Top singer-songwriter blasts ‘dictator’ Netanyahu for shutting culture venues

When PM ‘decided to close the national library, I decided to respond,’ says Matti Caspi, lashing premier for keeping arts institutions shut since March

Israeli musician Matti Caspi, performs in Gush Etzion, on December 10, 2015.(Gershon Elinson/Flash 90)
Israeli musician Matti Caspi, performs in Gush Etzion, on December 10, 2015.(Gershon Elinson/Flash 90)

One of Israel’s best-known musicians lashed out Sunday at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as a “dictator” over the coronavirus-prompted shuttering of cultural institutions.

“When the one from Balfour” — the Jerusalem street that hosts the PM’s official residence — “decided to close the national library, I decided to respond,” composer and pop singer Matti Caspi said in a video he posted to Facebook.

“I suggest the dictator practice what he has decided [for others]. Since he closed everything connected to culture and ruined the lives of all those who create culture, let him take down off his walls all the paintings that hang there, take all art works in his home and destroy them immediately,” Caspi said.

Israel’s cultural institutions, from theaters to orchestras to museums, have been closed since March, and many have said they are not sure they will be able to reopen once the pandemic recedes.

“He should do the same with all the CDs and DVDs he owns, or that the parasite who lives with him” — an apparent reference to Netanyahu’s son Yair — “owns, and he should burn all his books, and should never again watch a movie or listen to music. That way he’ll get to better enjoy the life he has imposed on his citizens.”

The National Library announced last week it was closing and putting some 300 staff on unpaid leave after the government’s continued failure to pass a state budget left the library without funding for August.

Caspi’s video is the latest attempt by the arts community to pressure the government to reopen cultural institutions and venues.

Shortly after Caspi’s video was posted, the Prime Minister’s Office announced it had met Sunday with representatives of cultural institutions and presented to them a new framework for a tentative reopening.

Under the plan, developed with the ministries of health, culture and finance, performances would take place outdoors and audiences would be divided into 20-person “capsules,” with each event requiring approval by the Health Ministry in consultation with the Culture Ministry, the PMO said in a brief statement.

A concert in Tel Aviv on May 21, 2020 draws 5,000 (screen capture: Channel 12)

Cabinet ministers on Sunday approved new coronavirus restrictions and extended existing ones in a bid to curb the spread of COVID-19, as the country’s death toll since the start of the pandemic climbed to 600.

Many of the restrictions reaffirm existing rules already in place under special emergency powers. Under the coronavirus law passed last month, the Knesset has 24 hours to cancel or amend the restrictions before they go into effect. The previous raft of rules expires Tuesday.

The fresh restrictions, which go into effect Tuesday, continue to cap gatherings at 20 people outdoors and 10 indoors, limit cars to three passengers at a time, and limit businesses to one customer on the premises for every seven square meters (75 square feet) of space.

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