Calling artists ‘tight-asses,’ minister escalates culture clash

Miri Regev terms artistic community ‘ungrateful’ and says she ‘doesn’t feel like working for them’

Likud Member of Knesset Miri Regev at a political conference at Tel Aviv University, January 18, 2015 (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
Likud Member of Knesset Miri Regev at a political conference at Tel Aviv University, January 18, 2015 (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Culture Minister Miri Regev continued on Thursday to stoke the fires of conflict which has raged in recent days between herself and Israel’s artistic community, calling the country’s artists “tight-assed, hypocritical and ungrateful” people who “think they know everything.”

Artists from various fields have accused the new minister of seeking to limit freedom of expression in the country through anti-democratic measures, and have expressed outrage at her stated intention to defund institutions and subversive works that in her opinion “delegitimize” Israel.

“I knew the cultural world is ungrateful,” she said in a recorded interview that aired Thursday evening on Channel 2, ahead of an in-depth interview that will appear in women’s magazine “At” next month. “And I don’t feel like working for ungrateful people. Tight-assed, hypocritical and ungrateful, and I don’t feel like working for them.”

Regev went on to say she would “move mountains” to fight for the government’s culture budget in her new position, but found it difficult to muster enthusiasm to do so due to the ill will expressed towards her by many leading figures in the community.

She said she would have preferred to receive the Welfare portfolio in the new government as “people there know how to be grateful…’thank you Miri darling, thanks,’ even if you’re not always successful, but there is a recognition of the good (you do).”

The minister said her new position would teach her “a lesson” in working for people “who don’t like me.”

Regev said her aim of setting boundaries for art she deems legitimate would help all sides.

“That fact that I state my position in advance benefits the artists who are currently writing scripts and plays, so they know in advance what will receive funding and what won’t.”

She added that she had told the head of the actors union that, within a month, he “would know exactly what (he) can and cannot (write).”

Regev later reacted to the aired interview, writing in a Facebook post that her critical remarks were geared only towards the likes of Oded Kotler and Yair Garbuz — among the Israeli artists who voiced controversial criticism of Regev and right-wing voters in general.

Last week Regev admonished leaders of the artistic community for their criticism of her policies, telling them during a meeting that “We got 30 Knesset seats. You got a total of 20,” referring to Likud’s victory in the March elections.

When asked to clarify what she meant by “you,” Regev responded, “We know that the left attributes culture to itself, we don’t need to get confused about who the public is, and whom (the public) chose.”

On Sunday night during an emergency cultural meeting in Jaffa, veteran actor Kotler focused on the recent “anti-democratic measures” taken by Regev and Education Minister Naftali Bennett.

“Imagine your world is quiet — without books, without music, without poems, a world where no one disturbs you and no one stops the nation from celebrating the 30 (Knesset) seats that are followed by a herd of straw- and cud-chewing cattle,” Kotler said to the crowd of artists.

Kotler’s speech drew condemnation from several politicians in addition to people in the arts community. He later claimed that he had been speaking of the state of society as a whole should Regev’s policies take hold, and not of supporters of the right wing.

Over the last week, Regev led several controversial moves against what she deemed “unpatriotic” productions, drawing the ire of many artists and politicians, in what theIsraeli media dubbed a “cultural war.”

On Tuesday, Regev froze state funding for the Arabic-language al-Midan Theater in Haifa, which has become embroiled in controversy over its production of its play A Parallel Time, based on the life of the killer of an Israeli soldier.

On the same day, the Jerusalem International Film Festival decided not to publicly screen Beyond the Fear, a film based on the life of Yigal Amir, the assassin of former prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, after Regev threatened to pull its funding.

Regev included in her post a Channel 2 poll that indicted that 63 percent of the public supported her decision regarding the Yigal Amir biopic, and that 40% sided with her in the clash between Regev and Israeli performers.

“There is no doubt these statistics warm my heart, particularly after a difficult week during which I had to make challenging decisions that relate to complex issues and the exposed veins of Israeli society,” she wrote.

Scheduled to attend the Israeli theater awards ceremony on Friday, Regev is expected to be met with demonstrators who will be protesting her decision to cut al-Midan’s funding. Under the title “Shutting up under the minister’s command,” theater producers plan to cover their mouths with bandages and hold up blank posters, Haaretz reported.

Organizers of the demonstration said they would not attempt to prevent the minister from entering the ceremony, where she is set to present an award.

Jonathan Beck and Times of Israel Staff contributed to this report.

read more:
Never miss breaking news on Israel
Get notifications to stay updated
You're subscribed