JERUSALEM (JTA) – An Israeli actor has walked back his description of right wing voters as “cud-chewing cattle” to protest perceived censorship by Israel’s culture minister.
Oded Cutler on Monday said that he did not mean to single out the right wing with his remarks during a meeting of leaders of the arts community the previous evening, and that he was speaking of all of society.
Cutler said that he was responding to accusations that the culture minister, Miri Regev of the right wing Likud Party, would cut arts funding for projects with whose policies she disagrees, as well as recent statements by Regev.
At the meeting, Cutler said, “Imagine your world silent, Ms. Regev, without books, music, poems. A world where there is nothing to disturb the nation from celebrating 30 Knesset seats followed by a herd of cattle chewing their cud.”
His remarks reportedly were met with applause and catcalls. Likud won 30 Knesset seats in the last election.
Israeli author Amos Oz in a Monday morning interview with Israel Radio called for a halt to attacks on Regev. Oz said he disagrees with Regev on the issue but called for debate, not insults.
Regev called Kotler’s remarks a “cultural darkness.”
The meeting of arts leaders followed a Regev threat to cut the funding of a Jaffa-based theatre group for Arab and Jewish teens over the refusal of its founder, actor Norman Issa, to perform in a West Bank settlement and after Jewish Home head Naftali Bennett called for A Parallel Time, a play about Arab prisoners in an Israeli jail, to be removed from the list of arts programs receiving government subsidies to perform in public schools.
Issa later relented and performed at a theater in the Jordan Valley.
More than 1,500 have signed a petition against Regev and her ministry over the threat, according to the Jerusalem Post.
During the meeting of artists, Ortal Tamam, the niece of slain Israeli soldier Moshe Tamam, spoke to the group about A Parallel Time, which is based on the story of the Palestinian prisoner convicted of murdering her uncle. She said the family objected to the fact that the play humanized her uncle’s killer and called it the “final blow” for the family, Ynet reported. She was heckled from the stage.