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Friedman: Anti-Semitic tendencies are becoming more radical

The entrance area at the Berlinale Palast is empty in the early morning on the day of the opening / Photo: Fabian Sommer/dpa/Archivbild
The entrance area at the Berlinale Palast is empty in the early morning on the day of the opening / Photo: Fabian Sommer/dpa/Archivbild

Even days after the Berlinale Gala, the debate about criticism of Israel and anti-Semitism continues. As a result, there are even death threats against one of the controversial Israeli filmmakers.

The publicist Michel Friedman has called for more dissent following statements critical of Israel during the Berlinale Gala. Since the terrorist attack by Hamas and the Israeli reactions, "another dramatic, anti-Semitic wave is rolling through Germany", wrote the former Vice President of the Central Council of Jews in Germany in an article for the "Süddeutsche Zeitung". "An excessive hatred of Jews (to be clear: Jewish people are mostly not Israeli citizens, but Germans), violence is spreading."

Friedman: "Anti-Semitic tendencies increasingly radical"

The Middle East conflict was addressed several times during the gala on Saturday. Numerous jury members and award winners called for a ceasefire in the Gaza war, either verbally or with badges. Statements also spoke of apartheid in connection with the situation in the territories occupied by Israel and of genocide with regard to the army's actions in Gaza.

"Aggression against the state of Israel has been gaining ground in the cultural scene for a long time, and anti-Semitic tendencies are becoming increasingly radical," wrote Friedman. At the same time, he stated: "Harsh, entirely justified criticism of the Israeli government is a matter of course and not hatred of Jews." When artists express themselves politically, they are protected by freedom of expression, not by freedom of art, which applies to works of art. However, the decisive factor is that human dignity is inviolable. "This also applies to Jewish people", said Friedman.

During the gala, the stage was clearly abused, "Israel was described as an apartheid state, and there was applause for this and for the accusation of genocide and for the widespread concealment of Hamas as a terrorist organization". From Friedman's point of view, the Berlinale could have prepared itself for the scandal. At the same time, he criticized prominent attendees such as Minister of State for Culture Claudia Roth (Greens), Berlin's Governing Mayor Kai Wegner and Senator for Culture Joe Chialo (both CDU). After the moderation had failed, the management had hidden behind the curtain and the opinions of the artists had stood in the room due to their massive one-sidedness, it would have been time to contradict, "because contradiction is also part of freedom of opinion".

Brosda: Society must engage in a public negotiation process

For Hamburg's Senator for Culture Carsten Brosda (SPD), the Berlinale has shown: "There are international discourse situations that break hard with what we in Germany consider to be right and appropriate. The more you work in international networks and the more international artists are present, the more conflicts can arise," the SPD politician told Die Zeit. "That's why it's important to clarify in advance how to deal with this. No one can take this task away from cultural organizers." They have to keep making new decisions and endure criticism of their decisions.

Politicians have to carefully weigh up: "How far does the state's responsibility to protect go on the one hand and the promise of freedom, for example for artistic work, on the other?" According to legal experts, the limit for the state is criminal law. "Everything else is a public negotiation process that a society has to engage in. I would have liked to see a clear contradiction from those involved at the Berlinale," said Brosda. At the same time, the Senator for Culture warned against regulations such as anti-Semitism clauses. "Artistic freedom means that the state does not require artists to make a statement about content. If something happens in the context of this artistic freedom that causes offense, then we will argue about it fiercely and publicly." Acknowledgement clauses could not replace consideration "or even prevent any incident".

Filmmaker: misuse of the word anti-Semitism by Germans

During the gala, Israeli filmmaker Yuval Abraham, who was honored together with the Palestinian Basel Adra in an Israeli-Palestinian collective for the film "No Other Land" about the settlement policy in the West Bank, spoke of the politics of apartheid. "In two days, we will return to a country where we are not equal," said Abraham. "I can move freely in the country, Basel is locked in the West Bank like millions of Palestinians. This situation of apartheid between us, this inequality must come to an end."

Abraham says he has since received death threats. His family has also been threatened. This happened after Israeli media and German politicians "absurdly described his speech as 'anti-Semitic'", he wrote on the platform X, which has become known as Twitter. He sees an "appalling misuse of this word by Germans" and called it "particularly outrageous" to instrumentalize this term against him. Most of his grandfather's family were murdered by Germans in the Holocaust.

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