Israel hatred of the Berlinale: What’s wrong with this cultural sector?

The closing gala of the Berlinale ends with frenetic applause for open hatred of Israel. The Berlinale has failed because of its own demands.

It is an old prejudice that artists are often seen as particularly clever, reflective or thoughtful. But every time one is amazed that people who produce artistic works worthy of prizes also adhere to questionable ideologies and talk stupid things. A current example is the director Ben Russell, who wrapped a Palestinian scarf around himself to accept his “Honorable Mention” from the Berlinale jury and said the following sentence on stage: “Of course we stand for life here too and we stand against the genocide and for a ceasefire in solidarity with all our comrades.”

So for life – that sounds good at first. Given the costuming, however, one has to ask whether the 1,200 Israeli and non-Israeli lives claimed by Hamas’ terrorist attack on October 7, 2023 are also included.

Anyone who accuses Israel of genocide is spreading Israel-related hatred

Being “against genocide” is of course honest and important – especially in Berlin. The Germans committed several genocides, the Empire against the Herero and Nama, the Nazi state against the European Jews. The Turks committed genocide against the Armenians, Stalin’s terror regime during the Holodomor against the Ukrainians, and the Hutus in Rwanda against the Tutsi. Anyone who currently wants to protest against genocide would have a good addressee in the People’s Republic of China, which is still enslaving and systematically destroying the Uighur minority. But that’s not what Mr. Russell means; like many Pro-Palestine activists, the filmmaker has grabbed the term and is misusing it for his anti-Israel propaganda.

Just to say it in advance: One can and should criticize the Israeli government, and as the President of the Central Council of Jews Josef Schuster did star recently said, “every casualty on the Palestinian side is one too many and as painful as any casualty on the Israeli side.” But anyone who keeps quiet about Hamas’ terror is committing perpetrator-victim reversal; anyone who accuses Israel of genocide is spreading Israel-related hatred.

The term genocide is precisely defined. Those who commit genocide want to exterminate an ethnic group that is defined by language, religion and tradition. The goal of Israel and its military operation is to neutralize the Iran-controlled Hamas Islamists and to free its 130 hostages. The fact that some radical members of Netanyahu’s government are talking about evacuating the Gaza Strip is reprehensible and must be sharply criticized – as has happened in large numbers in Israel itself. But: Anyone who shouts “Palestine will be free, from the river to the sea” should realize that their demand can only be implemented through the expulsion and genocide of the Jews. There is no other way to mean this sentence.

The Berlinale started with the promise not to be a stage for hatred and extremism. Against hate, she put “respect and courage, let’s put joy and understanding, let’s put empathy and humanity,” said Minister of State for Culture Claudia Roth. After managing director Mariette Rissenbeek disinvited two AfD politicians, she swore that the Berlinale had “a lot of space for dialogue between people and art, but hate is not on our guest list.”

It is just the latest debacle in a series of many derailments

Unfortunately, she doesn’t seem to have taken a close look at the competition participants and her own jury. The “Jüdische Allgemeine” reports on anti-Israel rhetoric after the Berlinale screening of “No Other Land”. A man in the audience is said to have claimed that Israel itself was responsible for the October 7 massacres. During a panel discussion, the filmmaker collective around Basel Adra and Basel Adra and Yuval Abraham described Israel as an “apartheid state.” Finally, a jury member presented the Palestinian-Israeli artists with the documentary film award for a work that shows the “inhumane, ignorant policies of the Israeli government,” with a note on their back calling for a ceasefire.

You can do anything, there is freedom of speech. But how is it that, apart from a mention of the managing director, not a single artist at this film festival came up with the idea of ​​commemorating a victim of Hamas, or even of the terrorist organization from which the Palestinian population in particular has to suffer critical to mention? And who did Ben Russell actually mean by “his comrades”?

Filmmakers Ben Russell and Guillaume Cailleau joined forces with Servan Decle and Jay Jordan for the film "Direct action" honored

Filmmakers Ben Russell and Guillaume Cailleau were honored along with Servan Decle and Jay Jordan for the film “Direct Action.”

© Nicole Kubelka / Imago Images

After the countless recent debacles, the mockery of Holocaust victims at the Echo 2018, the anti-Israel performances at the Ruhrtriennale under director Stefanie Carp, the anti-Semitic works at the failed Documenta 2023, the appointment of two responsible Ruangrupa activists as HFBK visiting professors who liked videos celebrating the murders in Israel, one has to seriously ask oneself what is wrong with this cultural industry.

In the end, it was the Berlinale audience that was most disturbed

There is clearly a method in filling positions for the management and juries of important festivals with politically relevant figures. Attempts by politicians like Berlin’s Senator for Culture Joe Chialo to exclude supporters of the anti-Semitic BDS movement from public places and budgets are being countered with thousands of protest signatures and accused of “sniffing for ideas.”

So now the Berlinale. What ultimately disturbs the audience the most is the audience. These dressed-up, overjoyed people who made it onto the guest list where hate supposedly had no place. After Russell’s accusation of genocide, as well as the request from other prize winners that Germany stop supplying weapons to Israel, they responded with frenetic applause. Some hate, others celebrate hate. You don’t know what to find more reprehensible.

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