Tuesday, November 16, 2010

North Korea is here

I meant to write here about Limor Livnat, Minister of Culture of the State of Israel, and her plans to make support to theaters in our country conditional upon their willingness to perform  in the settlements. But then, I found  what Arianna Melamed already wrote on this subject in Y-net.

Here follows a translation.

Limor Livnat announced this week that actors will from now be required to perform  everywhere, occupied or not, as a condition for getting state aid. And a softening last touch she added that the Ministry of Culture will also grant a special award towards "encouraging   Zionist creativity". Even since hearing this joyous message, I still cannot understand what she meant. In contemporary Israeli dance, would they be required to raise aloft the national flag while dancing? Would theaters present an optimistic play about a tough riot policeman falling in love with a settler woman which he picked up in his armoured jeep, the two of them living happily ever after in a new settlement  created on the hills of Judea and Smaria?

Or maybe someone will write a new biography of Herzl, omitting the syphilis and the delusions of grandeur? Or maybe a wide-ranging epic set against the background of the Likud Party conferences? All options are, of course, open to the artists' creative fantasy.

There are about five or six countries in the world where artists can receive awards for conforming to the dominant ideology. North Korea is the prime example, but such awards are also granted in Burma, Vietnam, Cuba and even some Emirates (though there one needs to sing the ruler's personal praises). Is that what Livnat has in mind? Is she really and truly unaware that  quality works of culture almost always correspond by way of criticism with the dominant ideology or its current interpretation?

And while searching for what "Zionist creativity" might mean, I have a feeling that quite a few classics of Hebrew literature would have had no chance to get past Livnat's Award Committee. Consider Jabotinsky's "Samson", where both the Biblical protagonist and the  author praise the Philisitines' civilization, which is presented in complete contradiction to the Hebrew primitives. And  is the exposure of the abuse of a prisoner of war "Zionist", or "anti-Zionist" - as in S. Izhar's "Khirbet Hiz'aa"? Is realism a Zionist genre, of must everything be blue-and-white-washed?

It is a stupid idea. Therefore, it will probably be implemented. The award ceremony will fill Livnat with righteous pride - but she will find what she considers as Zionist creativity to be a far cry from independent, three-dimensional, non-dogmatic thinking.