Adalah to Israeli Culture Minister Regev: Freezing of funds to Haifa's Al-Midan Theater is reminiscent of dark regimes

Minister's illegal decision affects rights of entire Palestinian society in Israel, who have a different and unique narrative, history and culture from the Jewish majority.

On 16 June 2015, Adalah sent a letter to the new Israeli Culture Minister Miri Regev (Likud) and the Attorney General demanding that the minister reverse her decision to freeze the funding to the Arabic-language Al-Midan Theater in Haifa.


In the letter, Adalah, on behalf of the Al-Midan Theater, emphasized that, "Minister Regev's decision was made illegally and must be cancelled. Like the decisions made previously by the Haifa Municipality and the Ministry of Education, the sole motive of Minister Regev's decision is to suspend fundamental constitutional rights of freedom of artistic expression in order to suppress the Palestinian Arab cultural and historical narrative." Adalah also argued that setting criteria that obliges the theater to take political positions in line with that of the ruling parties is political persecution designed to suppress the opposition's political views. These funds are public money. However, the minister forgot that 20% of the taxpayers are Palestinian Arabs, and they have the full right to express and enjoy their own culture."


Adalah Attorneys Sawsan Zaher and Muna Haddad argued that the decision to freeze the transfer of funds to Al-Midan, following a visit by Dr. Haim Perluk, the head of the Arts and Culture Council and members of the Ministry of Culture to the Al-Midan Theater, violates administrative law. "At no time during the meeting was it specified to the theater manager or to the employees that the purpose of the visit was to examine the financial management of the theater or to hold a hearing," wrote Attorneys Zaher and Haddad. This lack of procedure violates the obligations of an administrative authority to hold a hearing before making a decision to freeze support.


In addition, Adalah argued that the Minister's decision was politically motivated, and thus this exercise of authority is unlawful: "The decision to freeze support to the theater without giving the director the opportunity to defend himself shows that it was based purely on political considerations." Moreover, the decision was based on misinformation.


The minister's illegal intervention in the theater affects the rights of the entire Palestinian Arab society in Israel as they have a unique narrative, history and culture, which differs from that of the Israeli Jewish majority. The subject matter of the plays performed in the Arab theater may hurt the feelings of the majority, but this does not justify infringement of their freedom of expression rights, which may only be limited if there is a near certainty of harm to state security.


The Arab actress, Ms. Khawlah Haj-Debsy, who is the chairwomen of the Arab Culture department in the Ministry of Culture, stated that, "Dr. Haim Perluk incorrectly told the media that I share in the decision to freeze the funds to the theater. I am not a partner in this decision, and they did not consult with me on the subject. Even if they did consult with me, I would object to this decision."