November 17, 2018

Miri Regev Is Not Israel's McCarthy

“After the addition to the cinema budget that Culture Minister Miri Regev managed to reap on voting day for the new cinema bill – which pulled the rug out from under the media’s attack – all the energy is going to a major assault on the so-called cultural-loyalty bill. Writers, artists and politicians competed last week in labeling the bill a sign of fascism that will send Israeli democracy into the heart of darkness.

It began with a description of the bill – by Maya Asheri in Haaretz’s Hebrew edition – as “a harsh blow against the world of culture in particular, and against all Israelis.” This went on to actor Oded Kotler’s description of Regev’s efforts as “indecent acts,” and ended with actress Gila Almagor’s “fooya” (“that’s disgusting”).

But the truth is somewhat less dramatic. Since the dimming of the splendor of absolute monarchy, the traditional patron of the arts, there have been two main models of the relationship between art and the state, each favoring a different level of support, supervision and monitoring.

In the United States, one of the world’s great democracies, the government in principle does not support art, save for a few exceptions. The principle of a free market also applies to the art world: Art is paid for by its consumers. That’s exactly why columnist Uzi Baram’s headline in Haaretz last month, “Israel’s very own McCarthy,” mixes apples and oranges; the piece points out the presumed similarity between Regev and Sen. Joseph McCarthy in the 1950s.”

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