Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev said she would weigh withdrawing funds from the Tel Aviv Cinematheque over its upcoming festival about the Nakba (catastrophe) — the Palestinian term for the 1948 creation of the State of Israel.
The festival, which runs December 4-6 and is in its third year, deals with the consequences for Palestinians of Israel’s victory over Arab nations in 1948, the creation of the State of Israel and the controversial issue of the return to Israel of Palestinian refugees. Movies by Palestinian and international filmmakers will be screened at the Cinematheque as well as the Arab-Hebrew Theater of Jaffa.
Regev on Sunday demanded to know whether the films contravene Section 3b of the Basic Budget Law, the Haaretz daily reported.
“Those of us who are responsible for the public coffers are forbidden from closing our eyes where there’s a fear, however slight, that a law is being broken in Israel,” said Regev. “It’s our responsibility and our authority to… ensure that public funds not be directed toward incitement against the state.”
According to a Culture Ministry statement, an internal committee staffed by members of the ministerial film review board will watch the films, determine whether they break the law, and relay their findings to the head of the culture directorate, who will then consult with the government’s legal adviser. The two will present their conclusions to Regev and the ministry’s director-general, after which the former will decide whether to ask the Finance Ministry to enforce the law.
The treasury can pull funding from any institution that pays for a work that encourages incitement or racism, or supports a campaign against the State of Israel. This includes representing Independence Day or the day on which the State of Israel was created as a day of mourning.
Liat Rosenberg, head of the nonprofit organization “Zochrot” (“Remembering” in Hebrew), which is producing the festival, said in response: “This looks like another attempt among many…to keep the subjects of the Nakba and the right of return off the public agenda. If it wasn’t such a painful and difficult subject, I assume that the minister’s attempts would look ridiculous. But I think the audience will vote with its feet and, rather than the efforts to silence the subject, I’m issuing a real and sincere invitation to Minister Regev and other ministers to come to watch the films and to try to listen deeply to the voices coming out of them.”
In a notice issued to cultural institutions in September, in the run-up to fiscal year 2016, the Culture and Sports Ministry drew attention to the legal clauses relating to ministry funding.
This is not the first time that the Tel Aviv Cinematheque has fallen foul of the Culture Ministry for a film festival on the Nakba and the right of return. Last year, the institute faced a similar threat from then-minister Limor Livnat.
Earlier this year, Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein nixed a plan by Regev to cut funding to the Arabic-language al-Midan theater, following its production of “A Parallel Time,” a play based on the life of Walid Dakaa, who killed an Israeli soldier.