Israeli culture minister says she has personal control over arts funding decisions

Julie Wiener

(JTA) — Israel’s new culture and sports minister, Miri Regev, asserted in a meeting that she has personal control over which arts, culture and sports groups will receive government funding.

Earlier this week, Regev threatened to pull funding for an Arab-Jewish youth theater group because one of its founders refused to perform in a West Bank settlement.

Meeting Thursday evening with representatives of arts groups, Regev said, according to Channel 10, “We got 30 Knesset seats, you got a total of 20.” Asked to clarify what she meant by “you,” Regev said, “We know that the left attributes culture to itself, we don’t need to get confused about who the public is, and who [the public] chose.”

Regev is a member of Likud.

“I decide the criteria, I can decide which institutions get money, that all the money goes only to the periphery and Judea and Samaria,” she said, according to Haaretz, referring to Jewish settlements in the West Bank. “The government doesn’t have to support culture. I can decide where the money goes. The artists will not dictate to me.”

Regev also urged Israeli artists to “wave Israeli flags” and praised British rock star Paul McCartney for holding his country’s flag at a London concert Regev attended, according to the U.K. Telegraph. Several people who attended the meeting were “taken aback” by Regev’s tone, according to the newspaper.

Israel’s minister for gender and minority equality, Gila Gamliel, who is also from Likud, distanced herself from Regev in an interview with Haaretz.

“Even raising the possibility of punishing Arab and Jewish children by removing the Culture Ministry’s support for the theater is an unacceptable decision. What have the children done?” Gamliel told Haaretz.

“This is clearly not a cultural decision,” Gamliel said. “It’s an unacceptable declaration that harms the principle of equality.”

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