Minister of Culture Limor Livnat (Likud) on Tuesday decried that "for some 'Zionism' has become a dirty word."
Livnat's comments were in response to criticism of an artistic competition she initiated intended to promote art and cultural events that reflect the Zionist perspective.
A letter to Livnat signed by hundreds of artists insisted their art is "a free choice derived from a sense of social responsibility," adding they protested the "decision of the ministry to give a prize for 'work in Zionism.'"
"The Ministry of Culture," the artists claimed," exists to support the work of Israeli artists who enrich and promote Israeli culture in its myriad manifestations. The awards should encourage artistic excellence and not favor or reward work on parameters other than artistic merit."
The artists claimed promoting works that reflected the Zionist perspective was an active attempt on Livnat's part to de-legitimize works that are in conflict with traditional Zionist mores and beliefs.
In response, Livnat said the artist's criticism are without merit as all works will be examined solely on their level of quality rather than extraneous criteria.
A formal statement from Livnat's office said, "The Peres Zionism initiative launched by Minister Livnat is designed to promote and encourage art in various cultural events that reflect a Zionist narrative that unites the public, and tells the story of the main characters and heroes of the Zionist enterprise."
The statement explained, "The prize is to encourage creativity and enrich the culture. It is sad that there are some who see Zionism as so primitive that they are willing to hurt more than 150 artists who submitted works for evaluation. Contrary to what is claimed in the petition, the ministry of culture spends tens of millions of shekels every year promoting quality works from all points of view."
Livnat's competition covers six areas of artistic achievement – literature, dance, cinema, theater, music and visual arts – with a prize of fifty thousand dollars for each winner.
Supporters of Livnat's initiative note giving an award for works reflecting a 'Zionist perspective' does not in any way diminish works that do not fall within that perspective - which still receive financial support from her ministry.