MK Khenin: New Film Law Aims at Enriching Culture Minister’s Friend

A clause in a bill to amend the law on government funding for films “smells of corruption,” Hadash MK Dov Khenin (Joint List) has warned. In a letter to the Attorney General, Khenin said the purpose of the amendment, advanced by far-right Culture Minister Miri Regev, is “to encourage and support a single entity in the film industry that is close to the culture minister.”

Miri Regev in a Likud campaign poster for the 2015 elections to the 20th Knesset

Miri Regev in a Likud campaign poster for the 2015 elections to the 20th Knesset

Khenin asked Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit to halt passage of the amendment until the possibility of a conflict of interest on Regev’s part could be looked into. The Knesset Education Committee is expected to meet to approve the bill and send it to the Knesset for its final votes.

The clause to which Khenin referred in his letter, Clause 13, calls for between 15 and 20 percent of government funding for films to go to works that were box-office successes and were produced by private filmmakers without government support. Culture and Sports Ministry Director General Yossi Sharabi has said in previous Knesset Education Committee meetings that the move was intended to give the public a say, similar to that of experts who see the films, in determining which receive grants.

However, Khenin notes in his letter that there are only a few private filmmakers in Israel, with “one producer whose status in this field is central, dominant and in many senses monopoly-like – Mr. Moshe Edery. Minister Regev is in a serious conflict of interest because Moshe Edery is a close friend of hers. The Edery family and its widespread business interests in the film industry in Israel will be the main beneficiaries of the 15 percent of Israel’s film funding, because the law creates a track for them that bypasses the foundations,” Khenin wrote.

The film law, under which the government awards filmmaking grants through a number of non-governmental foundations, is meant to “encourage significant artistic creations and to promote young filmmakers from geographical and cultural outlying regions” who do not have the money to invest in their projects. Nevertheless, according to Khenin, Regev “wants to grant 15 percent of the budget to one of the wealthiest and strongest families in the Israeli economy.”

A position paper submitted by the Israel Democracy Institute to the Culture and Sports Ministry three months ago states that this track is unjustified. Referring to three stars in the Israeli music scene, institute attorney Edna Harel wrote:  “It could be similarly decided that singers Shomo Artzi, Rita or Eyal Golan are entitled to public support as long as they succeeded commercially with a new album. What is the justification?”