HCJ Cancels Additional Support for Performances in the Settlements
ACRI: The HCJ’s important and principled ruling affirms that there is no basis for Minister Miri Regev’s claim that granting a bonus to cultural institutions performing in the settlements amounts to serving the “social periphery.”
Today, 13.5.2020, the HCJ accepted ACRI’s petition in a majority opinion and canceled the additional support for cultural institutions performing in the settlements. The ruling was written by Deputy Chief Justice Melcer, to which Chief Justice Hayut concurred. Justice Mintz was of the minority opinion.
In 2016, ACRI filed the petition against the “Miri Regev Amendments,” as the Minister herself called them, which implemented fines on artists and actors who refrain from appearing in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, as well as granting additional funding for those who do appear in the settlements.
The High Court ruled that the clause authorizing additional funding for performers appearing in the settlements will be revoked immediately. In the ruling, the HCJ abstained from a decision regarding the fines given to artists refusing to appear in the settlements as the sanction has not been implemented thus far. Furthermore, the HCJ ruled in favor of the petitioner receiving 25,000 NIS in legal expenses.
ACRI Chief Legal Counsel, Atty. Dan Yakir: “For the past five years, ACRI has vigilantly and repeatedly halted attempts by the Minister of Culture to censor cultural institutions that do not align with the government’s ideology and to harm their funding. This principled and important HCJ ruling affirms that there is no basis for Minister Regev’s claim that granting a bonus to cultural institutions performing in the settlements amounts to serving the “social periphery.” The HCJ further states that granting this bonus violates the freedom of artistic expression and the principle “that requires that neither the government nor its ministers try to reinforce via the ‘freedom of funding,’ either directly or indirectly, the perceptions of political parties that make up the government or to ensure their rule.” This is a proper and significant ending for the outgoing Minister of Culture. We hope that the incoming Minister of Culture will care not only for the restoration of the cultural institutions’ economy, but also for the restoration of their artistic freedom.
On 29.9.2016, ACRI submitted a petition to the High Court of Justice (HCJ) against the “Miri Regev Amendments” – amendments to funding criteria for theaters, dance, and music ensembles in Israel, which provide bonuses to bodies that perform in the settlements, and fine those that refuse to do so. The petition claims that the amendments violate creators’, actors’, and artists’, freedom of expression and conscience, in discriminating against their political views. Further claims asserted that the amendments are inconsistent with the “boycott law” and the HCJ ruling on the matter.
In a hearing held on 24.1.2017, HCJ justices criticized the articulation of the form that cultural institutions are required to fill out in accordance with Regev’s funding criteria, and the violation of equality inherent in granting bonuses for performing in settlements, but not the Negev or the Galilee. The court ordered the Ministry of Culture to respond to its criticism within 30 days.
In a hearing held on 31.7.2017, the judges criticized the imposition of a fine on a cultural institution that refrained from performing in the settlements, and suggested that the Minister of Culture consider repealing it upon the conclusion of the hearing.
Throughout the hearing, the judges wondered why ACRI was the sole body to oppose the amendments, without any cultural institutions partaking in the petition. The justices were particularly curious as to why the Israel Culture and Arts Forum, which aggregates over 100 important cultural institutions throughout Israel, did not appeal to the HCJ. Accordingly, we submitted a letter to the HCJ on 8.8.2017 on behalf of the Israel Culture and Arts Forum, which supports the position ACRI presented in the petition. The letter explained that the forum considered filing a petition against the criteria, but decided not to do so in light of its limited resources and ACRI’s submission of a petition. It also posited that the Minister of Culture’s conduct generates a sense of fear among cultural institutions and reluctance to confront her in general, especially within a legal framework.
On 13.5.2020, the HCJ accepted the petition, deeming that the bonus clause for performances in settlements would be repealed immediately. The HCJ withheld from issuing a ruling on the fine for refraining from performing in settlements, as the sanction has yet to be imposed. Furthermore, the HCJ ruled in favor of covering 25,000 NIS in legal expenses for ACRI.
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