Culture minister warns of funding cuts for acts that shun settlements

In first step, Miri Regev sends questionnaires to theaters, dance ensembles to find out if they perform in the West Bank

Minister of Culture Miri Regev attends the premiere of the musical show 'Evita' at Habima Theater in Tel Aviv, January 27, 2016. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
Minister of Culture Miri Regev attends the premiere of the musical show 'Evita' at Habima Theater in Tel Aviv, January 27, 2016. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Culture Minister Miri Regev of the ruling right-wing Likud party has sent out a contested questionnaire to theaters and dance troupes to find out whether they are performing in settlements in the West Bank, a first step toward changing regulations that will allow her to penalize cultural institutions that refuse to perform there.

Regev’s office said Wednesday she is proud to lead a “revolution” that shuns boycotts and makes culture accessible to all Israeli citizens. Critics, however, say it’s politicizing the art world and impinging artistic freedom.

Regev has had a fraught relationship with the cultural community since her appointment last year, and has been accused of attempting to bring Israeli artists in line with her hawkish political ideology.

Last year, Regev froze funding for a theater that staged a play depicting Palestinian security prisoners and which was inspired by the life of a man who kidnapped, tortured and killed an Israeli soldier in 1984.

Israeli artists, like their counterparts worldwide, tend to lean liberal, and have long been some of the country’s most vocal critics of the settlements.

The Habima Theatre in Tel Aviv. (Photo credit: Meir Partush/Flash90)
The Habima Theater in Tel Aviv (Meir Partush/Flash90)

In the circulated document, various artistic institutions are asked whether they have refrained from performing in the northern and southern peripheries of the country as well as in West Bank settlements.

Regev has said these results will influence the organizations’ future government funding.

“Minister Regev is leading a policy of incentivizing state-supported cultural institutions to perform in the periphery and Judea and Samaria [West Bank], based on a view that culture is a basic right of all citizens,” her office said in a statement.

MK Dov Khenin of the Joint (Arab) List said Regev is cynically exploiting the public’s positive sentiments toward northern and southern Israeli communities to boost the settlements instead.

“The government is not interested in artists and cultural institutions that ‘boycott the Negev and the Galil,’ as there are none of these, but rather artists and cultural institutions that do not want to support the illegal settlement enterprise,” Khenin said in a statement.

Copyright 2016 The Associated Press.

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