DUBAI: Israel’s efforts to reserve state funding for films that propagate the nation’s far-right agenda has resulted in several filmmakers calling for a boycott of the country’s film funds.
Culture Minister Makhlouf Zohar, who took office in December, has pushed for new requirements that force filmmakers and artists into guaranteeing that their work will not smear the reputation of Israel or its military.
Zohar is also considering revoking funding for two documentaries, “H2: The Occupation Lab” and “Two Kids a Day.”
The former looks at the impact of Jewish settlers and military occupation on the Palestinian city of Hebron, while the latter explores the systematic daily arrests of children by the Israeli army.
“[Zohar] might think what he wants about our film, but we object to the whole notion of the minister having a committee in his office to review documents,” Noam Sheizaf, co-director of “H2: The Occupation Lab,” told Variety magazine. “We think it’s crazy.”
Sheizaf, who wrote an op-ed on this topic for The New York Times called “Israel’s Government Is Trying to Turn the Film Industry into a Propaganda Arm,” added: “It’s a small market, so without this support [film funds] it’s basically impossible, unless you’re very rich, to make documentaries.”
Zohar has argued for additional requirements to funding regulations that would force artists to sign a loyalty agreement stating they will not tarnish the country if they receive state funding.
The proposed pledge is similar to the “Nakba Law,” a 2011 amendment to the Foundations of the Budget Law, which allows the government to cut state funding to institutions for any activity that denies Israel’s identity as a Jewish and democratic state, or that incites racism, violence, or terror.
The Rabinovich Foundation’s Israel Cinema Project, the country’s largest film fund, already requires applicants to sign off on that pledge.
The ministry is now aiming to expand the Nakba Law requirements to all the film funds and to add further articles that would prohibit funding to films that harm the country or its military, Sheizaf said.
In response, Israeli filmmakers have launched a counter-campaign calling for the Rabinovich fund to remove the requirements. More than 100 artists and filmmakers have signed a petition calling for an industry boycott of the Rabinovich fund until the foundation stops requiring the loyalty oath.
The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel last year called on all film institutions, including international festivals, cinemas and distributors, to boycott films funded by the Rabinovich fund since 2017, which is when the legal requirements were included in the foundation’s agreements.
“The law regulates all institutions funded by the State of Israel — including all Israeli film funds — and not only the Rabinovich Foundation,” the foundation told Variety in a statement.
“We believe that if the filmmakers do not agree with this law, a law that compels all Israeli film funds, their fight should be a fight to change the law itself — in the Israeli Knesset,” the statement added.
Israel’s Ministry of Communications earlier this month announced that plans to defund and shut down public broadcaster KAN had been shelved “until further notice” so that the government could focus its efforts on passing the much-disputed legal reforms instead, reported The Jerusalem Post.
However, Sheizaf and co-director of “H2: The Occupation Lab,” Idit Avrahami, who have both signed the boycott petition, said that was not enough.
Sheizaf said that the channel would still have to fight to stay on air as the government is expected to resume its defunding plans once it has implemented the legal reforms to strengthen its overall position.
Avrahami said: “The film industry is being attacked, as is public television, and specifically documentaries.”