Will anti-Israel Arab theater be stripped of public funding?

Haifa City Council to decide tomorrow whether to approve budget for Al Midan Theater. 'We must preserve Zionist honor in State of Israel.'

Shimon Cohen & Mordechai Sones ,

Tamam family protest
Tamam family protest
Yossi Tzur

The City of Haifa is set to decide whether to continue funding a controversial Israeli-Arab theater which has hosted a number anti-Zionist shows, while the Supreme Court is expected to weigh in on the Culture Ministry’s ongoing refusal to fund the theater.

Haifa municipal councilman Shai Blumenthal, who represents the Jewish Home party on the council, spoke to Arutz Sheva this week about the likelihood of the municipality funding the theater in question, the Al-Midan Theater.

The theater regularly hosts plays that glorify the "Palestinian struggle" in Israel, including a play based on the writings of soldier Moshe Tamam's murderer. Despite the decision that has not yet been made and despite opposition by Culture Minister Miri Regev to fund the theater, it is as yet unclear whether the Haifa Municipality will decide to approve the budget.

"Unfortunately, the Haifa Municipality thinks that the theater is entitled to municipal support," he says, noting that for quite a few years the theater received municipality funding until the performance glorifying the late Moshe Tamam's terrorist murderer was exposed.

"We stopped the subsidies, but we were obliged to pay by court order. Every year we try to stop the subsidies. Our argument is that as long as the Culture Ministry, which oversees theater subsidies, doesn't say the theater can be budgeted, the Haifa Municipality shouldn't give it support," he said.

Blumenthal adds further: "The connection between this theater and culture is very loose. The main activity there is to promote bodies that were accused of various terrorist activities in the past, and people work there on their behalf."

On Tuesday, the City Council will hold a discussion on theater budgeting since approval has already been received by the Committee that approves subsidies. "We didn't have a majority in the Subsidy Committee," says Blumenthal. "I hope that in the City Council, with the representatives of all the Zionist parties, we will clarify the importance of preventing support for those who support terror."

Next month, the High Court is expected to decide on the future of the theater. Blumenthal stresses that his position does not necessarily relate to the High Court's decision, which is focused on the Culture Ministry and not the municipality, but is rather a principled statement: "We claim that in principle a municipality should not support a theater that supports terrorism."

To this he adds that he has no objection to true Arab cultural activity in the city. "There is an Arab theater in Beit Hagefen with worthwhile plays in Arabic for the Arab public, and we support it. The point is that the Al Midan Theater hardly deals with theater but with political gatherings."

As for chances in the City Council vote Blumenthal is not prepared to predict results. According to him, promises given to him verbally may well be forgotten at the moment of truth. "Many members in personal talks are expressing agreement and support but the results will only be seen tomorrow, so I won't be impressed by the promises ... Tomorrow we'll see who favors the State of Israel and who has other considerations."

When asked if fear of damage to the Arab vote in the coming elections is what motivates members to avoid voting against the budget transfer, Blumenthal says: "I don't know how important the electoral issue is, but there's no doubt that there's a clear struggle. One must remember that politics isn't everything. One must maintain Zionist honor in the State of Israel and not give support to bodies that harm the State."