Culture Minister Miri Regev (Likud) on Wednesday presented before a Knesset committee her new "cultural loyalty" bill, drawing criticism from several MKs.
The bill seeks to deny state funding to artists and cultural institutions who denigrate the state flag or state symbols; incite to racism, violence or terrorism; support armed struggle and terrorism against Israel; mark Independence Day as a day of mourning; or deny Israel's existence as a Jewish and democratic state. Regev said that her proposal is based on previous Knesset legislation.
Regev told the Education, Culture and Sports Committee that "Miri Regev did not invent this or that law. Miri Regev – that's me – wants to create a simple law, a regulating law, allowing the minister to provides money to also withhold budgets. My whole law deals with something simple – regulating, passing the existing law, existing laws that were legislated in Israel's Knesset."
Minister Regev further said that "a country will not fund a cultural institution that burns the flag. Period. Anyone who subverts Israel can do so. I have no problem with that. Not with state funding. That's the law. So what is the outcry about? About me asking to enforce laws?" Regev later sought to clarify these remarks, saying: "I have a problem with subversion against Israel, and all the more so when it's funded by the state."
Arab MKs asked who would make decisions on enforcing the policy. "According to this administration, the Arabs are both going to the polls in droves and being subversive," said MK Ahmad Tibi (Joint List).
MK Haim Yellin (Yesh Atid) branded the bill "a serious blow to freedom of speech." Yellin, who immigrated from Argentina during that country's "Dirty War" period of state terrorism, said: "as one of the only ones here who grew up in a dictatorship, I am telling you that are going in a very wrong direction."
MK Stav Shaffir (Zionist Union) sparred with Minister Regev. "What are you scared of?" asked Shaffir. "This ceaseless meddling in content… this thing, what you are doing, is subverting the state," she continued. "The Jews have always been a people unafraid of voicing criticism. What you are doing is undermining these foundations and this should be illegal. Will institutions that name themselves after Miri Regev get a budget increase?"
"Not a bad idea," Regev quipped.