Israeli actor walks back tirade against right wing over Regev controversy

Marcy Oster

JERUSALEM (JTA) — An Israeli actor has walked back his description of right-wing voters as “cud-chewing cattle” during a meeting of leaders of the arts community to protest what it views as censorship by Culture Minister Miri Regev.

“Imagine your world silent, Ms. Regev, without books, music, poems,” Oded Kotler said Sunday evening. “A world where there is nothing to disturb the nation from celebrating thirty Knesset seats followed by a herd of cattle chewing their cud.”

His remarks reportedly were met with both applause and catcalls. The Likud Party received 30 votes in the last election.

Kotler on Monday said that he did not mean to single out the right wing, and that he was speaking of all of society.

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He said that he was responding to accusations that Regev, of the right-wing Likud Party, would cut arts funding for projects with whose policies she disagrees, as well as recent statements by Regev.

Israeli author Amos Oz in a Monday morning interview with Israel Radio, called for a halt to attacks on Regev. Oz said he disagrees with Regev on the issue, but called for debate, not insults.

Regev called Kotler’s remarks a “cultural darkness.”

The meeting Sunday of leaders of the arts community, comes after Regev threatened to cut the funding of a Jaffa-based theater group for Arab and Jewish teens over the refusal of its founder, actor Norman Issa, to perform in a West Bank settlement and after Jewish Home head Naftali Bennett called for “A Parallel Time,” a play about Arab prisoners in an Israeli jail, to be removed from the list of arts programs receiving government subsidies to perform in public schools.

Issa later relented and performed at a theater in the Jordan Valley.

More than 1,500  have signed a petition against Regev and her ministry  over the threat, according to the Jerusalem Post. The petition reads, in part, that the artists are “protesting the undemocratic steps taken in recent weeks by the Culture and Education ministries against artists and cultural figures whose work or views don’t match the spirit of these ministries. We would like to tell you that we will continue facing reality, expressing our opinion and obeying our conscience, even if you claim a price from us for it.”

During Sunday’s  meeting of artists, Ortal Tamam, the niece of slain IDF soldier Moshe Tamam, spoke to the group about about “A Parallel Time,” which is based on the story of the Palestinian prisoner convicted of murdering her uncle. She said the family objected to the fact that the play humanized her uncle’s killer and called it the “final blow” for the family, Ynet reported. She was heckled from the stage.