Is Miri Regev, Israel's minister of culture of Moroccan origin, striking back at Israel's Ashkenazi-dominated elite in what Israeli newspapers have called the country's 'culture wars'? Disparaging comments by predominantly left-wing writers, artists and actors about the country's predominantly Mizrahi Likud supporters, created a storm. While the left-wing Independent fears Regev's threats to cut arts funding to 'defamatory' works are political censorship, centre-left commentator Ari Shavit (below) pens a surprisingly scathing critique of Israel's elites.
Miriam "Miri" Regev , a former Brigadier-General and IDF spokeswoman, was born in Kiryat Gat in 1965 to Moroccan-Jewish parents. Revital Madar (a Tunisian-Israeli writer in Haaretz), has argued that Miri Regev had faced discrimination within the Likud
hierarchy due to the fact that she is a Moroccan woman, "whose forthright
behaviour is perceived as being stereotypically Mizrahi." But Ms Regev has also defended the rights of lesbians and gays in the IDF. Despite the left's attempts to stereotype her as a cultural fascist, she seems to revel in her unpredictable 'difference'.
The (UK) Independent states:
Miri Regev, the hard-right Israeli Minister of Culture, has accused
the country’s artists and performers of being “tight-assed” hypocrites
after they raised vocal objections to her policies, which many consider a
threat to freedom of expression.
Ms Regev’s remarks, aired in a television interview, were
the latest escalation in what Israeli newspapers are calling a “culture
war” between the government and much of the country’s predominantly
left-wing artistic community.
Ms Regev, a reserve
brigadier-general who formerly served as the chief military censor,
alarmed many artists after she took office in May by saying she would
cut government funding to those who harmed the army or contributed to
“defamation” of Israel.
She followed this with threats to
cut funds for an Arab-Jewish children’s theatre after its founder, the
Arab Israeli actor Norman Issa, refused to perform with the Haifa
Theatre at a settlement in the occupied West Bank on grounds of
conscience. The settlements are considered by the international
community to be illegal.
Israeli Minister of Culture Miri Regev
"Ms Regev cut funding this week to the Arabic-language
al-Midan theatre, which has been staging Parallel Time, a controversial
play about the prison life of a Palestinian who killed an Israeli
soldier. Her office said the decision was made after the director of the
play, Bashar Morcos, told a culture ministry official that he
identified with the killer. However, Mr Morcos denies this and is
threatening to sue Ms Regev over the claim.
week, the Jerusalem International Film Festival dropped a film about
Yigal Amir, who assassinated Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1995 and is
serving a life sentence, after Ms Regev threatened to withdraw funding.
According to a deal struck with the culture ministry, the film is to be
screened out of the festival schedule at a private theatre."
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Ari Shavit writes in Haaretz:
" Instead of leading Israel in a mature, responsible way to a different future, the center-left sank into a toxic swamp of dejection, querulousness and disapproval. Lost is the joie de vivre. Gone is the daring with which it faced reality. An oppositionist obsession, sterile and bitter, gradually became a spiteful maliciousness, which is very hard to break out of.
So anyone who thinks one strong man or another will save the center-left in the next elections is mistaken.
Anyone who thinks that a sharper ideology (on the one hand) or a blurrier ideology (on the other hand) will do the trick, is delusional.
Of all people it was the artists, with their intense expressions, who exposed what the soft-spoken politicians are trying to hide.
The center-left is ill. On the one hand, it is beset with cannibalism that leads it to devour itself while delighting in its leaders’ slaughter. But on the other hand its hatred of others distances most Israelis from it. On the one hand, it is incapable of real soul-searching and accountability for its past mistakes and failures. On the other hand, it is incapable of offering a convincing, inspiring vision.
The obsessive, constant preoccupation with bashing Bibi, the settlers, the ultra-Orthodox, the successful and the heartland Israelis makes the center-left irrelevant. It does not convey love of man or radiate love of Israel. Nor does it bring to the national table new ideas or inspiring new proposals. All it does is gather in the shouters’ corner and the whiners’ alley, which long ago lost all trace of appeal and effectiveness."
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A dose of Neanderthal realism