Knesset’s Education Committee must reject Culture Minister’s bill requiring cultural centers and artists to declare loyalty to the state

Adalah: Demanding "loyalty" to Israel is a political consideration, which has numerous implications on freedom of expression.

On 26 January 2016, Adalah sent an urgent letter to the Chairmen of the Knesset’s Education Committee demanding immediate action to stop the proposed bill, initiated by the Minister of Culture, Miri Regev, that requires cultural institutions and artists seeking state funding to declare their loyalty to the State of Israel and its laws. Minister Regev calls it the “cultural loyalty law” and with it, she seeks to control funding decisions to cultural institutions and artists in Israel.


Adalah Attorney Sawsan Zaher wrote in the letter that the proposed law would negatively effect all cultural institutions in Israel, and it especially targets Palestinian Arab cultural and artistic institutions in Israel. Adalah argued that these conditions “sweepingly affect the freedom of creativity and artistic production, which form an integral part of the constitutional right to express an opinion. The request for a declaration of loyalty to Israel is a political consideration, which has numerous implications on freedom of expression.”


Adalah also emphasized that the proposed law contradicted instructions issued by the Attorney General (AG) to the Culture Minister in August 2015. Then the AG ordered that the content of artistic works must not be taken into consideration when deciding upon funding for cultural institutions.


The proposed bill also seeks to expand the Culture Minister’s powers over the funding and the withdrawal of state funding to artistic and cultural institutions.


The bill essentially would transfer authority over the Culture Ministry’s budget and that of cultural institutions from the Finance Ministry, as stipulated in the so-called Nakba Law enacted by the Knesset in 2011, to the Culture Ministry. The Nakba Law grants the finance minister the power to cut budgets allocated to state-funded bodies that reject the existence of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, or that mark the state’s Independence Day as a day of mourning (Nakba, or "catastrophe," is the term used by Palestinians to denote the establishment of Israel in 1948).


The Israeli Supreme Court rejected a petition brought against the Nakba Law by Adalah, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), and the parents of school children and school alumni in 2012, ruling that the case was premature as the law had not been used against any specific institution. (See HCJ 3429/11, The Alumni Association of the Arab Orthodox School in Haifa, et al. v. The Minister of Finance, et al., delivered 5 January 2014).