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Berlinale film applause for 'Israeli only': German minister

German culture minister says applause for Berlinale film was 'for Israeli journalist only'
3 min read
28 February, 2024
Following criticism, Yuval Abraham defended his speech, and Basel Adra said the comments were emblematic of the double standards of the German government.
German culture minister Claudia Roth was criticised for applauding the speeches made by Yuval Abraham and Basel Adra [Photo by Andreas Rentz/Getty Images]

Germany's minister of culture said on Monday that she was only applauding the speech of an Israeli journalist involved in the making of a joint Israeli-Palestinian documentary that won a prize at Berlinale

Claudia Roth applauded the speeches made by Israeli journalist Yuval Abraham and Palestinian filmmaker Basel Adra after their film 'No Other Land' won the Panorama Audience Award for Best Documentary Film at the Berlin International Film Festival, usually called the Berlinale. 

Adra's speech highlighted Israel's killing of civilians in Gaza and urged Germany to cease arms exports to Tel Aviv, while Abraham labelled Israel's occupation of the Palestinian territories as "apartheid".

This caused major controversy among Germany's staunchly pro-Israel government and wider political class, forcing Roth to clarify the nature of her applause.

Roth took to social media platform X, claiming that her applause was directed at the Jewish Israeli journalist and filmmaker Yuval Abraham, "who spoke out in favour of a political solution and a peaceful co-existence in the region".

Her comments come following a press briefing on Monday by German government spokesperson Christiane Hoffman who condemned criticism of Israel in the speeches, saying the culture minister would hold talks with the festival to ensure such actions do not happen in the future.

"This situation of apartheid between us, this inequality, it has to end," Abraham said, referring to the disparity between his life and the life of his colleague Adra, who lives under Israeli military occupation in the West Bank.

As well as criticism from the German government and Roth over the comments, Berlin mayor Kai Wegner also labelled the speeches a relativisation of the conflict, saying that antisemitism had no place in Berlin.

However, Wegner too came under scrutiny for applauding the speeches, with Hoffman saying that the Berlin mayor would also be "reviewing" what occurred at the festival.

Retweeting criticism of Roth's statement by academic Moritz Schmoll, Adra said "The double standards and hypocrisy practised by the German government against us Palestinians."

In response, Abraham also said on X: "I’m happy our award-winning film, No Other Land, is sparking an important international debate on this issue - and I hope that millions of people watch it when it comes out this year.

"Sparking a conversation is why we made it. You can have harsh criticism of what me and Basel said on stage without demonizing us," he said, adding: "If this is what you’re doing with your guilt for the holocaust - I don’t want your guilt."

'No Other Land' tells the story of the displacement of Palestinians in villages in the occupied West Bank by Israeli settlers.

The UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs warned that around 4,000 Palestinians were displaced by the policies of the Israeli government and actions by Israeli settlers in 2023, which it called a record year.

The displacement comes amid Israel's continued war on Gaza, which has killed 29,878 Palestinians, with a further 70,215 injured.