A new Israeli bill allowing the culture minister to withhold public funding for cultural organisations "working against the principles of the state" passed its first reading in the Knesset last night.
The legislation, proposed by Culture Minister Miri Regev and supported by Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, was backed by 55 votes in favour to 44 against, reported the Times of Israel. It requires two more readings to become law.
According to the report, the Culture Loyalty Law would allow the government to pull funding from organisations or events that feature any of five topics or themes.
Those themes are "denial that the State of Israel is a Jewish, democratic country; incitement of racism, violence, or terror; support for the armed struggle or acts of terror against Israel by an enemy state or a terror group; marking Israel's Independence Day as a day of mourning; or any act of destruction or physical degradation of the flag or any state symbol".
The Times of Israel explained that "while the Finance Ministry is currently responsible for final decisions on withholding such state funding, Regev's bill would transfer full power over budgets for the arts to herself".
Regev told the Knesset plenum: "There is no harm here to freedom of speech and art. There is no intention to silence people or stifle criticism."
"A handful of artists, who haven't really read the law and don't understand it, are trying to mislead the public and are using their artistic stage for political purposes," added the Likud minister.