Artists Stand Up for Freedom of Speech

11 February 2016

Last week, nearly 2,000 people attended the ‘Blacklist’ party in Tel Aviv, held in response to Im Tirtzu’s “culture moles” campaign and the recent wave of political persecution in Israel. NIF and Shatil were two of the over 50 organizations that organized the event, including NIF grantees such as Breaking the Silence and Yedid.

Despite their best efforts, the ultra-nationalists could not silence dissent on the stage. Rivka Michaeli, Dror Feuer, Mira Awad, and Sagol 59 – just a handful of the actors, singers, comedians, and rappers named in the campaign – performed in defiance of the Im Tirtzu’s blacklist.

Michaeli, one of Israel’s top actresses and comedians, joked: “I didn’t prepare a speech, I only came to say Shabbat Shalom. I already took a risk. ‘Shabbat’ is OK – there’s consensus. ‘Shalom’ – it’s very difficult to say that at the moment.”

The event was widely covered in the media, including interviews with NIF President Talia Sasson. Speaking to the Times of Israel, she said: “This event is part-protest and part-demonstration of strength. It shows the wide range of voices in Israel that support freedom of expression and freedom of assembly… Today the debate is between people who support debate, and people who don’t. President Rivlin is certainly not a leftist, and look what they did to him, they put him in a keffiyeh.”

The event was a powerful demonstration of strength and solidarity in the face of political incitement against progressive Israelis, and a fitting extension to NIF’s “We are Israel” campaign.