The Ministry of Culture has denied funding to an Arabic-language theater in Haifa that in 2015 staged a play about an Arab-Palestinian convicted of murdering an Israeli soldier.
In a document submitted to the Supreme Court, the ministry’s Support Committee wrote that the al-Midan theater did not meet the criteria demanded of all theaters and therefore was not entitled to receive NIS 1.1 million for each of two budgetary years, 2016 and 2017.
However, MKs from Hadash have alleged that the decision was politically motivated and constitute an attempt to cripple a leading cultural institution and muzzle and intimidate artistic expression by Arab citizens of Israel.
The document submitted by the Ministry of Culture was rendered in the context of an appeal to the Supreme Court by the management of the al-Midan theater to retroactively receive governmental funding for the two years such moneys were denied. In response to the document submitted by the Ministry of Culture’s Support Committee, Yousef Atrash, chair of the theater’s directorate, told Kan-Reshet Bet radio that their answer to the court “is predictable and was already dictated to them by Minister [Miri] Regev in 2015. We will wait for the decision of the honorable court and act accordingly.”
Meanwhile, Hadash MK Yousef Jabareen (Joint List) has said the decision of the Ministry of Culture manifests “clear, political persecution of this theater due to the content of its activities.” Jabareen went on to say: “Since Miri Regev has become the Minister of Culture, she has been trying to dictate a political right-wing agenda on cultural activities that violates freedom of expression and art… We view al-Midan as a leading cultural icon… Targeting it is targeting our cultural identity and freedom. She [Regev] is trying to intimidate other cultural institutions to keep them in line with her own vision; this is a dangerous and unprecedented attitude.”
Following an initiative by a Haifa City Council member from Hadash, the city’s municipality provided NIS 1.2 million in funds to al-Midan for both 2016 and 2017. The Ministry of Culture’s position “does not necessarily mean that we will cease our support,” said Haifa Municipality spokesperson Gil Meller.