Israeli ministers clash with Arab-Israeli arts groups, threaten to cut funds


(JTA) — In two separate incidents, ministers in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s governing coalition threatened to pull funding for Arab-Israeli theater groups.

Responding to Arab-Israeli actor Norman Issa’s refusal to perform in a West Bank settlement, Culture and Sport Minister Miri Regev said Wednesday that she may reverse an earlier recommendation that the Culture Ministry support a Jaffa-based theater group for Arab and Jewish teens founded by  Issa.

Regev, of Netanyahu’s Likud party, told Israel Radio that she supports the group’s work toward Jewish-Arab coexistence, but said, “If he doesn’t adhere to coexistence in the Jordan Valley, I will rethink the coexistence in his theater.”

Responding on Facebook, Issa, who founded the theater with his Jewish wife, wrote, “As an Arab Israeli, you cannot expect me to go against my conscience and perform in disputed places.”

Separately, Education Minister Naftali Bennett ordered that “A Parallel Time,” a play about Arab prisoners in an Israeli jail, be removed from the list of arts programs receiving government subsidies to perform in public schools.

The play, by Arab-Israeli playwright Bashar Murkus, is partially inspired by the prison experiences of Walid Aka, an Israeli-Arab serving a life sentence for helping abduct and kill an Israeli soldier in 1984.

Bennett, of the right-wing Jewish Home party, said the play glorifies a murderer.

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