A sharp debate broke out Wednesday at a meeting of the Knesset Finance Committee, as Committee chairman MK Nissan Slomiansky (Jewish Home) said that he would attempt to block funding for the Cinematek in Tel Aviv – because it plans to show a series of anti-Israel films.
“The time has come to put an end to the cynical use of 'democracy' by those whose actions hurt the country,” Slomiansky said during the discussions, to the hisses and catcalls of leftist and opposition MKs. “We have to stop being suckers, and end the funding of those who want to destroy us.”
At issue is a film festival the Cinematek, a Tel Aviv “art house” movie theater, plans on holding this weekend, called “The Second International Film Festival of Nakba and Return.” According to the Cinematek, the films will include productions portraying the abandonment of Palestinians of their homes in 1948 after the establishment of Israel – called “the Nakba” by Arabs – and films depicting attempts by Palestinians to return to their families' homes, as well as films about the “suffering of Palestinians today,” the Cinematek said.
The festival, it said, was being held now “on the 67th anniversary of the UN decision to partition the Land of Israel on November 29, 1947. The partition plan established the principle of separation of the land's Jewish and Arab residents, and is a turning point in the struggle between Jews and Arabs and the conversion of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians into refugees.”
The partition plan, which allocated to the Jewish state only a small portion of the entire British Mandate – which the Balfour Declaration had set aside for the establishment of a Jewish state. The plan was accepted by representatives of the Jewish community but rejected by Arab countries, who promptly invaded the British mandate areas, with the intent of wiping out the nascent Jewish state – only to be beaten back, with Israel liberating most of the Negev and Galilee, which would not have been a part of Israel under the Partition Plan.
Hundreds of thousands of Arabs, told to “get out of the way” of the Arab armies who were to slaughter the Jews, were unable to return to the homes they fled, and ended up in refugee camps in various Arab countries, where the governments forced them to remain.
According to Slomiansky, the government is actually not allowed to fund the Cinematek anymore, thanks to the festival. Under the “Nakba Law” passed last year, the state is forbidden from funding institutions that promote the concept of Nakba, which seeks to replace the celebrations of the day of Israel's independence with the “misery” of Palestinians who became refugees when they ran away after establishment of the state. “The law is the law and we cannot fund organizations like this,” he added.”
In response, MK Issawi Freij (Meretz) said that the state was required to “fund culture, even if certain people don't like it.” Frik and other leftist and Arab MKs attempted to shout down Slomiansky and the MKs who supported his statement.
The discussion was initiated by MK Alex Miller (Yisrael Beyteinu), a member of the committee. “This is a very serious issue,” he said. “Leftist organizations take every opportunity to question Israel's sovereignty and right to exist. This happens often on college campuses, but there are hands are legally tied. The Cinematek's funding, however, falls within the jurisdiction of the state budget allocations which this committee is in charge of. If someone were to rent out the Cinematek to show films denying that the Holocaust took place people would be screaming – and in my view this is no different.”