A simmering feud between Culture and Sport Minister Miri Regev and Israel’s only Arabic-language theater moved up a notch Monday when the minister asked the attorney general to investigate the theater’s chairman and artistic director for possible incitement against Israeli soldiers, Channel 10 News reported.
The bad blood began two years ago when the Culture Ministry froze state funding for the Al-Midan Theater in the northern city of Haifa, over its production of a play, “Parallel Time.”
The play was apparently inspired by Arab-Israeli prisoner, Walid Daka, jailed for life for his part in the abduction and murder of an Israeli soldier, Moshe Tamam, in 1984.
On Sunday, the theater’s artistic director Amar Khalikha told Channel 1 that Daka was not a terrorist, but a security prisoner.
On Monday, Joseph Atrash, chairman of the theater’s board, told Galey Israel Radio that killing a soldier within the framework of a war against occupation was not a terrorist act.
“The true face of the Al-Midan Theater has been exposed,” Regev told Army Radio on Monday.
“In light of the grave things said by two of the shapers of policy at the al-Midan Theater, I turned today to the attorney general with a request to investigate a suspicion of incitement against Israel Defense Forces soldiers,” Regev told Israeli media.
On her Facebook page, she charged that Al-Midan was “continuing to lead an anti-Israel line [that is] supportive of terror.”
This “theater of the absurd” would end with the passing of a “loyalty in culture” law, she added — legislation she announced in January 2016 which would define the state’s freedom to withhold funding from “activities which harm the state and its values.”
In response, Joseph Atrash told Channel 10 that, “after Minister Regev claimed for the past four months that the freeze of funding for the al-Midan Theater was an administrative matter only and was not about political persecution, today Minister Regev exposed the real face of Israeli democracy.”
“We have news for you, Minister Regev,” he went on. “The al-Midan Theater will not close.”
On Friday, the theater began a strike to protest what it said was the Culture Ministry’s failure to transfer funds earmarked for 2016 and an advance for 2017, the Haaretz newspaper reported.
On Sunday, members of al-Midan’s board attended a hearing at the Culture Ministry in Jerusalem, where they raised the failure to transfer funds and claimed the reasons were political.