An Israeli actor and Holocaust survivor compared Culture Minister Miri Regev to Nazi leader Adolf Hitler on Thursday over her backing of legislation conditioning state funding of the arts on support for Israel
Critics have said the the so-called loyalty bill, which would allow the Culture Ministry to withhold funds from groups “working against the principles of the state,” would allow state censorship of the arts.
Speaking at a Knesset Education Committee meeting, actor and musician Yaacov Shapiro called on lawmakers to oppose the legislation and said it was reminiscent of censorship by the Nazis when they took power in Germany.
“What happened in Europe began with the burning of books. This was the law like they want to pass here,” Shapiroת 85 said Thursday.
The comments came nearly 80 years to the day after Kristallnacht, a pogrom during which synagogues and other Jewish buildings were burned in what many saw as the start of the Holocaust.
“There is the impression that [Regev] wants to be prime minister and maybe also wants to have a little mustache,” he charged.
“In the name of all those who remained, the 6 million Jews above, I ask for this law not to be passed,” he added.
Shapiro was born in Poland and said he escaped the Holocaust after his parents threw him from a train heading for a concentration camp, eventually making his way to Israel.
In response, Regev said she “respects Holocaust survivors” and therefore would not comment on Shapiro’s remarks.
Regev has been under intense criticism from the creative community over her championing of the bill, which she says is necessary to prevent government funds from being used to denigrate the state and its symbols.
The bill would allow the government to pull funds from organizations or events that feature any of five topics or themes: denial that the State of Israel is a Jewish, democratic country; incitement of racism, violence, or terror; support for the armed struggle or acts of terror against Israel by an enemy state or a terror group; marking Israel’s Independence Day as a day of mourning; or any act of destruction or physical degradation of the flag or any state symbol.
It cleared its first Knesset vote on Monday night after an hours-long, furious parliamentary debate.
Shapiro’s comparison of Regev to Hitler came after a life-sized statue of the Likud minister was placed overnight at Tel Aviv’s Habima square, home of Israel’s Habima National Theater, in protest of her backing of the law.
The display has Regev, in a white dress, staring at herself in an oversized mirror. A small plaque reads “#InTheHeartOfTheNation.”
Regev said in response she had indeed “held up a mirror to Israel’s culture world, a mirror that has revealed the exclusion of entire groups and the arrogance of those who saw themselves as ‘the heart of the nation.’”
She added that “the people…are my mirror” and, paraphrasing the Snow White fairy tale, said her interests lay in finding out “what are the ugliest injustices of them all.”
The man behind the statue was Itay Zalait, the same artist who in 2016 erected a golden statue of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square.
Zalait said that work was intended “to test the boundaries of free speech in Israel.”