Fighting Back Against Cultural Censorship

15 November 2018
Habima Performing Arts Theater, Tel Aviv

Recent attempts to censor culture in Israel have come up against opposition from a group of artists backed by the New Israel Fund who are fighting for their freedom of expression.

The so-called ‘loyalty in the arts bill’ would, if passed into law, allow the Culture Ministry to withhold funds from groups “working against the principles of the state. It recently passed its first reading in the Knesset. Miri Regev, Israel’s minister of culture proposed the bill and has faced criticism for doing so.

Critics of the bill say that it would allow for state censorship of the arts. Itay Zalait, an artist who erected a golden statue of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at Rabin Square in 2016, placed a satirical statue of Minister Regev in Tel Aviv’s Habima Square along with a plaque reading “#InTheHeartOfTheNation.” Zalait said that the statue was intended “to test the boundaries of free speech in Israel.”

At a meeting of the Knesset’s Education Committee, actor and musician Yaacov Shapiro, a Holocaust survivor, called on lawmakers to vote against the bill.

A coalition of cultural organizations and groups has formed to fight the bill with a public campaign. Its members include the Forum of Cultural Institutions, the Israel Union of Performing Artists, the Israeli Actors Guild, the Documentary Filmmakers Forum, the Association of Producers, the Association of Plastic Artists, the Writers’ Association, the Film and Television Directors Association, and the Creative Artists Association.

To block the bill, these artists’ groups are planning a variety of activities including media work, social media content, public protests, and activism in the Knesset. The New Israel Fund is providing an emergency grant to the group to support their campaign.

Photo via Flickr