Amid mounting backlash against Culture and Sport Minister Miri Regev over her recent threat to defund cultural projects over political views, the minister called on Israeli artists to increase their outward expression of Israeli nationalism during performances.
Urging Israeli artists to join the fight against the delegitimization of Israel, Regev held up former Beatle Sir Paul McCartney as a patriotic role model for waving his national flag on stage at a London concert she attended.
“This is what I want to happen here, too, for artists to wave Israeli flags, Regev told representatives of Israel’s artistic community during a meeting Thursday, according to a report in the UK’s Telegraph Saturday.
Regev’s remarks come several days after the minister published a post on Facebook threatening to remove state support from a Jewish-Arab children’s theater in Jaffa after its founder said he would not perform in the West Bank.
During Thursday’s meeting, the culture minister asserted that she had personal control over which arts, culture and sports groups receive government funding.
“I decide the criteria, I can decide which institutions get money, that all the money go only to the periphery and Judea and Samaria,” she said, referring to Jewish settlements in the West Bank.
“The government doesn’t have to support culture. I can decide where the money goes. The artists will not dictate to me.”
“We got 30 Knesset seats, you got a total of 20,” Regev said, referring to the Likud’s victory in the March elections, according to Channel 10. When asked to clarify what she meant by “you,” Regev responded, “We know that the left attributes culture to itself, we don’t need to get confused about who the public is, and who [the public] chose.”
Several people who attended the meeting were “taken aback” by Regev’s tone, which one attendee called “scathing and decisive,” according to the Telegraph’s report.
After actor Norman Issa reversed his decision regarding performing in the West Bank, Regev backtracked her threat of defunding the theater and clarified that performing artists wouldn’t be forced to perform on stages in venues they didn’t wish to visit.
However, during the meeting, she maintained that state funding of those artists could still be withheld.
“I gave Norman a ladder to step down from,” Regev reportedly said, according to Haaretz. “He backed down, and there won’t be a problem anymore.”
Israel’s minister for gender and minority equality, Gila Gamliel, who is also from the Likud, distanced herself from Regev in an interview with Haaretz.
“Even raising the possibility of punishing Arab and Jewish children by removing the Culture Ministry’s support for the theater is an unacceptable decision. What have the children done?” Gamliel said.
“This is clearly not a cultural decision,” Gamliel said. “It’s an unacceptable declaration that harms the principle of equality.”
Last week, Education Minister Naftali Bennett ordered his ministry to pull state funding for the al-Midan Theater in Haifa because a play it staged, A Parallel Time, was inspired by the life of a convicted Palestinian terrorist who murdered an Israel Defense Forces soldier.
The minister said that he intervened in the matter because the play was an autobiographical account of a terrorist, and turned the convicted killer of a soldier into a hero.
Bennett stood by his move, and told the media Thursday that it was an easy decision to make. “In a democracy, the Ministry of Education does not need to fund a play about the kidnapper and murderer of a soldier, and send children to watch it,” he said.