Saturday, June 13

BDS and Culture in Israel

When looking at the title of this article, a question that one is tempted to ask is: What is the connection?  BDS and culture have nothing to do with each other. If we examine this, we can see that BDS does affect culture freedom and democracy in Israel. How? One may ask.

Sports and Culture Minister Miri Regev
The new Israeli Coalition Government is now right wing,  if not more towards extreme right wing. The Likud Election Campaign played on the feelings of many apolitical citizens, who were not motivated to vote. PM Benjamin Netanyahu is an expert at fomenting fear of Israel's Arab citizens, when he felt that his Likud Party was going to lose. His perspiring face and tactics, bordering on racism towards Israel's Arab minority citizens, worked to his advantage at the last minute.

Israel today is being threatened by BDS groups in Europe, the US and many parts of the world. This has created a "siege" mentality within the government as well as amongst many Israelis. The BDS threat against Israel is not really anti-Semitic (BDS encompasses a heterogeneous range of groups, including many anti-Semites identifying with BDS and Palestinian terrorist groups, such as Hamas that climb on to the BDS bandwagon, irrespective of the government's settlement policies in the occupied territories, supporting the destruction of Israel), but against the occupation in the West Bank and the establishment of settlements there, whose legality in international law is questionable. BDS is a negative group that has nothing to contribute in any solution to this conflict. Much of the BDS propaganda is based on many hearsay falsities concerning Israel and does not deserve support.

The lack of progress in negotiations with the Palestinian Authority under President Mahmoud Abbas's leadership is part of the problem. There are many reasons for this which I have delved on in previous articles and will not go into that here. One reason that does stand out is the failure of Israel's leadership to freeze settlements and continues to build new settlements in the West Bank. This is the official reason for the BDS movement to threaten Israel. The Israeli Government has not shown any desire to negotiate a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict because they are not even prepared to raise the issue of settlements in the West Bank, even as a preliminary for trust-building measures between the two sides. The lack of movement towards a Two-State Solution is a potential danger to peace. The instability in the Middle East with ISIS, Jabat al Nusra and a host of other Islamist terrorist groups, complicates the issue even further. The Israeli Government must be viewed as partly to blame for the strengthening of BDS movements against Israel because of their lack of vision in moving forward towards a solution of the impasse that exists. So the negotiations will be tough but at least there could be some hope in allowing the ball to fall into the Palestinian court if Israel gave some hint of concessions, even if the Palestinian negotiators view them with distrust.

How does this affect Israel's democracy? The government has developed a "siege" mentality because of the very complicated and hostile environment with its players surrounding Israel. Anybody in Israel, who does not agree with government policy and is viewed as left-wing, has the mark of Cain. Peacemakers are viewed as traitors to the siege mentality of the right wing government.  Dissent to government policy is not encouraged and is often viewed as a threat to national interests. This is a threat to democracy in Israel.

This threat seeps down to cultural activities as well. The Minister of Culture and Sport, Miri Regev and the Minister of Education, Naftali Bennett, are well known for their right wing views. They have formed a cartel  refusing to subsidize cultural activities that are not in accordance with their respective party ideology. The taxpayer's money goes to the Culture and Sport Ministry that should be non-political. After all, not all Israel's taxpayers are right wing supporters. The Regev-Bennett cartel claims that the voters have given them their support and this allows them to adopt their party line as well as their own criteria for subsidizing cultural activities. These two "paragons of culture" have made decisions on hearsay and not from being present at theatre performances of plays that they view as being anti-Israel. They have appointed themselves as the watchdogs of culture in Israel. They even decide that actors who do not wish to perform in settlements that are in the West Bank will not receive subsidies for the theatre groups to which they belong.  

The "siege" mentality of the government is a threat to Israel's democracy. This pathetic, self-righteous government is digging a trench and pulling its supporters into it out of fear.

Soon Israeli culture will be narrowed to the confines of non-controversial cultural projects in theatre, TV, literature, art and poetry. It will come as no surprise, if the government coalition will pass bills ensuring their criteria for subsidizing cultural activities. All this because of fear of open mindedness, even if it does not dovetail with their ruling, right wing ideology.

Israel will be subjected to censorship in cultural activities if this trend continues

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