The European Union has offered millions of euros worth of support for art and culture in Israel as part of the Creative Europe program, a significant boon to Israeli culture.
Other than a few lucky ones, Israeli artists live hand to mouth, struggling to make it to the end of the month. Some take a step down to become art teachers and others despair and leave the art world for something more secure that will allow them to put food on the table and pay the bills.
But there’s a catch to the Europeans’ offer. One small condition: The money must go to support straight, Ashkenazi artists. Not half-Ashkenazi and not half-straight. The Israeli government swallowed the toad and agreed to accept the conditional aid, and promised it would compensate LGBTQ Sephardi artists with grants of its own.
Barely two seconds passed before cries of outrage reached the heavens. Actress Yael Dan interviewed an angry transgender installation artist. A medium-sized demonstration was organized, led by musicians Eden Ben Zaken, Dudu Tassa and Dana Berger, who showed solidarity and happened to have an afternoon free. Anyone who went on the air that day, and it wasn’t hard to find people to do so, began with the words “it’s unacceptable” or “it’s inconceivable that…”
And it really is infuriating to discriminate between people of different persuasions and ethnicities. If the Europeans opt to be racist or homophobic, that’s their perverted choice, but Israel must not accept these conditions under any circumstances. Even if the government offers a form of affirmative action, there’s no way of knowing what the next government will do. Most of all, the very acceptance of such conditions legitimizes them. In other words, this is unacceptable and inconceivable.
Of course, most of what has been written above is untrue. Yes, the Europeans offered support, but calm down—it doesn’t discriminate based on ethnicity or sexual orientation. It merely discriminates against the settlers. Yael Dan can look for a different item and Dana Berger has an afternoon free after all.
There were no and won’t be any demonstrations, certainly not of solidarity. No artist will go on the air and the country will be silent. Because they think discrimination against settlers isn’t really a story and the settlers probably deserve it.
The slow encroachment of this worldview, which claims that people who live on the other side of the Green Line are illegitimate and their voices and their art are not worthy of being heard, is unacceptable and inconceivable, and must not be allowed to take hold.
This criticism isn’t aimed at the Europeans, because we expect nothing from them, and they’ve already proven a million times that their interests don’t align with ours, to say the least. Instead, this criticism is of the government that accepted these discriminatory conditions; the media, which didn’t raise an outcry; and artists from the “right” side of the Green Line who didn’t bother showing solidarity. Maybe because they don’t feel it, maybe because it’s not important to them. It should be.
Karni Eldad is a journalist, columnist, and editor.
This article was originally published by Israel Hayom.