Israel’s Culture Minister proposed a new law on Wednesday to cut off government funding to organizations deemed anti-Israel.
Referred to as the “cultural loyalty law,” Minister of Culture and Sports Miri Regev’s (Likud) proposed legislation, which has been passed on to the Justice Ministry for examination,
In addition, any organizations that mark Israel’s Independence Day as a day of mourning, as well as any artist or organization that rejects the existence of the state of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, will no longer receive funding. Regev claimed that the aim is “to make support for a cultural institution dependent on its loyalty to the State of Israel.”
Speaking to reporters after presenting her bill to the Knesset Education Committee, Regev promised that “the country will not finance any organization or person who burns the flag. Period. Anyone who wishes to undermine the state of Israel may do so, but not on the country’s dime.”
Current law in Israel states that a cultural institution can be fined for violating Israeli law, but only the Finance Ministry can issue any penalties. The Ministry of Culture has no legal standing to withhold funds from such organizations.
The bill would transfer control of the Culture Ministry’s budget away from the Finance Ministry, since the latter has oversight or control over the content that artists and cultural institutions produce.
“We won’t be an ATM for these organizations,” said Regev. “I have a responsibility to handle public money and this new law will allow me to fulfill that responsibility and prevent financial support from going to organizations that break the law.
“I believe that this law will come to pass, and that Israel will only finance cultural institutions that adhere to Israel and to our laws. This is something that should have been obvious from the outset. We will no longer allow Israeli law to be broken under the guise of the ‘freedom of speech.’”
Regev has been hit by a wave of criticism from leftwing factions who claim that the bill is racist and subverts the freedom of speech that is the cornerstone of the state. Member of Knesset Issawi Frej (Meretz) said the bill reflects “the spirit of dark regimes that chase down those who critique them and try to silence that critique.”
Regev derided the attacks by her peers, saying, “Why is there such outrage? Did I bypass any laws? No, I have a problem with people who attempt to subvert Israel. I have an even bigger problem with people who use the country’s money to do it.”