Israeli director receives death threats after calling for ceasefire at Berlin film festival

Amy Cassidy and Chris Stern, CNN.

Israeli journalist and film director Yuval Abraham said he is receiving death threats and has canceled his flight home from the Berlin International Film Festival amid backlash to an acceptance speech in which he decried the “situation of apartheid” and called for a ceasefire in Gaza.

Abraham and his Palestinian co-director Basel Adra accepted the Best Documentary award for their film “No Other Land,” which chronicles evictions and demolitions of Palestinian homes in the occupied West Bank by Israeli authorities, on Saturday.

Their speeches were met with accusations of antisemitism by high-level German and Israeli officials, including the mayor of Berlin and Israel’s Ambassador to Germany.

“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 in a social media post Tuesday.

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

Accepting the award on Saturday, Abraham’s West Bank-based co-director Adra said it is “very hard for me to celebrate when there are tens of thousands of my people being slaughtered and massacred by Israel in Gaza.”

Speaking alongside him, Abraham highlighted the inequality between himself and Adra, despite living just “30 minutes from one another.”

“I am living under a civilian law and Basel is under military law,” he said. “I have voting rights; Basel (does not have) voting rights. I’m free to move where I want in this land; Basel is, like millions of Palestinians, locked in the occupied West Bank.”

He continued: “We need to call for a ceasefire. We need to call for a political solution to end the occupation.”

Berlin’s mayor Kai Wegner said in a post on X on Sunday that the speech was “unacceptable relativization” and urged the film festival’s management “to ensure that such incidents do not happen again.”

“Berlin stands firmly on Israel’s side, there is no doubt about that,” he continued, adding that “full responsibility for the deep suffering in Israel and the Gaza Strip lies with Hamas.”

Ron Prosor, Israel’s ambassador to Germany, branded the comments “blatant antisemitic and anti-Israel discourse” and accused the German cultural scene of “showcase(ing) its bias,” in a post on X on Sunday.

Abraham said the “appalling misuse” of the word antisemitism, “not only to silence Palestinian critics of Israel, but also to silence Israelis like me who support a ceasefire that will end the killing in Gaza and allow the release of the Israeli hostages — empties the word antisemitism of meaning and thus endangers Jews all over the world,” he wrote on X Tuesday.