Germany probes Berlin film festival in anti-Semitism row

BERLIN – German officials will investigate how Berlin film festival winners made “one-sided” comments condemning Israel’s war in Gaza at the awards gala, a government spokeswoman said on Feb 26.

At Feb 25’s ceremony, several winners were accused of making anti-Semitic remarks on stage in relation to Israel’s military assault, which began after an attack by Palestinian militant group Hamas.

US filmmaker Ben Russell, wearing a Palestinian scarf, accused Israel of committing “genocide” with its bombardment of the densely populated Gaza Strip.

Palestinian filmmaker Basel Adra said the Palestinian population were being “massacred” by Israel, to applause from the audience.

“It is unacceptable that… the terrorist attack by Hamas on 7 October was not mentioned,” government spokeswoman Christiane Hoffmann told a press briefing in Berlin on Monday.

Chancellor Olaf Scholz “agrees that such a one-sided stance cannot be allowed to stand”, she said.

“In any debate on this topic, it is of course important to keep in mind the event that triggered this renewed escalation of the Middle East conflict – namely the Hamas attack on 7 October,” she said.

The culture minister and the Berlin mayor will review what happened and hold talks with the festival’s incoming director to ensure it does not happen in future, she said.

Culture Minister Claudia Roth and mayor Kai Wegner have also found themselves in hot water over the ceremony.

A report in top tabloid Bild carried a picture it said showed the pair applauding Adra’s remarks.

On Sunday after the ceremony, Wegner posted on social media that the anti-Israel remarks were “unacceptable”, adding that “there is no place for anti-Semitism in Berlin”.

‘Understand the outrage’

Germany – influenced by its own dark World War II history, when millions of Jews were killed by the Nazis – has steadfastly backed Israel following the October 7 attack.

The Hamas attack killed 1,160 people in Israel, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of official Israeli figures.

Israel’s retaliatory military offensive has killed at least 29,782 people in Gaza, mostly women and children, according to the Hamas-run health ministry.

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