The crackdown on funding for Palestinian cultural institutions is the latest move to marginalize Palestinian citizens.
The most extreme government in Israel’s history is wasting no time getting down to business. One of its first acts is targeting Palestinian freedom of expression.
In June, Naftali Bennett, the Israeli education minister (who once boasted of killing “lots of Arabs”), announced he was pulling state funding from a play created by Palestinians. He claimed the play glorified terrorism, though an Israeli committee that approves funds for plays for Israeli youth to attend had approved the performance after finding it did not encourage violence. His announcement was followed by the Culture Ministry’s decision to pull more funding from the theater in Haifa. In the same month, Israeli culture minister Miri Regev (known for calling African migrants to Israel a “cancer”), threatened to cut state funding to a children’s theater because its head, Norman Issa, announced his refusal to perform in an illegal Israeli West Bank settlement. Regev has since backed down after Issa reportedly agreed to perform at the settlement theater.
It all adds up to a sustained attack on Palestinians’ right to freely express themselves. In the West Bank, which is under military occupation and governed by strict military law, freedom of expression is sharply curtailed. But the threats of cuts in state funding for Palestinian cultural performances have taken place inside the Green Line, where Palestinians have citizenship but suffer discrimination in a host of areas. (The Green Line is the name given to the armistice lines drawn up between Israel and Arab states following the 1947-’49 Arab-Israeli war.)