Today’s New York Times has an interesting story about a satirical political show in Gaza inspired by Jon Stewart. Headlined, “A Show Finds Humor in Gaza’s Headlines. Will Hamas Get It?” the article says the Gaza comics have screened their political show for hundreds at a theater, and aim to put the episodes on Youtube. But what about Hamas?
[T]owering over all of them is the question of how the Hamas government will react. Although the producers promise to skewer all Palestinian officials equally, the show is made in Gaza, where Hamas officials have clamped down on independent media.
“We’ve thought a hundred times about what will happen if we do this,” said Mohamed Alsawafiri, 31, the presenter, in real life an aid worker and father of three daughters. “If we are afraid, we can’t do anything.”
Reporters Diaa Hadid and Majd al Waheidi did talk to Hamas:
Mustafa al-Sawwaf, an under secretary in the Gaza Ministry of Culture, said Hamas would not object to the show if did not offend or use profanity. “The satire should not exceed the limits,” he said.
The program’s team hopes to tiptoe through sensibilities by skewering all Palestinian leaders equally.
No doubt, satirists seeking free expression may have problems with a conservative Islamist government. But there’s just one problem with the Times‘ account. The newspaper shouldn’t be running this story if it isn’t also covering a threatened “strike” by Israeli artists against what they call censorship by Miri Regev, the new rightwing cultural minister.
That story has gotten international attention. For instance, The Independent:
Israeli newspapers are calling [it] a “culture war” between the government and much of the country’s predominantly left-wing artistic community.
Ms Regev, a reserve brigadier-general who formerly served as the chief military censor, alarmed many artists after she took office in May by saying she would cut government funding to those who harmed the army or contributed to “defamation” of Israel.
The Financial Times has also reported the artists’ threat to “strike” over the “far-right” minister’s plans. It says that the censorship threat is only encouraging the international boycott campaign of Israel:
To vent their anger at Ms Regev’s proposed controls, they [the artists] are proposing organising a strike which — if it were to take place — would be the first of its kind. Hundreds of Israeli artists have signed a petition accusing the new minister of supporting “anti-democratic moves”…
The battle lines being drawn by Ms Regev in her culture remit echo the uncompromising stance taken by Mr Netanyahu’s new rightwing coalition in other areas, including the tough rhetoric it is using to discredit a gathering international boycott movement it accuses of delegitimising the Jewish state.
Ms Regev, a firebrand Likudnik and former military spokesman who once likened African asylum seekers to “cancer”, put artists on notice when she said: “I can decide where the money goes,” and: “The artists will not dictate to me.”
Culture Minister Miri Regev continued on Thursday to stoke the fires of conflict which has raged in recent days between herself and Israel’s artistic community, calling the country’s artists “tight-assed, hypocritical and ungrateful” people who “think they know everything.”
Artists from various fields have accused the new minister of seeking to limit freedom of expression in the country through anti-democratic measures, and have expressed outrage at her stated intention to defund institutions and subversive works that in her opinion “delegitimize” Israel.
The New York Times has assiduously avoided this story (even while covering one of Regev’s initiatives, the censorship of a play in Haifa). But this is the new intolerant Israel, complete with fascist currents, that Israelis consecrated at the polls in their latest election. America’s leading paper of record is refusing to convey this reality to its readers.
We’re all for reporting on Hamas’s (potential) intolerance. But don’t cover up the Israeli government’s actual attack on the nation’s artistic community, which is already well underway.