Court orders Haifa Municipality to reinstate funding to Al-Midan Theatre following Adalah’s petition

Adalah: The decision is a strong indication that the Culture Ministry should reverse its own discriminatory and unlawful decision to freeze its funding of the theatre, which violates freedom of expression and equality.

Additional petition to Supreme Court against Culture Ministry remains pending.


The Haifa District Court has accepted Adalah’s petition against the Municipality of Haifa, ordering the municipality to reinstate its funding of the Al-Midan Theatre for the year 2015. The court’s decision, issued on 4 November 2015, followed the municipality’s announcement of the freezing of its financial support to the theatre on the basis of incitement by right-wing groups against the performance of the play “A Parallel Time” by director Bashar Murkus.


Adalah Attorneys Sawsan Zaher and Muna Haddad filed the petition on 29 October 2015, alongside a further petition to the Supreme Court against the Israeli Ministry of Culture to demand the reinstatement of the government funding to the theatre. The Supreme Court petition remains pending.


In response to the District Court’s decision, Adalah stated that it is unfortunate that the Haifa Municipality was intransigent in its refusal to resume the transfer of funds designated to the theatre without court intervention. In the months that have passed since the funds were frozen, the municipality refused to back down from its discriminatory position, which has caused harm both to the theater itself and to the Arab public in Israel. The decision is a strong indication to the Ministry of Culture that it should reverse its own discriminatory and unlawful decision to freeze its funding of the theatre, which is in violation of constitutional rights such as freedom of expression and equality. Adalah therefore calls on the ministry to unfreeze the funds immediately in order to put an end to the violation of rights and unnecessary further legal proceedings.


The District Court in effect accepted the legal argument put forward by Adalah and the Al-Midan Theatre that the freezing of the funding was unlawful because it failed to meet the requirements of administrative law: no hearing was held beforehand and the theatre was not given the right to respond to the allegations made against it. Similarly, no formal reasoning was provided for the decision, which was also contrary to the recommendation of the Financial Support Committee, and it lacked a sound factual basis.


Adalah argued in the two petitions that Al-Midan is an Arab theater, a cultural center for the Arab population. Therefore the freezing of the budget effectively equates to the elimination of theater for Arab citizens of the state. It is also a violation of the right to equality of visitors to the theater, most of whom are Arab citizens that want to observe plays, works of art and other theater events. Providing budgets for the arts and culture produced and consumed by the national minority is not a matter of choice or grace. It is an obligation imposed on the Israeli authorities. When the authorities impede the realization of pluralism that allows exposure to opinions associated with the minority group, the result is the transformation of the cultural and artistic arena into a mouthpiece for the majority.


Case citations:


District Court (Administrative Petition), 35936-10-15 Al-Midan Theatre v. Haifa Municipality

HCJ 69821/15, Al-Midan Theatre v. The Ministry of Culture


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