Al-Midan Theater in Haifa is currently facing attacks and yesterday the Culture Minister Miri Regev, decided to withdraw its public funding. These have been preceded by several cultural events, including the play A Parallel Time and the Palestinian Film Festival produced by Zochrot.
Zochrot is opposed to any form of politically motivated censorship that restricts artistic freedom. According to Israeli law, public support and funding are designed to serve the public, rather than be exploited as a bargaining chip or political, if not racist sanction. The withdrawal of public funding from Al-Midan is tainted with the racist desire to obliterate Palestinian identity and history. It is part of an orchestrated policy designed to silence and suppress substantial political issues, a policy that wreaks havoc in all areas of life: land grabs, house demolitions, apartheid roads, budgetary discrimination, narrow-minded curricula, and more.
The cynical attempt to associate the theater and its diverse cultural and artistic activities with support for terrorism is completely unfounded to say the least. If any work of art that challenges social consensus and commonly held views had been censored on the basis of this pretext, we would have lost entire canonical bodies of work. Twentieth-century history teaches us that politically subservient art recruited by a dominant ideology achieves little in the way of enduring contribution.
A Parallel Time was written and directed by 23 year-old Bashar Murkus – a great promise in the theater scene. It has been approved by a Ministry of Culture committee and performed 26 times in Haifa and elsewhere. They play won critical acclaim and attracted interest by other theaters, including the prestigious Cameri Theater of Tel Aviv, where it was supposed to be staged in March. The play was part of Sal Tarbut and many high school students have seen it. At the beginning of June The Education Minister Naftali Bennet decided to take the play out of Sal Tarbut, though the Repertoire Committee has decided it should stay.
The decision to withdraw public funds from Al-Midan theater marks yet another milestone in a consistent policy of excluding the Palestinian voice from every possible power base. This is not a minor news item, but one that is directly relevant to us all.
Eliyahu Zigdon: Artistic Director of 48 mm Film Festival