Israeli Director Says He Is Getting Death Threats After German Officials Criticized Berlin Film Festival Acceptance Speeches As “Anti-Semitic”

Israeli filmmaker Yuval Abraham, who last week picked up the best documentary award at the Berlin Film Festival, has said he has received death threats and had to cancel his flight home after German officials and Israeli media described his acceptance speech as “anti-Semitic”.

In a post on X, Abraham, who is part of a collective of four Israeli and Palestinian filmmakers that took home the prize for best documentary for No Other Land, said his family has also faced physical threats since Saturday’s awards ceremony.

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“A right-wing Israeli mob came to my family’s home yesterday to search for me, threatening close family members who fled to another town in the middle of the night. I am still getting death threats and had to cancel my flight home,” Abraham wrote on X.

“This happened after Israeli media and German politicians absurdly labeled my Berlinale award speech – where I called for equality between Israelis and Palestinians, a ceasefire, and an end to apartheid – as ‘antisemitic.’ The appalling misuse of this word by Germans, not only to silence Palestinian critics of Israel but also to silence Israelis like me who support a ceasefire that will end the killing in Gaza and allow the release of the Israeli hostages – empties the word antisemitism of meaning and thus endangers Jews all over the world.”

Abraham’s acceptance speech criticized a “situation of apartheid” in Israel and called for a ceasefire in Gaza. He was standing alongside his Palestinian co-director Basel Adra. The speech was one of several moments during the closing ceremony where filmmakers expressed solidarity with Palestine. The ceremony has since sparked a barrage of criticism in the German media from officials and politicians.

Kai Wegner, the Governing Mayor of Berlin, shared a series of messages on his X where said the Berlinale closing ceremony was an “intolerable relativization.”

Wegner didn’t specify which aspect of the ceremony he took issue with but added: “Anti-Semitism has no place in Berlin, and that also applies to the art scene. I expect the new management of the Berlinale to ensure that such incidents do not happen again.”

German culture minister Claudia Roth, who was seen applauding Abraham and Adra’s speech, later said in a statement on social media that she had clapped at the Israeli but not the Palestinian half of the duo. Her applause was for the “Jewish-Israeli journalist and filmmaker Yuval Abraham, who spoke out in favor of a political solution and peaceful coexistence in the region.” the statement read. Roth’s statement also said reports of death threats against Abraham were “alarming.”

No Other Land, which played in the Panorama Dokumente competition, chronicles the evictions and demolitions of Palestinian homes in the occupied West Bank by Israeli authorities.

Concluding his message, Abraham, who said “his grandfather’s family was murdered by Germans in the holocaust,” added that he is glad the doc is “sparking an important international debate” and he hopes “millions of people watch it when it comes out this year.”

“You can have harsh criticism of what me and Basel said on stage without demonizing us. If this is what you’re doing with your guilt for the holocaust – I don’t want your guilt,” he wrote.

Wegner and the culture minister have said they will review the incidents from the closing ceremony and hold talks with the festival’s incoming director Tricia Tuttle to ensure they do not happen in future.

After the awards ceremony, the Berlin Film Festival put out a press release in which it distanced itself from the comments made by multiple filmmakers in support of Palestine.

“We understand the outrage that the statements made by some of the award winners were perceived as too one-sided and, in some cases, inappropriate,” the festival said.

“From our point of view, it would have been appropriate in terms of content if the award winners and guests at the Award Ceremony had also made more differentiated statements on this issue,” they added.

Those comments — it is highly unusual for a festival to take issue with its own award winners — have in turn attracted complaint from multiple filmmakers and journalists who have described the response as a form of censorship.

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