‘Israeli Oscars’ snubs culture minister who walked out on last year’s ceremony


JERUSALEM (JTA) — The Israeli Academy of Film and Television announced it will not invite the country’s culture minister, Miri Regev, to the Ophir Awards, Israel’s Oscars.

Regev caused a stir at last year’s awards ceremony, walking out in protest while Arab-Israeli rapper Tamer Nafar performed a poem by the late Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish. Regev returned to present the best film award and was loudly booed.

This year’s awards ceremony is scheduled for Sept. 19.

The academy said in a statement issued Tuesday that it “does not run away from confrontations and is prepared to conduct a substantive and penetrating discussion of criticism of it and the works of its members. Moreover, many of the works were created out of a desire to create a deep discussion and out of great love for Israeli society.”

The ceremony, the statement said in explaining why it would not invite Regev or other Israeli politicians, is the “one day of the year when the theater community shows appreciation and respect to the artist and their creations, and commemorates those among its members who have died.”

“Regrettably, with time the ceremony has changed its character and gradually become an inappropriate wrestling ring that cheapens the event and, even worse, cheapens the artists and the work that it is meant to show appreciation and respect to,” the statement also said.

Regev, a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party, blasted the decision in a Facebook post as “cowardly and undemocratic.” She also said she would deliver the speech that she would have given at the awards ceremony on her Facebook page in parallel with the awards ceremony.

Last year, she explained why she walked out on the Nafar performance.

“I have a lot of tolerance for the ‘other,’ but I have no tolerance for Darwish and anyone who wants to eliminate Israel,” she said. Darwish was a member of the PLO.

On Saturday night, Regev slammed the Israeli film “Foxtrot” after it was awarded the Silver Lion grand jury prize at the Venice Film Festival.

“An Israeli wins an international prize, the heart fills with pride and my natural desire is to strengthen and encourage the Israeli success,” Regev said in a post on Facebook, adding that the award for “Foxtrot” in Venice “is an exception.” A final scene in the film shows Israeli soldiers killing and burying an Arab family.

Regev said state funding for such films “become a weapon of propaganda for our enemies.”

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