foreseen… Sir William Evans-Gordon had no particular anti-Jewish prejudices… He acted as he thought, according to his best lights and in the most kindly way, in the interests of his country… he was sincerely ready to encourage any settlement of Jews almost anywhere in the British Empire, but he failed to see why the ghettos of London or Leeds or Whitechapel should be made into a branch of the ghettos of Warsaw and Pinsk.
One of the consequences of Israel’s move to the Right and the almost complete incorporation of the West Bank is the erosion of democratic rights, even for Israeli Jews. There is nothing new in this. South Africa was also portrayed as a democracy, albeit for Whites but slowly but surely the democratic rights even of the settler minority were circumscribed.
The context is that the theatre was rented for an event to be held by B’tselem and Parents Against Child Detention on November 20th, International “Children Rights Day,” under the title: “Children in Chains: Detention of Minors on the West Bank and East Jerusalem“. This caused Glick to see red!
Professor Emeritus Avraham Oz Department of Hebrew and Comparative Literature University of Haifa Alfa Theatre
An event which could breach the “Nakba Law”- an event concerning the arrest of terrorists
1. I have been exposed to an announcement regarding an event which focuses on the detention of terrorists at your theatre. The event takes place on 20.11:
2. The event takes place on the “Children rights Day.” Instead of worrying indeed about the rights of children not to be assaulted by terrorists, you worry about the terrorists.
3. It is important to emphasize that terrorists are terrorists at any age and any situation.
4. It is important to emphasize that the Budget Basics Act, clause 3b states clearly that an event promoting terrorism or violence or insulting the State of Israel will not be sponsored.
5. In addition, the proprietor of the venue will incur immense fines.
6. It is not improbable that in such an event speeches will be delivered which support the acts of terrorists, and in general the whole event may constitute support of terror.
7. Only recently you gained official state recognition. Would you care to lose it?
8. Only recently Al-Midan Arab Theatre was closed, a closure warrant was issued to Barbour Gallery and the Co-Existence Forum in the South.
9. The Jaffa Theatre as well suffered bitter reproachment for events supporting terrorism, and Tmuna Theatre cancelled a similar event for such reason.
10. You are a theatre, not a stage for terrorism, incitement and boycott.
11. Be reminded that the Managing Director of the “Betselem” organization has in the past expressed and implied support of the boycott, and this as well may be regarded as breach of the law.
12. To summarize, to avoid endangering your financial support, I recommend you to cancel the event.
13. As I will tender an official complaint of course to the Ministry of Culture and the Minister of Finance who is in charge of the Law, and as inspectors were sent to the Jaffa Theatre, secret inspectors will be sent to you as well on that evening, and every statement may be considered a violation, and enough said. Let me point out that you may be charged by a criminal charge insofar as inciting speeches will occur. Be warned!
Shai Glick Director “In His Image” organization
Cc:The Minister of Culture The Minister of Finance Members of the committee for enforcing the Law Legal Consultant of the Ministry of Culture Legal Consultant of the Ministry of Finance The Bureau of the Attorney General The Deputy Attorney General
Note his comment that ‘terrorists are terrorists at any age’. In other words the treatment by Israel’s military of Palestinian children – from blindfolding to torture – is justified because they are ‘terrorists’.
Below is the Appeal Letter from Professor Oz. At the end of it are details of how you can make a donation. It is possible to make a donation via Paypal and if you e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org you will receive details of how to do this.
For the first time I have to resort to ask your support for our major theatrical project, the Alfa Theatre, Tel Aviv. In its 9 years of existence, our theatre, combined with the Academy of Performing Arts, has produced non-commercial theatre productions, involving professional actors both Jews and Arabs and trained actors in Hebrew and Arabic.
In a hostile atmosphere, we are one of the few theatres welcoming Palestinian actors, otherwise shunned by most theatres, some of them cast in major roles (such as Mohammad Bakri in the title role of The House of Bernarda Alba, Suheil Haddad as Shylock, Morad Hassan as Woyzeck, Maisa Abdelhadi – a graduate of the Academy – in Dusa, Fish, Stas & Vi); employed Palestinian directors such as Moneer Bakri, Amer Hlehel and Akram Telawi; and produced plays in Arabic alongside our Hebrew.
After years of applying to the Ministry of Culture, we were last year granted recognition as a fringe theatre centre; however, a play we have offered for financial support, critically dramatizing the origins of the Zionist narrative, was first warmly approved and budgeted by the professional commission of the Ministry, yet suddenly that approval was suspended on awkward procedural grounds. When we applied for funds for the current year (including that very play) we met with another rigid procedural difficulties, leading to suspension of our entire financial support, thus threatening the closure of our theatre after 9 years of praise and success financed almost exclusively from our private resources (with a couple of minor donations for particular projects).
We have no evidence that the “procedural” difficulties repeatedly suspending our State support are politically motivated, but to judge by the policy of the Ministry of Culture which has recently brought to the closure of the only State supported Arab theatre in Israel, and the strong anti-Arab incitement used by PM Netanyahu and Minister of Culture Regev in the recent elections campaign brings to mind such suspicion.
While contesting the moves of the Ministry in Court, we have no choice but to depend for our survival on support from donations of the public until our case is heard, and the next round of budget support comes. We have launched a public campaign for fund resources inside the country, which has already met generous response, but that is not enough to make us survive. We need to reach at least $40,000 to replace the projected State support denied us, of which we have gathered so far about 61%. We therefore apply for your kind support to help us reach our goal no later than the end of next month, so that our artistic activity makes us eligible to apply for next year’s State support. Otherwise, our 9 year project will close and the theatre demise.
Any sum, from the price of a theatre ticket upwards will be welcome. You may make your donation by credit card in US $, Euro €, or UK £ (American Express, though, can only be paid by US $) or by Paypal,via the following, highly secured link: https://secure.cardcom.solutions/e/xkrS
Or by direct transfer to our charity’s bank account: Bank Mizrahi Tefahot Branch 669, Account no 669-390997: Gilboa Theatre Charity Iban: IL07-0206-6900-0000-0390-997 Swift code: MIZBILITXXX
Thank you for any support, big or small and, most important: please feel free to circulate this among friends.
Professor Avraham Oz Department of Hebrew and Comparative Literature University of Haifaavitaloz@gmail.com See also:
Following years of attempts by Miri Regev to curb offensive artistic expression, this week a court in Haifa upheld the mayor’s right to intervene in content at a municipal museum to ‘maintain public order’
The Haifa District Court’s decision this week permitting Haifa’s mayor to intervene in artistic content at municipally owned arts institutions to “maintain public order” is a dream come true for Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev, who has sought to curb artistic expression that she found offensive.
Since taking office as culture minister, Regev has tried time and again to exert her influence over institutions, municipalities and local councils to present certain works of art and refrain from exhibiting others. She has seen nothing wrong with such intervention and hasn’t hesitated to make her censorship demands public. She also hasn’t hesitated to cut state funding to institutions that fail to accede to her dictates.
To her dismay, however, most of her threats had been ineffective, and as a result, she tried to pass a cultural loyalty bill that would give her authority to deny state funding cultural institutions on a number of grounds specified in the bill. In most of the instances in which Regev has sought to censor artistic content, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel has intervened, prompting a deputy attorney general to advise her that she could not legally do so.
Three and a half years ago, Regev threatened to cut the budget of the Jerusalem Theater Festival if it showed a documentary about the family of Yigal Amir, who assassinated Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. Ultimately a compromise was reached to show the film but not under the festival’s auspices.
A short time later, she threatened to deduct funds from the Tel Aviv Cinematheque if it hosted a festival sponsored by the Zochrot organization about the Nakba, a reference to the Palestinians who fled or were expelled in the course of the Israeli War of Independence. A committee appointed by Regev found that its content wasn’t illegal.
Last year she threatened to put a halt to the Cinema South film festival over its showing of a documentary about Bedouin women in the Negev. In the end, the film was shown as scheduled.
The biggest fuss that Regev mounted over a film was in connection with Samuel Maoz’s “Foxtrot.” After attacking the film in every possible setting, she decided not to confine her threats to Israel alone. In February 2018, she pressured the Foreign Ministry and the Prime Minister’s Office to withdraw their financial support for the Israeli film festival in Paris, where “Foxtrot” was scheduled as the opening film.
She also tried to cut funding to the Jaffa Theater. In 2017, she urged Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon to follow suit over the showing of a movie honoring Palestinian poet Dareen Tatour. Two months ago, she raised the issue again with Kahlon, this time demanding monetary sanctions against the arts center at Hansen House in Jerusalem, which hosted an exhibition that included one of Tatour’s poems.
About two years ago, Regev roundly objected to a poster designed by a student, 12 copies of which where hung up at the Mount Scopus campus of the Bezalel Academy of Art and Design in Jerusalem. It depicted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with a hangman’s noose in front of his face.
Although the posters were taken down after a short time, Regev called on Education Minister Naftali Bennett to withhold funds from Bezalel.
A few weeks earlier, Regev had asked the mayor of Haifa at the time, Yona Yahav, to reconsider permitting the Israeli-Arab rapper Tamer Nafar to appear at a Jewish-Arab cultural festival, saying that the singer “uses every opportunity on stage to oppose the idea of the State of Israel as a state of the Jewish people.” A year later she asked the mayor to cancel a Zochrot-sponsored event and a Nakba film festival at the municipal cinematheque. She also called on Finance Minister Kahlon to penalize the Tel Aviv Cinematheque for hosting the Nakba film festival (despite the prior finding of a panel that she had appointed that the festival was not in violation of the law.)
Two years ago, Regev tried to persuade the mayor of Jerusalem at the time, Nir Barkat, to shut down the Barbur Gallery, for hosting an event by the anti-occupation group Breaking the Silence on its municipally owned premises. Last summer when Regev learned the same gallery was to host a Nakba event for Zochrot, she demanded the attorney general advance legislation to deny it funding. The city said the gallery would be shut, but that decision is now on appeal.