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Israel Putting Settlements Before Culture

Culture Ministry's change in criteria for allocating state funds to cultural institutions is an infringement on the central democratic concept of freedom of expression.

The Ministry of Culture and Sport has made changes to the criteria for allocating state funds to cultural institutions. This week, the directors of theaters, orchestras and dance companies received a questionnaire on which they were asked to note whether they had declined to perform in the Negev, in the Galilee or on settlements in the West Bank in the past year.
Culture Minister Miri Regev explained the measure by saying that she would not allow boycotts by cultural organizations.
Regev’s move is an infringement on the central democratic concept of freedom of expression and of opinion. It is also an attempt to impose a political stance on cultural institutions and prevent them from expressing a position that is shared by a large portion of the Israeli public – namely, that the settlements are not a legal and legitimate part of the state. Making funding contingent on recognition of the settlements is a clumsy attempt at political coercion that seeks, as in the worst regimes, to bring the cultural world into line with the government’s positions.
Another prominent aspect of this move is Regev’s typical imprecision and failure to acknowledge the facts on the ground. Regev proclaimed that she was proud to lead “the revolution (whereby) the Culture Ministry will encourage distributive justice and reduce the social gaps. ... From now on, cultural institutions will be required to report performances in the periphery and in Judea and Samaria as part of the process for obtaining budgets.” In the past, too, cultural institutions were able to receive increased advances for performances away from their home theater, and now about a quarter of the major theaters’ activity takes place in the periphery.
The new criteria will give cultural institutions a financial incentive only for performances in West Bank settlements, and financial disincentives for not performing in the Galilee or the Negev. This does not add up to the distributive justice Regev is touting. Instead, it will only increase the social gaps between the settlements – which already get preferential budget treatment in many areas – and the rest of the periphery.
Data on performances by cultural institutions in the periphery – where, when and how many times they performed – is submitted regularly by all of the organizations to the Pilat Institute – Culture Research and Information Center, which collects it for the Culture Ministry. The new declaration form is a bit of unnecessary public relations and bureaucracy, as well as a crude attempt to force cultural institutions and their directors to admit that their choice of venue for performances is based on political opinion. The Culture Ministry should eliminate this questionnaire immediately, and the directors of Israel’s cultural institutions should refuse to respond to it.

Haaretz Editorial

read more: http://www.haaretz.com/opinion/1.725255

Schermata 2016 06 16 alle 09.17.00

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Temple Mount temporarily closed to Jewish visitors after clashes with police

The Temple Mount was temporarily closed to Jewish visitors on Wednesday at the order of Jerusalem District Commander Yoram Halevy after Jews broke visitation rules at the holy site, police said. The Jewish visitors were expelled from the compound for bringing sacred books to the Mount and trying to pray there. After one of the individuals was cautioned, another took out a holy book, and the group was expelled. Meanwhile, renewed clashes erupted between protesters and Israeli security forces near the Lion's Gate in the Old City, where police used stun grenades against the demonstrators. A regular dynamic has developed involving clashes between Palestinians and Israel Police over the past several days near the Lion's Gate. Dozens of Palestinians are present at the site on a regular basis, urging devotion to the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount and condemning Israel. During Muslim prayer times, particularly the midday and nighttime prayers, hundreds and sometimes even thousands have been gathering there.

There have been outbreaks of violence during these periods, including stone-throwing or physical confrontations with the police. In most of these incidents, the police have been using stun grenades and sponge-tipped bullets to disperse the crowds. In a number of cases, journalists in the area have also suffered violence at the hands of the police. On Tuesday, Hassan Shaalan, a reporter for the Ynet news website, was struck by a policeman even after he identified himself as a member of the press. A group of Jerusalem-based journalists released a statement of condemnation over the incident and called on the police to permit reporters to do their jobs. The Jerusalem Police responded: "This involved an incident that took place in the course of violent disturbances of the peace that occurred in Jerusalem while the police were acting to remove the demonstrators from the street after some of them refused to vacate. The forces working on the scene are under constant threat to their lives. http://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/1.802141

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