Adalah: Knesset’s Education Committee Must Reject Culture Minister’s Loyalty Bill

The NGO Adalah (The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel) has sent an urgent letter to the Chairmen of the Knesset’s Education Committee demanding immediate action to stop the proposed bill initiated by the Minister of Culture, Miri Regev, that requires cultural institutions and artists seeking state funding to declare their “loyalty to the State of Israel and its laws.” Minister Regev calls it the “cultural loyalty law” and with it, she seeks to control funding for cultural institutions and artists in Israel.

Minister of Culture, Miri Regev, formerly spokeswoman of the Israeli army during the Second Lebanese War (Photo: IDF)

Minister of Culture, Miri Regev, formerly spokeswoman of the Israeli army during the Second Lebanese War (Photo: IDF)

Adalah Attorney Sawsan Zaher wrote in the letter that the proposed law would negatively effect all cultural institutions in Israel, but especially targets Arab-Palestinian cultural and artistic institutions. Adalah argued that these conditions “sweepingly affect the freedom of creativity and artistic production, which form an integral part of the constitutional right to express an opinion. The request for a declaration of loyalty to Israel is a political consideration, which has numerous implications on freedom of expression.” Adalah also emphasized that the proposed law contradicted instructions issued by the Attorney General (AG) to the Culture Minister in August 2015. At that time the AG ordered that the content of artistic works must not be taken into consideration when deciding upon funding for cultural institutions.

The proposed bill also seeks to expand the Culture Minister’s powers over the funding and the withdrawal of state funding for artistic and cultural institutions. The bill essentially would transfer authority over the Culture Ministry’s budget and that of cultural institutions from the Finance Ministry, as stipulated in the so-called Nakba Law enacted by the Knesset in 2011, to the Culture Ministry. The Nakba Law grants the finance minister the power to cut budgets allocated to state-funded bodies that reject the existence of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, or that mark the state’s Independence Day as a day of mourning.