New culture minister: Films ‘offensive’ to Israel will not receive funds

Miki Zohar says creators free to produce any content they wish, but if they want financial backing, they’ll need to pledge their work is not what he deems to be anti-Israeli

Culture and Sport Miki Zohar at the ministry offices in Jerusalem, January 2, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Culture and Sport Miki Zohar at the ministry offices in Jerusalem, January 2, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Culture and Sports Minister Miki Zohar has said Israeli filmmakers who seek state funding for their work will need to sign a pledge that their productions are not “offensive” to the country or its armed forces.

Speaking to Ynet radio Monday, Zohar said that organizations that want to boycott Israel often point to locally produced works critical of the government and its policies toward Palestinians as proof that their claims of Israeli abuse are justified.

Therefore, he said, the Israel Film Council will require filmmakers seeking government grants to sign a clause that they won’t produce anti-Israeli content, though he did not give specifics on what exactly the criteria for this would be.

Zohar said all film funding bodies that work with the council will require their leadership to “sign a document that they undertake not to produce content that harms the State of Israel and the soldiers of the IDF. This is the condition for funding.

“In the end, the public will decide whether they come to see a film or not, but we will not compromise on the financing issue. We will not fund offensive content against IDF soldiers and the State of Israel.”

Zohar added that he was not suggesting censorship. But, he said, the state is not required to fund works he deemed hostile.

“In the end, you have to remember, you are allowed to make any movie you want within the law, of course,” he said. “We are in a democracy. But the state does not have to finance such controversial content because it violates very fundamental things.”

The notion of state-funded content that critiques Israel was challenged in the past by former culture minister Miri Regev. In 2017 Regev, a longtime critic of ostensibly anti-Israel movies produced by local filmmakers, sought to revolutionize the criteria for state funding of Israeli-made films.

Her approach to the subject of film content led to a combative relationship with local artists, though her efforts to police content were in the end largely unsuccessful.

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