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Israel’s culture minister calls artists ‘petty bores’

Israel_mapIsrael’s culture minister, who has clashed with the country’s artistic elite over accusations of censorship, has further fuelled the dispute by calling some of them “petty bores” and “hypocrites”.

Less than two weeks after she sparked outrage over a threat to cut funding for a children’s theatre, cultural figures were planning a protest on Friday to coincide with the minister’s presentation of theatre awards at a ceremony in Tel Aviv.

Miri Regev’s threats and blunt dismissal of her political opponents have come to symbolise for some a rightward shift by Israel’s government under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“The world of culture is an ungrateful world,” she said in a recorded interview with a women’s magazine which was broadcast Friday on radio.

“I say to myself, who am I working for? For a group of ungrateful people who think they know everything, some of them petty bores, hypocrites.”

In the printed interview with At magazine, published on Thursday, she says she reluctantly took on the job of culture minister after March elections.

“I knew why I didn’t want to take this post,” she said. “I knew I was going to work for vainglorious people.”

Not afraid of an argument, the former general and chief army censor said on June 9 she would “reconsider” state funding to the children’s theatre in Tel Aviv’s mixed Arab-Jewish neighbourhood of Jaffa.

Her comments came after its Arab-Israeli director, Norman Issa, refused to participate in a play in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

Regev has also ordered an examination of another theatre’s books after it staged a play whose plot has close similarities to the life of Walid Daqqa, a Palestinian serving time for the kidnapping and murder of an Israeli soldier.

On Friday, Arab-Israeli actress, dancer and video artist Raida Alon said she was organising a demonstration at the awards ceremony in Tel Aviv’s Einav cultural centre, over what she called government attempts to muzzle performers.

“I hope people will come,” she told public radio. “I hope they will also be afraid because people today are starting to be fearful.”

“There’s starting to be a very uncomfortable atmosphere here, a kind of dictatorship where you can’t feel freedom. It’s getting to the point where they threaten you if you simply express an opinion.”

Writing in the top-selling Yediot Aharonot daily, commentator Yoaz Handel mocked the minister.

“Culture in Israel has never before enjoyed such good times. Ever since Miri Regev became culture minister, everyone is taking an interest in plays and movies,” he said.

“Regev is acting like a bull in a china shop. Maybe like a bear among ballerinas.”

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