Politicians in the Knesset Finance Committee held a heated emergency debate on Wednesday over funding the Tel Aviv Cinematheque, as the art house movie theater plans a film festival on the “Nakba.”
The three-day festival, dubbed “48 mm, the Second Annual Nakba and Return Festival,” aims to “challenge the perception of this division in creative ways, and suggest alternatives for just civic existence of all the inhabitants of the country and its refugees,” according to the Cinematheque website.
“Nakba,” which means “catastrophe” in Arabic, refers to Israel’s winning the War of Independence, and its consequences for the Arab population.
Yisrael Beytenu MK Alex Miller, who requested the committee meeting, called the festival “a pathetic attempt by the Cinematheque to take advantage of its stage to support Israel’s enemies that are looking for every way to undermine our sovereignty.”
“If anyone would rent the place to films denying the Holocaust there would be an outcry,” he added.
Culture Minister Limor Livnat (Likud), who also protested against the festival last year, asked Finance Minister Yair Lapid (Yesh Atid) withdraw the state’s NIS 250,000 allocation to the Cinematheque, Miller said.
Committee chairman Nissan Slomiansky of Bayit Yehudi said funding such an event was illegal, and that democracies have to prevent funding supporters of terrorism and violence.
“We have to stop being suckers and stop funding those who want to destroy us,” he said. “It’s time to put an end to this cynical exploitation of democracy.”
Yesh Atid MK Ofer Shelah said Livnat should support culture even if she does not like it. “The role of cultural institutions is not to educate and not to provide good or bad narratives, but to present all sides and all the narratives. That’s called culture,” he said.
Meretz MK Esawi Frej accused Slomiansky of using the committee as a political forum, saying the topic was beyond its mandate.
“The Palestinian nation had a ‘Nakba,’ and nothing the culture minister or anyone else can do will change that fact,” Frej said. “The greatness of this country is that even a neighbor with a different narrative can speak up, even if it’s uncomfortable.”
Slomiansky eventually removed Frej for interfering with the hearing and speaking out of turn.
The fact that the committee acted so quickly to take up the discussion while putting off “real problems” such as stagnant wages and health reforms, showed misplaced priorities, Labor MK Stav Shaffir argued. Her requests for an urgent discussions on Lapid’s delayed submission of the 2005 draft state budget was denied, she said.
Labor MK Michal Biran, who said she did not believe there was a “Nakba,” called the meeting a “pathetic” attempt to “fight other people’s right to tell other stories.”
MK Dov Henin of Hadash tried to block the discussion’s continuation by filibustering it until a meeting of the Knesset plenum, at which point Slomiansky adjourned the discussion. Slomiansky promised to put the issue to Lapid, and to reconvene the discussion with all the relevant parties present.