Culture Minister Miri Regev may be right in wanting to change the unbalanced distribution of Israel’s resources, but she’s going about it all wrong.
By Yossi Dahan
Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev is right to speak about the need for “social justice” in Israel, and she is correct when she says that the distribution of resources vis-a-vis cultural institutions is skewed and discriminates against different groups in Israeli society.
Yes, state funds dedicated to culture often go directly to institutions and art based in Tel Aviv, while communities in the social and geographical periphery are not properly allocated resources that will allow them to develop and enjoy culture that they can identify with. She is also correct when she states that there is a dearth of Mizrahim who get to make decisions regarding resource allocation for culture.
Statistics on the matter appeared in a document published by a coalition of Mizrahi organizations tht examined the distribution of cultural allocations between the years 2001-2008, according to different populations groups in Israel. This unjust allocation, which has continued for years, goes against a law passed by the Knesset in 2002, which calls for “fully expressing the cultural diversity of Israeli society and their different world views.”
Many people, among them Mizrahi cultural figures and activists who struggle for cultural pluralism and against historical cultural discrimination and oppression, support Regev’s stance.
It is difficult not to feel sympathy toward Regev’s position in the face of the staunch opposition by the perennial executive directors of theaters and cultural institutions, not to mention the often racist attacks against her by those who enjoy the fruits of the current status quo. However, it would behoove those who support Regev’s struggle to pay attention to her minimalistic definition of the term “social justice,” which actually turns her into one of the most dangerous enemies of that very ideal. For Regev, social justice is reduced to equal distribution of resources among Israel’s Jewish population. She has no intention of fixing discrimination against the Arab population.
It is important to note that the term “social justice” cannot simply be reduced to fair distribution of resources — it also includes the right of individuals and cultural groups to freely create and enjoy culture. Social justice includes, among other things, the right of individuals and groups to artistic freedom of speech — a freedom that Regev tramples when she tries to defund the Arabic...Read More