Israeli artists sign petition against ‘anti-democratic’ censorship

Pledging to fight for artistic freedom, cultural figures defiantly offer their names for a government ‘blacklist’

Culture Minister Miri Regev (Uri Lenz/Flash90)
Culture Minister Miri Regev (Uri Lenz/Flash90)

Hundreds of Israeli artists in various fields have signed a petition protesting what they term “anti-democratic measures” being taken by government ministries toward members of the artistic community whose works “do not conform to governmental dictates.”

The petition, titled “The Blacklist: Members of the artistic community will not be silenced,” has been signed by dozens of Israeli cultural figures, including veteran actress Gila Almagor, filmmaker Ronit Elkabetz, writer Yehonatan Geffen and long-time actor and director Moni Moshonov.

“We the undersigned — women and men artists from all artistic fields (including cinema, theater, plastic arts, music, literature, dance and architecture) — protest against the anti-democratic measures taken by government ministries in recent weeks against members of the arts community whose works and worldviews do not conform with the prevailing mood in those ministries.”

The petition goes on to state that the artists would “continue looking reality in the eye, expressing our opinions and obeying the dictates of our consciences even if we must pay a price for doing so.”

It concludes with the hope that Israel will not stoop to becoming a state that blacklists artists who express their opinions. “But should that happen,” the petition defiantly states, “here is the list.”

Dozens of names of Israeli cultural figures followed.

Moshonov told the Hebrew-language news site Ynet that he signed the petition because “the implications and the dangers of radical statements about culture and freedom of thought and expression must be explained.”

The protest began when the family of Moshe Tamam, a soldier who was abducted, tortured and killed in 1984, discovered that the al-Midan theater in the city of Haifa was staging a play entitled “A Parallel Time” that was inspired by the prison experience of his killer, Walid Daka, a member of Israel’s Arab minority, and that it was being shown to high school students as part of their state-funded culture and arts program.

Education Minister Naftali Bennett immediately ordered the performances stopped, saying that Israel should not be funding or endorsing something so offensive.

That controversy followed Regev’s threat to halt government funding for the Elmina Theater in Jaffa after its founder, Norman Issa, an Israeli Arab, refused to perform in a Jewish settlement in the Jordan Valley. Regev retracted her threat on Thursday after Issa reversed his decision.

AP contributed to this report.

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