Israel's culture ministry has frozen funding to the Al Midan Theatre in Haifa pending investigation of its funding sources. Al Midan is the sole fully professional Palestinian theatre in Israel.
Culture Minister Miri Regev announced Tuesday that her ministry has frozen funding to the Al Midan Theatre on recommendation of the National Council for Culture and the Arts. Dr. Haim Perlock, chairperson of the council, reported that several days ago he visited Al Midan, the directors of which could not explain several of their funding sources. Perlock further noted that Al Midan Director, Adnan Tarabash, stated that the theatre is 'political'.
Al Midan is under scrutiny following showing of the play A Parallel Time, which right-wing political figures claim is based on a story written by Walid Daka, convicted of being member of a cell that kidnapped and killed an Israeli soldier 21 years ago.
Yet in an interview with Al Monitor, Tarabash says the play doesn't focus on Daka at all. “Playwright Bashar Murkus had been working on that project for five years”, Tarabash said. “He culled stories from many discharged prisoners, mainly about their daily life and their coping mechanisms in prison. One of the prisoners whose stories Tarabash heard was Walid Daka. The play is not about him. But suddenly everything has turned political —security prisoners, terrorists, murderers. What we have here is a theater piece. Come and watch it. No one has even seen the play.”
The family of the Israeli soldier killed campaigned against the play and Al-Midan, and has found allies in Israel's extreme right-wing government.
Al-Monitor asked Tarabash if he understood why the storm erupted at this time. “This is the anti-democratic atmosphere in Israel in which we’re living, and it doesn’t have to do only with Arabs,” he said. “Look at what they did to the Ethiopian community. There is a racist atmosphere by fulminatory bodies that progressively display the hallmarks of fascism. I’m worried about our life here in this country”, Tarabush added.
The municipality of Haifa, which provides almost half of Al Midan's budget, froze its contribution already last month following public outcry over A Parallel Time.
Israel's Culture Minister Miri Regev has stated that she will not support cultural organizations that boycott and delegitimize Israel.
Regev has threatened to pull funding for the Jaffa-based Elmina Theatre, which serves Israeli and Palestinian teens, after its founder, in his capacity as an actor with the Haifa Theatre, refused to perform in a West Bank settlement.