Israeli director receives death threats after criticising 'apartheid' in West Bank

Yuval Abraham faces backlash after calling for end to inequality in Palestine at Berlin film festival

Basel Adra, left, and Yuval Abraham at the Berlin International Film Festival. Their film about the West Bank won best documentary. AFP
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Israeli director Yuval Abraham says he has received death threats after branding his country's actions in the West Bank "apartheid".

On Saturday, after picking up the best documentary prize for No Other Land at the Berlin International Film Festival with Basel Adra, who is Palestinian, he gave a speech on stage criticising Israel's attacks in Gaza and called for a ceasefire.

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It sparked an outcry in German media, with politicians accusing him of being "anti-Semitic". Israeli media also aired a small segment and labelled it as anti-Semitism.

On Tuesday, he took to social media to say he was unable to return home as a result, with threats made to him and his family.

“A right-wing Israeli mob came to my family’s home yesterday to search for me, threatening close family members who fled to another town in the middle of the night,” Abraham alleged on social.

“I am still getting death threats and had to cancel my flight home. This happened after Israeli media and German politicians absurdly labelled my Berlinale award speech – where I called for equality between Israelis and Palestinians, a ceasefire and an end to apartheid – as 'antisemitic'.”

Abraham's film follows the struggles faced by journalist Adra to preserve his West Bank village as Israeli settlers encroach around it.

While receiving the award alongside Adra, Abraham said that when they returned home, they’d be returning “to a land where we are not equal".

“I am living under a civilian law and Basel is under military law; we live 30 minutes from one another, but I have voting rights and Basel [does not have] voting rights,” he said.

"I am free to move where I want in this land, and Basel, like millions of Palestinians, is locked in the occupied West Bank. This situation of apartheid between us, this inequality, it has to end."

At the ceremony, Adra said he struggled to celebrate the film’s success while people in Gaza were “being slaughtered and massacred” and urged Germany to cease arms exports to Israel.

Abraham said he was concerned for the safety of Adra, who has since returned to his village in the West Bank, which is surrounded by Israeli settlements.

After their speech, Ron Prosor, Israel’s ambassador to Germany, said on X that the speeches at the film festival showed “once again” that Germany had a problem.

“Under the guise of freedom of expression and art, anti-Semitic and anti-Israel rhetoric is celebrated,” Prosor said. “You don’t need seven professors to state the obvious: this is blatant anti-Semitic discourse."

The mayor of Berlin Kai Wegner also took to X to criticise the speeches, saying the filmmakers’ statements were filled with "intolerable relativisation" because they left out any mention of Hamas.

Updated: February 28, 2024, 7:59 AM