Anti-Israel films will not receive state funding, says new culture minister

Culture and Sports Minister Miki Zohar says the government is under no obligation to fund movies that harm the state.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

New Culture and Sports Minister Miki Zohar told Ynet Radio Monday that the state will no longer fund movies that are biased against Israel or the IDF.

In order to consider requests for assistance from funds that help finance filmmakers’ productions, the Israel Film Council will have them “sign a document that they undertake not to produce content that harms the State of Israel and the soldiers of the IDF. This is the condition for funding,” said Zohar, a longtime senior member of the Likud party.

It has nothing to do with censorship, he noted.

“In the end, we have to remember, you’re allowed to make any movie you want, within the law of course. We live in a democracy. But the state is not obligated to finance these kinds of controversial content, because they strike at very fundamental things, including Israeli soldiers,” which, he said, “infuriates me the most.”

Movies portraying Israel in a negative light help the country’s enemies, he noted.

“There are organizations that work against the State of Israel – for example, BDS. What do they say? They say that the IDF abuses and murders Palestinian children and claim that the State of Israel is a state of occupation,” Zohar said.

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“So we try to defend ourselves and say that it’s not true, and that we’re a moral and ethical country. The same organizations come and say, ‘What are you talking about, there is proof that all of this is true. You pay for productions that show it.”

Zohar rejected the interviewer’s contention that the government’s backing for such films proves that the accusations against Israel are true.

“That’s not the outlook that is accepted and established around the world,” he answered. “No one requires me to provide cultural expression to precisely that minority that disagrees with me. In the end, my duty is to protect the rights of the minority, but on the other hand to realize the will of the majority as well. That’s how democracy works.”

“In the end, the public will decide whether they come to see a film or not, but we will not compromise on the financing issue,” he affirmed. “We will not fund offensive content against IDF soldiers and the State of Israel.”

Last Tuesday, Zohar moved to retrieve government funding from a filmmaker whose movie was already produced because, as he told Ynet at the time, it “slandered Israel.”

To make this retroactive claim, he and Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich agreed to try applying a different tool, the so-called “Cultural Loyalty” law that determines which cultural institutions may receive state funding while denying it to those that incite to racism, violence or terrorism, as well as others.

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The documentary, called “Two Children A Day,” portrays the lives of four Palestinian minors arrested and jailed for stone-throwing. It was screened at last year’s Jerusalem Festival, where it won a prize for best screenplay.