Appreciate this article? +972 depends on your support.

Click here to help us keep going

Analysis News
Visit our Hebrew site, "Local Call" , in partnership with Just Vision.

The cultural terrorism of Miri Regev

By threatening the livelihood of Palestinian theater workers, Regev is committing cultural terrorism: she is putting people’s livelihoods at risk — people whose only sin is holding different political principles.

Culture Minister Miri Regev speaks with media before the weekly cabinet meeting, Jerusalem, March 16, 2017. (Marc Israel Sellem/Flash90)

Culture Minister Miri Regev speaks with media before the weekly cabinet meeting, Jerusalem, March 16, 2017. (Marc Israel Sellem/Flash90)

In an interview Monday morning, Culture Minister Miri Regev revealed her true intentions to Army Radio host Razi Barkai: she wishes to shut down Haifa’s Al-Midan, the only Arabic theater in Israel that receives state funding, if it does not fall in line.

Here’s how we got here. The Ministry of Culture and Sport froze Al-Midan’s budget in mid-2015 after it had planned to run a performance of “A Parallel Time,” based on the life of Walid Daka, a Palestinian prisoner convicted of aiding the abduction and killing of Israeli soldier, Moshe Tamam. The ministry justified the freeze by arguing that the play was written by a “terrorist” who kidnapped and murdered a soldier.

The theater petitioned to Israel’s High Court of Justice, after which the attorney general pressured the ministry to leave the theater’s budget untouched. The two sides came to a compromise: Regev would not touch Al-Midan’s budgets for 2016 and 2017, meanwhile the theater would agree pull its petition.

The workers of Al-Midan are now going on strike, claiming that Regev has simply ceased transferring funds since March 2016, and that they are missing the NIS 2.2 million promised to them.

Palestinian prisoner Walid Daka, in a court hearing on his right to reunite with his wife and child. (Sana'a Daka)

Palestinian prisoner Walid Daka, in a court hearing on his right to reunite with his wife and child. (Sana’a Daka)

Regev chose World Theater Day to say that she “will not fund a theater that endorses terror,” all while she commits terrorism against cultural institutions and threatens to pass a “cultural loyalty” law in order to control artistic funding. Oh, the irony.

Let’s put things on the table: Daka, who was put on trial and convicted of his involvement in killing a soldier, is a political prisoner. He was not present during the killing, as was stated in the court’s ruling — the same court that sentenced him to life (President Shimon Peres later commuted his sentence to 35-37 years). Daka’s request for a second trial was rejected. Yes, the theater has the same role as all other forms of art: to publicly challenge and criticize the regime. And in this case, a Palestinian theater happens to be criticizing an occupying regime.

By not transferring the money to Al-Midan, Regev is simply withholding funds that legally belong to the Palestinian public in Israel — funds that the public has paid for with tax money.

The extremist policies put forth by Regev are no surprise. As Palestinians, it is clear to us — since a many of our parents went to schools where the principals were appointed by the Shin Bet — that Regev is only looking to continue and impose a Zionist ideology on us, this time by controlling the our culture. She is doing this in the hopes that it will prevent us from continuing to develop our independent national consciousness. Regev uses control over budgets like a whip, striking anyone she deems a national threat whenever she pleases.

A scene from Al-Midan Theater's production of 'A Parallel Time.' (photo: Activestills.org)

A scene from Al-Midan Theater’s production of ‘A Parallel Time.’ (photo: Activestills.org)

Any relation between the word “culture” and Miri Regev is pure coincidence. But when Regev tries to harm the livelihood of Al-Midan’s workers by withholding their salaries, all of a sudden the relation between the culture minister and the term “culture” becomes more logical. Why? Because Regev is committing cultural terrorism: she is putting people’s livelihoods at risk — people whose only sin is holding different political principles than her.

Regev is a cultural terrorist, and it is time that all those who believe in freedom of expression begin to internalize this fact. Supporters of Regev are, in fact, championing an opportunistic tyrant: they use all kinds of strange arguments to justify their support for someone who directly harms others — only because they gain from it. One cannot support Miri Regev and claim to support neither art and artistic freedom, nor freedom of expression and basic, universal principles.

This article was first published in Hebrew on Local Call. Read it here.

Newsletter banner

For additional original analysis and breaking news, visit +972 Magazine's Facebook page or follow us on Twitter. Our newsletter features a comprehensive round-up of the week's events. Sign up here.

View article: AAA
Share article
Print article
  • LEAVE A COMMENT

    * Required

    COMMENTS

    1. Grandpa Frost

      Great strategy, whenever someone does something you don’t like accuse them of terrorism! It also helps the public forget the original meaning of “terrorism!” Killing two birds with one stone!

      Reply to Comment
    2. Firentis

      Basing your operations on receiving a budget from a country you hate and then goading that country’s government by treating as heroes people that murder its citizens is really not a great business model. I don’t want my taxes to go to pay for producing propaganda supporting my own murder. That seems rather suicidal.

      The right to free speech is not a right to government funding. Only the former is guaranteed. I find it rather entertaining and ironic that in a scenario where the theater is endorsing actual violence, Miri is the “terrorist” for trying to prevent funding to such a theater.

      I fully support the strike by the workers of the Al-Midan theater. I am sure Miri is crapping her pants right now as a result. I hope they stay on strike permanently. That will really show Miri who is the boss. Hasta victoria siempre!

      Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        @Firentis:

        “Basing your operations on receiving a budget from a country you hate and then goading that country’s government by….”

        Listen to your language. Rami sees himself as a citizen of the country and engaging in civic protest. You see him as a non-citizen, from another country, receiving foreign aid. But “what’s the problem with a Jewish state?” you ask. The question is answered.

        “I don’t want my taxes to go to pay for producing propaganda supporting my own murder. That seems rather suicidal.”

        And Rami does not want his taxes to go to pay for producing propaganda supporting his own murder. That seems rather suicidal. So if we shut down al-Midan then let’s also shut down 9/10ths of the Israeli government’s official hasbara and 100% of its support for the occupation. After all, you are against tax dollars supporting murder. And I will also assume you’ll also agree that Israeli and American tax dollars supporting theft is a bad thing too so the conclusion is overdetermined.

        Reply to Comment
        • Firentis

          “Listen to your language. Rami sees himself as a citizen of the country and engaging in civic protest.”

          He engages in his civic protest and I disagree thus engaging in my own civic protest. He thinks that the theater he likes should be funded with my taxes. I disagree. Welcome to democracy.

          “And Rami does not want his taxes to go to pay for producing propaganda supporting his own murder.”

          Excellent, then we agree on principle that my taxes shouldn’t go towards producing propaganda supporting my murder and Miri Regev did the right thing in stopping funding for this theater that does precisely that.

          “After all, you are against tax dollars supporting murder.”

          I am. This is why the US and the EU must stop payments to the Palestinian Authority which is then used to pay salaries to terrorists with those convicted of more serious charges receiving more money.

          Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            “Welcome to democracy.”

            The “democracy” you are championing, is no surprise, a crude tyranny of the majority. The US Constitution and its Bill of Rights and the Supreme Court that defends them ensures that it becomes no crude tyranny of the majority. Not so in Israel. That’s the problem. So it won’t do to hide behind the magic word “democracy.” Democracy is more than the crude mechanics of elections.

            “the US and the EU must stop payments to the Palestinian Authority”

            Fine, pay for your occupation yourselves for a change. Wonderful. You own it. And at the same time we’ll notify the USA to stop funding your murderous army and its occupation. I think we have a deal.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            “Just let Culture Minister Miri Regev get the job done. Let Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan realize the vision. Don’t let anyone stop Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked. Compile more blacklists and proceed accordingly.
            The Rabinovich Foundation for the Arts is already putting its commitments in writing, and this is a good thing. In other words: Let them plug the last holes that make it possible to breathe freedom here, and put an end to the deception.
            Only when the air runs out is there a chance that the real resistance will arise. Not the resistance that comes from the fringes, but the resistance that comes from the mainstream, which still slumbers away, oozing with self-satisfaction.
            The last cracks that the right is busy filling now are what enabled this accursed slumber to persist: After all, they made “Five Broken Cameras” here, and showed “The Gatekeepers.” And now “Megiddo” is airing and there’s also the Al-Midan Theater – so it’s not so bad here in the only democracy. We needn’t open our eyes.
            It’s time for this movie to end. It’s a bad movie….”
            read more: http://www.haaretz.com/opinion/.premium-1.780373

            Reply to Comment
          • Firentis

            Yeah, I read the article. It is the usual nonsense that comes out when the Right is in power. Everything that is done is either “anti-democratic”, “driven by fear”, or “counter-productive”. I get the framing, though I see no basis for any of these descriptions. The Right was elected to govern. As part of that it will determine how the budget will be distributed which includes determining which programs it wants to sponsor and which it doesn’t on the basis of whether it promotes its ideology. The Left does exactly the same thing. The Right believes that sponsoring theaters that explicitly promote a separatist and “independent national consciousness” is harmful to the country. The Right believes that sponsoring theaters that promote as heroes murderers of Israelis is harmful to the country. I have yet to see any argument that claims that this is not the case and so agree with them on both counts. The only argument I have seen against such moves is shrill screeches from the usual suspects about how somehow freedom of expression is undermined when government funding is removed. Since that argument is demonstrably false I see no reason to pay it any mind.

            Gideon Levy on the other hand has the opposite desire — he wants to see the country weakened. He says so explicitly in article after article. As such he is an excellent barometer. When Gideon Levy is upset that usually means that the policy is a good one for Israel.

            In this article he goes into some sort of ridiculous Leninist prophesy/prescription – the worse things get the better. But there is a fundamental logical flaw in his reasoning. If the current level of the production of far-left cultural works has had no fundamental impact on the Israeli consensus, how would an even lower level have the impact of possibly “waking up real resistance among the mainstream which is in a prolonged comma”? Most Israelis have marginal, at best, exposure to most of the cultural productions that Gideon suggests would be hurt by Regev and Erdan. No one is going to care if/when they disappear. The same money will still be in the cultural budget except it is now more likely to be geared towards producing culture for Israelis rather than anti-Israeli propaganda for foreign film festivals. To a large extent it is like Gideon Levy himself. If he stopped publishing no one in the Israeli mainstream would care.

            I am reasonably sure Gideon knows all this, but his is a publicist and propagandist so he has to produce something. So the whole article is just an exercise in rationalization – a bone to throw to people that know that they are losing the culture wars and all of their predictions of doom and gloom have thus far proven baseless.

            Reply to Comment
          • Firentis

            The democracy I am championing is one where the state doesn’t sponsor theaters that teach people that killing Jews is a heroic act. If it is the “tyranny of the majority” to not allow public funding to go towards promoting the murder of your own citizens, then I’ll gladly take more of it. Another word for it is sanity.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            I know that Levy does not kid himself that he is trying to convince most Israelis. All of his writing shows an acute awareness of this. This article was translated in to English for a reason. Local Call is translated into English for a reason.

            Your statements about the play “A Parallel Time” and The al-Midan Theater are simply propaganda. Disinformation. And deeply anti-intellectual and anti-artistic. The spoutings of an overlord who can’t stand it that the untermenschen dare to ask questions the state does not approve:

            “Yet, in an interview with Al-Monitor, the manager of Al-Midan said that the people who have raised a hue and cry over the play had never seen it and don’t know what it is about… Indeed, in a May 6 interview with the Israeli daily Haaretz, Blumenthal admitted that he hadn’t seen the play.”

            Read more:
            http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2015/05/israel-al-midan-theater-haifa-play-palestinian-prisoners.html

            Reply to Comment
          • Firentis

            The play was written about a terrorist and shows terrorists in a positive light. Like a newspaper with limited space, so in theater, the choice of material to present is in itself an expression of ideology. It was written by a man who “doesn’t agree with the founding of the state” It was put on stage by a theater run by a man who believes it is legitimate for Israeli citizens to kill Israeli soldiers.

            There is no justifiable reason why the Israeli government should continue to fund such a theater. The theater was created in 1994 by a left-wing government which made the choice to provide funding to such an institution. If it was legitimate for a left-wing government to decide to create and fund the theater, then it is legitimate for a right-wing government to stop funding it.

            Israeli citizens have the right to free speech. The Israeli government has the responsibility to ensure that it spends its cultural budget in a constructive manner which promotes understanding amongst its people and prevents incitement to violence. A theater that promotes an ideology that is against the existence of the country and promotes an ideology that justifies attacks on Israeli soldiers or citizens should not get government funding.

            This is so simple and obvious that it is a waste of my time to keep dealing with your misdirection and whataboutery. I am not coming back to this comment section. Go wild.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            I don’t care if you come back and I don’t need to go wild. I just need to quote Adnan Tarabash. I am not going to let you, Trump-like, create alternative facts.

            “We are very surprised by the bluster against the play, which we originally staged 14 months ago and is now playing for the 26th time,” Tarabash said. “The play is a far cry from the cliches about acts of heroism, or lack thereof, by security prisoners in Israeli prisons. We didn’t even go into those things. We only explored the question of how people go about their daily life in prison. We’ve already been asked to stage the play in France and England. I really don’t understand who made up the allegation that we praise terrorists or political prisoners.”
            “It doesn’t focus on Walid Daka at all,” Tarabash said. “Playwright Bashar Murkus had been working on that project for five years. He really did his research and submitted to the theater a proposal to develop the text together with the theater’s ensemble of actors. The playwright culled stories from many discharged prisoners, mainly about their daily life and their coping mechanisms in prison. One of the prisoners whose stories Tarabash heard was Walid Daka. The play is not about him. But suddenly everything has turned political — security prisoners, terrorists, murderers. What we have here is a theater piece. Come and watch it. No one has even seen the play.”
            I asked Murkus whether the core plot was based on Daka’s story, his feelings and sentiments. “That too,” he replied. “But it was also based on in-depth research of the subject. It was based on material we collected about his family and his wife and also material about other prisoners. Those who find the play objectionable don’t know how he is portrayed, because the play isn’t about his biography. But they think that because of their pain, which I understand, they have the right to tell me and tell the theater that we mustn’t broach the topic of security prisoners in general. Maybe it’s because Daka, despite his actions, is an interesting person. The very fact that he is a writer that did very well in prison and is thinking of the future frightens those who don’t want to hear about it.”

            Read more: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2015/05/israel-al-midan-theater-haifa-play-palestinian-prisoners.html#ixzz4d0plcNYi

            Reply to Comment
    3. JeffB

      @Rami

      — that Regev is only looking to continue and impose a Zionist ideology on us, this time by controlling the our culture.

      Yeah that’s what she is doing. Zionism is a key component of the culture of Israel. Changing cultures of minorities so that assimilation can occur is a government function. Yes that is what she’s doing. And moreover that’s for your own good. The more Israeli Arabs think of themselves as Israelis and not Palestinians the less the subtle forms of discrimination will have either popular support or social function. The less Palestinian culture is opposed to the functioning of the state the more it can be incorporated into the overall Israeli culture.

      IN the 1830s American were worried about Catholic culture changing the nature of America. 180 years later, American culture has all sorts of Catholic components and its hard to even relate to that thinking. That’ sort of success is because of 3 generations of Miri Regevs.

      Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        “Zionism is a key component of the culture of Israel. Changing cultures of minorities so that assimilation can occur is a government function. Yes that is what she’s doing. And moreover that’s for your own good.”

        Saying this to Rami Younis gets my vote for the most insufferably tone deaf, condescending, obtuse comment of the year. The arrogance is breathtaking.

        Your American Catholic culture-Miri Regev equation either gets it backwards or is just hopelessly confused and inapposite.

        Reply to Comment
        • JeffB

          @Ben

          Why? Balad argues the Israeli policies as they exist are fragmenting and hollowing out Arab identity and the state should prevent this by allowing for a unified state sponsored Palestinian cultural curriculum. I’m saying that Balad is right but that the goal is wrong. Israel needs to assimilate Palestinians and as such they need the cultural identity to be hollowed out so as to fill it with the Israeli / Hebrew / Jewish culture in place of the Arab culture. I’m not agreeing with much of what Balad itself says about state construction of identity and how the Israeli state creates an Israeli culture. Balad, unlike a lot of Western Liberal groups, actually fairly realistic in its assessments.

          The argument with Balad is about the nature of the good, not facts. Which is a refreshing change.

          Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            “they need the cultural identity to be hollowed out so as to fill it with the Israeli / Hebrew / Jewish culture in place of the Arab culture”

            JeffB, I really can’t believe you understand what you sound like and that we need to have this conversation. What people on earth would or should willingly submit to cultural extermination? What if we turned the tables and said that in pre-Holocaust Europe the Europeans had every right to assert that “they need the cultural identity to be hollowed out so as to fill it with the European / German / Polish / French / English culture in place of the Jewish culture.” Are you for real? You are showcasing the Israeli obliviousness and obtuseness and entitlement that the rest of the western world finds so amazing. You mean to tell me that the solution to integrating Arab citizens of Israel is the zero sum “hollowing out” you speak of and not some rich dialogue and dialectic? The mind boggles. You are so far from having a reasonable conversation with Rami or Samer or Samah or Amjad. Or Noam or Yossi or Edo or Mairav or Michael.

            Reply to Comment
          • JeffB

            @Ben

            — What if we turned the tables and said that in pre-Holocaust Europe the Europeans had every right to assert that “they need the cultural identity to be hollowed out so as to fill it with the European / German / Polish / French / English culture in place of the Jewish culture.

            What do you mean by what if? That was the dominant narrative not only in Europe but in the United States as well with regard to Jews. Heck that’s the dominant narrative in the USA with regard to immigration. That’s what’s meant by the melting pot. Every culture that moves here gets boiled down to a harmless shadow of its former self and then absorbed. And just to compound this, that’s exactly how Israel formed a single nation from the diverse Jewish peoples that moved to Palestine.

            — You mean to tell me that the solution to integrating Arab citizens of Israel is the zero sum “hollowing out” you speak of and not some rich dialogue and dialectic?

            Yes. There can be a rich dialogue around a few areas but not many or there ceases to be one nation in the land. For a viable democracy to exist there needs to be a small enough cultural difference so that in areas of language, history, religion, sport, entertainment, education… the people are close enough together to be able to agree on the nature of the good and thus weigh alternative policy options effectively. Otherwise conversation becomes futile.

            Israel to normalize needs to have a national culture that is Israeli. That requires the Israelification of any remaining Jewish diaspora till it becomes the Israeli diaspora and the absorption of major cultures. That’s what nation building is all about.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            I see from your reply to me that my question to you was misplaced, misleading things. No one asked the Jews to “hollow out” their culture and come on aboard—they saw them as separate and apart and different, kept them that way in prejudiced ways and to varying degrees, and did not exactly say “you can be just like us, just hollow out your ways and we will consider you just like us.” Nor did the Jews submit to that. Israel is not “a melting pot.” The American melting pot ethos is just that, according no supremacy to a particular culture, but subsuming them under a set of political principles enshrined in its Constitution. Israel-Palestine cannot be exactly that. Nor should it try to be exactly that if it is to reach its true potential. The analogy is much closer to Canada, and French and English, though of course the analogy is imperfect. I think you do not understand the problems you have if you think the solution here is to take indigenous Arab inhabitants of a land Jews came to en masse and overwhelmed in 1948 and demand they “hollow out” and get with the program. There is an obtuseness, an incomprehension, an insensitivity, a coarseness, and an offensiveness in this and it forms absolutely no basis for trust-building, reconciliation, and peace. Or for the interesting bicultural entity Israel could be. Replies like yours, stated with naïve assurance, make me realize what a hothouse right wing Jewish supremacist echo chamber mainstream Israeli culture has become.

            An afterthought: In a way you are demanding people of another culture submit, as indigenous inhabitants in their own land, to the same kind of “assimilation” your right wing excoriates diaspora American Jews for submitting to. That’s perverse. As perverse as it would be for the people of Canada to demand of French Canadians that they hollow out their culture. They are not going to do it. And you will only compound your troubles and foster militancy if you keep demanding it. But then again that is what the right really wants: polarization and the encouragement of extremists on both sides, so as to have the excuse to keep people suppressed and take their land and their property and their identities.

            Reply to Comment
          • JeffB

            @Ben

            — No one asked the Jews to “hollow out” their culture and come on aboard

            That’s simply not true. I suggest you read the literature regarding the solution to the Jewish question in Europe and the American situation. For example there has been the ongoing debate in the Jewish community regarding how to handle Christmas (one of the truly delightful things about being in your country is being somewhere where no one in most neighborhoods gives a damn about Christmas). There was a huge battle between Moody and mainstream Protestants about whether ethnically Jewish converts to Christianity should or should not change their dietary habits. I could cite examples more examples and sources but you are simply dead wrong in your theory.

            — The American melting pot ethos is just that, according no supremacy to a particular culture, but subsuming them under a set of political principles enshrined in its Constitution.

            No it is not like that. For example America most certainly teaches English and undermines native languages such that knowledge almost completely disappears within 3 generations. It assimilates into the American legal and financial system so that business run by ethnics quickly end up operating according to American rules. It changes educational standards, sexual standards…. It even hollows out other religions so that every religion ends up being a credobaptist faith with a thin veneer of whatever was the original religion.

            — The analogy is much closer to Canada, and French and English, though of course the analogy is imperfect. I think you do not understand the problems you have if you think the solution here is to take indigenous Arab inhabitants of a land Jews came to en masse and overwhelmed in 1948 and demand they “hollow out” and get with the program. There is an obtuseness, an incomprehension, an insensitivity, a coarseness, and an offensiveness in this and it forms absolutely no basis for trust-building, reconciliation, and peace.

            I’m sorry but given that you don’t seem to understand how it works in America or for that matter has worked all over the planet I’m finding your dismissal hard to believe. It BTW it doesn’t work as a demand. It works a series of incentives. There is never a demand but there is constant pressure.

            Moreover this is how Israel created peace between the various Jewish people’s that became the Israelis Jews. Not only could this work, it did work.

            — Or for the interesting bicultural entity Israel could be.

            The goal isn’t to make Israel interesting. The goal is to make Israel normal. Jews were interesting for 1900 years. Zionism is supposed to cure that.

            — An afterthought: In a way you are demanding people of another culture submit, as indigenous inhabitants in their own land, to the same kind of “assimilation” your right wing excoriates diaspora American Jews for submitting to. That’s perverse.

            Huh? What are you talking about. First off I’m a moderate Democrat diaspora Jewish American not a rightwing Israeli. And yes this process was done to my family. Moreover I married a first generation immigrant and over the last 23 years have watched this process play out to her and her family. Second, the criticism of the Israeli right (as opposed to the American Jewish right) is that in America such a process is inevitable. They don’t see it as a moral failure to assimilate they see it as a moral failure to not make aliyah knowing that assimilating is the inevitable result. I’m agreeing with the Israeli right’s critique not disagreeing. I’m just looking at their beliefs contrapositively with regard to the Palestinians.

            — As perverse as it would be for the people of Canada to demand of French Canadians that they hollow out their culture.

            They to a certain extend did do that.

            — But then again that is what the right really wants: polarization and the encouragement of extremists on both sides, so as to have the excuse to keep people suppressed and take their land and their property and their identities.

            You are being paranoid.

            Reply to Comment
© 2010 - 2017 +972 Magazine
Follow Us
Credits

+972 is an independent, blog-based web magazine. It was launched in August 2010, resulting from a merger of a number of popular English-language blogs dealing with life and politics in Israel and Palestine.

Website powered by RSVP

Illustrations: Eran Mendel