New Culture Minister Zohar vows to withdraw funding for art that ‘defames Israel’

New Culture and Sports Minister Miki Zohar vowed Monday to stop state funding of arts that “discredit the State of Israel at home and around the world.”

Speaking at the handover ceremony alongside his predecessor, the Chilean Trooper, Zohar said taxpayer money will not be spent on forms of art and culture that “promote a narrative” against Israel.

“The world of culture and art is a world that represents us as a people and a nation. We will refuse funding for those who promote the narrative of our enemy and harm Israel’s reputation,” he said.

Terrorists and martyrs will not be presented as heroes in our sight. The Zohar added, “We will not compromise on ideology.”

The minister, a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party, said receiving the portfolio was “a dream come true” and noted that his son Eliav is a musician who recently won a popular musical reality show.

“I grew up an artist,” said the Zohar, “and I learned how the soul of an artist behaves, so I think the world of culture will get a minister with whom you can work.”

Eliav Zohar (C) wins the reality show “The Next Star” in Rishon LeZion, September 20, 2022 (Flash90)

He added, “I have countless plans and hope to make them all come true.” If they succeed, they will change Israeli culture. We will do our best to bring you more and more resources. The funding we have now is not enough. We need to narrow the gap with respect [spending in] the rest of the world.”

The Zohar also praised Truber, saying, “There is no doubt that you will be remembered as an excellent Minister of Culture.”

In his remarks, Tropper warned his successor against reviving past battles over culture, in an apparent swipe at his predecessor, Miri Regev of Likud.

“We have proven that the respectful way is not only more convenient in my view, but also more effective. The culture of lies and hate has no purpose,” Tropper said.

“Don’t rush to quarrel – there have been years of quarrels and fights. Don’t rush it.” The minister has a lot of power, and from that position of power you can multiply the good and create the bad. You can corrupt with power and you can fix things by protecting it.”

Culture and Sports Minister Miki Zohar (R) with his predecessor Chilean Trooper at a handover ceremony in Jerusalem, January 2, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Last summer, Tropper justified his refusal to intervene in a performance of a play about violations of Palestinian rights in the West Bank based on eyewitness accounts from IDF soldiers, He saidIt doesn’t seem to me that you want to live in a country where the Minister of Culture intervenes in certain plays.

“Today I am,” Tropper said, “and tomorrow someone else with different opinions will sit in my place.”

However, Regev did not hesitate to intervene in such matters, advocating the so-called Cultural Loyalty Law that would have allowed her to stop public funding of cultural organizations “working against the principles of the state.”

Outgoing Culture Minister Chile Tropper in Tel Aviv, April 6, 2022 (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

Also on Monday, new Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi said he would present plans to “lead the telecommunications market toward a free and competitive market.”

Karhi, a troubling Likud lawmaker, voiced support last month for closing the news departments of the Kan public broadcaster and Army Radio.

Karhi said, “TV should include everything—we should allow for the different voices that make us what we ought to be heard… There are still voices that are not heard enough in the Israeli media.”

He added that he intends to “strengthen [Jewish] settlement” in the West Bank. “We need to provide them with the infrastructure to do that.”

The new minister also said that he would work to overturn the decision of his predecessor Yoaz Hendel to Relaxation of restrictions on so-called kosher cell phone plans and the opening of the market, a reform vehemently opposed by many rabbinic authorities and ultra-Orthodox politicians.

“The outgoing minister made a decision about the use of mobile phones in the Haredi community – an attempt to interfere with the usage habits of ordinary citizens,” Karhi said. “I intend to roll back the change in the coming days. To implement this policy, I plan to nominate Elad Malka as the new director general of the ministry.”

Incoming Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi arrives for a group photo of the new government at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem, December 29, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Malka has previously expressed support for the privatization of public radio and even the closure of the Ministry of Communications.

In a column published in Makor Rishon newspaper last month titled “Shut down the public broadcaster?” Malka claimed that the problem with Kan was not its budget, but that it was “eliminating the private market”.

Malka is the founder of a pressure group called Our Interest – Lübeck in the Knesset, which advocates making markets more competitive. Prior to that, he was the head of Media Watch in Israel, an organization that studies media-related policies. He was also a member of the Jerusalem Council and is considered a liberal in the ranks of the Likud.

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