Photo: Alex Kolomoisky
Photo: Alex Kolomoisky
Photo: Alex Kolomoisky

AG bars funding freeze for cultural institutions based on content

Culture Minister Miri Regev butts heads with Weinstein over State funding of theater that staged play about convicted terrorist.

The attorney general barred Culture and Sport Minister Miri Regev on Sunday from pulling state funding from cultural institutions based on their artistic content.



In a legal opinion, Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein's deputies noted that "under existing law, state funding to public institutions cannot be made contingent on the content of the creations displayed in these institutions."


In addition, the attorney general determined Regev's legislation proposal on this matter will have to first be approved by him before it can move forward, and this approval will be given only if the bill does not violate the freedom of speech and expression based on political reasons.


Regev vs. Weinstein (Photos: Alex Kolomoisky, Ohad Zwigenberg)
Regev vs. Weinstein (Photos: Alex Kolomoisky, Ohad Zwigenberg)


Weinstein released his legal opinion on the matter as a court is discussing state funding to Haifa's al-Midan Theater, which was frozen by Regev after it staged a play based on the story of Walid Daka, a terrorist convicted of planning the murder of Israel Defense Forces soldier Moshe Tamam.


Regev rejected Weinstein's legal opinion, saying, "with all due respect to the attorney general, he knows he cannot interfere in my considerations concerning the budget allocation policy for 2016."


"There is no connection between the freedom of expression and the freedom of funding," she insisted.


"As I said in the past, I have no intention of interfering in content, or limiting the freedom of speech. But any conduct of a cultural institution that is not in line with state laws will be dealt with in a criminal process," Regev went on to say.


In a letter sent to attorney Dan Yakir, the Chief Legal Counsel of Association for Civil Rightsin Israel, the attorney general's deputies explained that conditioning state funding on artistic content is forbidden "as an examination of the support for cultural institutions, dependent on the content of artwork, amounts to a violation of the freedom of expression."


The attorney general stressed to Regev that "the freedom of expression carries a unique weight in culture, as artistic freedom - or creative freedom as it is often called - is part of the very heart of the freedom of expression."


Protecting the right to freedom of expression of these cultural institutions is important as most of them depend on state funding in order to stay open, "and this is particularly true for the cultural institutions that deal with unpopular culture," the AG's deputies said.


They also said that changing the criteria for state funding could make some cultural institutions wary of giving unpopular view expression out of concern they will be penalized for it.


The attorney general also told Regev, his deputies said, that conditioning state funding with an examination of a cultural institution's content can only be done through legislation, and cannot be done using regulations or guidelines.


"Unlike policymaking, which is made on the political level, application in specific cases should be done on the professional level, so as not to restrict and limit the freedom of political or artistic expression, and in order to avoid narrowing the boundaries of public discourse in Israel because of foreign considerations," the attorney general determined. "The relevant considerations for state support in this field are artistic and professional considerations, which are examined by professionals, and this separation must be maintained."


פרסום ראשון: 08.10.15, 14:52
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