Berlinale film festival marred by 'antisemitic' protests

Protests against Germany's far-right and the Israel-Hamas War dominated Saturday night's Berlinale.
Protests against Germany's far-right and the Israel-Hamas War dominated Saturday night's Berlinale. Copyright Euronews
By Euronews
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A number of speeches were made at the Berlin film festival's closing ceremony, accusing Israel of genocide in its war against Hamas.

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The Berlin film festival found itself at the centre of a controversy on Sunday, after several artists accused Israel of committing genocide in Gaza during Saturday night's awards ceremony.

"Antisemitism has no place in Berlin, and that goes for artists too," said Berlin mayor Kai Wegner on his X account. "What happened yesterday at the Berlinale was an intolerable perspective," he added, calling the festival management to account.

Filmmakers at Saturday night's award ceremony accused Israel of genocide. Israel's air and ground offensive has driven around 80% of Gaza's population from their homes, putting hundreds of thousands at risk of starvation and the spread of disease. 

The Health Ministry in Hamas-ruled Gaza says 29,692 Palestinians have been killed in the war, two-thirds of them women and children.  

Comments did not touch on Hamas' 7 October attack, which triggered the war.

US filmmaker Ben Russel, who won an award for his film Direct Action, co-directed with Frenchman Guillaume Cailleau, took to the stage wearing a Palestinian keffiyeh - a protective covering for the head and face widely seen as a symbol of Palestinian nationalism.

Palestinian documentary filmmaker Basel Adra won a prize for No Other Land, a film about the expulsion of Palestinians from the West Bank. He also accused Israel of "massacre", and criticised German arms sales to the Jewish state.

Helge Lindh, a member of parliament for Chancellor Olaf Scholz's Social Democratic Party (SPD), described the reactions to the comments as "shocking". "I am ashamed to see people in my country applauding accusations of genocide against Israel", he told the German outlet Die Welt.

The Berlin Film Festival is mainly funded by the German government. Germany has been vocal in its stance against antisemitism as the Israel-Hamas war continues.

In a statement to Agence France-Presse, the Berlinale said filmmakers' statements were independent and "in no way represent" the opinions of the Berlinale, but that statements should be accepted as long as they "respect the legal framework". 

Festival management said it "understood the indignation" aroused by the remarks, which "felt to be too one-sided".

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