A storm broke out Tuesday evening at the annual AMI (Israeli Artists Association) Lifetime Achievement Awards, as the audience, made up mostly of Israeli artists, booed Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev (Likud), and Arab actor and prize recipient Yussuf Abu-Warda walked out in protest of the minister’s Loyalty in Culture bill.
As soon as the ceremony began, as Minister Regev started her speech with a reference to the Loyalty in Culture bill, booing was heard from across the Petah Tikva auditorium.
The bill amends the current Culture and Art law, and seeks to prevent support from projects that undermine the state and its symbols. The bill, passed in a preliminary 55 to 44 Knesset vote earlier this month, transfers the power to take away the budget of offending artists from the Finance to the Culture Minister.
Regev, not one to shy away from confrontation, began to criticize a Machsom Watch event that will take place in December at the Tel Aviv Cinematheque, in which Israeli entertainers will be reading testimonies from incarcerated terrorists on the occasion of International Human Rights Day.
Regev also took a stand against paying for the poems by Darin Tator, who was convicted of incitement to terrorism, and the poems of Mahmoud Darwish.
Among the western Galile-born Darwish’s works were the infamous lines, “So leave our land/Our shore, our sea/Our wheat, our salt, our wound,” and “But if I starve/I will eat my oppressor’s flesh/Beware, beware of my starving/And my rage.”
“Which one of you really wants to inspire the public with Darwish’s poems that attacks you, too?” Regev asked her audience.
Responding to the heckling and boos, Regev declared she did not intend to leave the stage until she had finished speaking and said, “I promise you [I’m reading] one more page, or you will not enjoy this evening, but I will stand here and say what I have to say even if some of you do not like it,” she said.
At that point, the hostile audience artists called out “You bore us,” referencing PM Netanyahu’s much criticized response to a Kiryat Shmona resident who heckled him a few weeks ago.
After things calmed down and the award ceremony continued, it turned out that one prize recipient, Yussuf Abu-Warda, had left the hall in protest of Regev’s presence.
Noam Semel, former Israeli Cultural Consul in New York City, former director of the Cameri Theater, and former director general of the Haifa Theater, who had worked with Abu-Warda, accepted the prize in his absence, reminding the audience of the Arab actor’s monumental role as head of the Judenrat in Yehoshua Sobol’s play “Ghetto.”