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“Culture clash” continues as Minister Regev takes further aim at artists

A war of words between Israel’s new Culture Minister Miri Regev and a group of leading Israeli artists continued yesterday over budgetary allocations and allegations of censorship.

Regev, who was appointed to the culture and sport portfolio in Israel’s new government, is considered a vocal firebrand leader in the right-wing of the Likud Party. Earlier this month, she warned that she would review funding of cultural initiatives and would not necessarily support those which she believes delegitimize the State of Israel.

In response, a petition was signed by more than 2,000 Israeli artists against what they view as an attempt to stifle expression. At a meeting of many of the signatories in Jaffa, prominent actor Oded Kotler made headlines when he described those who voted for Likud in March’s election as “a herd of beasts.” His comments were condemned by Regev as expressing “cultural darkness” and were also swiftly criticised by opposition leader Isaac Herzog.

Regev this week made good on her promise to review funding for projects and froze allocations for the Arabic-language al-Midan theatre in Haifa, with the company insisting on producing the play “A Parallel Time,” based on the life of the killer of an Israeli soldier. Regev has insisted that the state has no obligation to fund cultural projects which it deems inappropriate, but some artists have accused her of censorship. Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid appeared to back Regev earlier this week, commenting that “the state of Israel doesn’t need to fund plays about terrorists… We can’t continue in a situation in which the state funds anti-Zionist works that erode our ability to survive as a state.”

Meanwhile, it is reported this morning that the public row is continuing, as Regev told a women’s magazine that some artists are “tight-assed, hypocritical and ingrates.” Responding via social media, prominent singer Aviv Gefen said he hoped that Regev will learn to work with, not against artists.