Culture and Sports Minister Limor Livnat (Likud) on Thursday exhorted Israeli filmmakers whose productions are critical of the state to exercise self-censorship, explaining that she is opposed to official quashing of free expression.
Livnat has said repeatedly this week that she was not disappointed by the failure of the Israeli documentaries “5 Broken Cameras” and “The Gatekeepers” to bring home an Academy Award on Sunday, adding that there have been too many films recently that “slander the state of Israel before the whole world.”
The Likud minister said she hoped the Israel Film Council’s new funding parameters will change that.
Several Israeli film production organizations issued a scathing rebuke of Livnat’s statements in an open letter and told her that “the role of the culture minister is to advance Israeli creativity and not act as a censor.”
Among the movies Israeli artists produced “were critical films, but that is the central role of art,” they wrote, “to challenge the public and establish an alternative to the mainstream.”
Livnat — whose favorite book, according to her Facebook page, is George Orwell’s 1984 — snapped back that she treasures democratic values and would rather see the artists curtail their expression independent of government enforcement.
“I, who oppose censorship, call on [Israeli filmmakers] to [engage in] self-censorship,” she said in a letter published in Haaretz, repeating the stance in TV interviews. “After all, Israel is a democracy to be proud of, but a democracy that is on the defensive, because lined up against ‘5 Broken Cameras’ are thousands of families that have been destroyed by Palestinian terror.”
She closed the letter by noting that Israel’s democratic society “allows such free expression,” and that next time they wish to debate the future of Israel’s democracy, “think about what it would be, were you living in another place.”
Israelis rushed to social media to critique Livnat’s statements, which many found absurd and worthy of mockery on Twitter and Facebook.
“From today, I will censor myself and will not say in public what I think of Limor Livnat, of what she represents, and her excessive use of makeup on her lips,” Twitter user Elian Lazovsky wrote.
Tom Rosen tweeted that “The state of Israel is ****** (self-censorship enabled, as per the request of the honorable Minister Limor Livnat. Because criticism is bad and only one opinion is allowed to be heard to the glory of the state of Israel.)”
Orr Sigoli posted the following photo on Facebook and wrote: “I hereby proclaim today National Douchebag Day named after Limor Livnat.” Alongside an image of American civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr., the text reads: “I have a dream, but I am not going to tell you about it because Limor Livnat wants me to censor myself.”