From Berlinale to Eurovision — artists are drawing the line at being anti-Palestine

From Berlinale to Eurovision — artists are drawing the line at being anti-Palestine

Indian-American filmmaker Suneil Sanzgiri accused German authorities of silencing voices speaking out for Palestinians and dropped out of a Berlin film festival.
22 Feb, 2024

Indian-American filmmaker Suneil Sanzgiri was set to showcase his film about anti-colonial resistance against the Portuguese empire at this month’s Berlinale film festival but dropped out.

Announcing his boycott on Instagram, Sanzgiri accused the German authorities of silencing voices speaking out for Palestinians in the war against Gaza. “I will not be complicit. We all have blood on our hands,” he wrote.

Sanzgiri’s is one of at least three films that were withdrawn by their creators, while other events at the festival also saw artists pulling out.

The withdrawals showed the tricky waters Germany’s cultural institutions are navigating, caught between protecting artistic freedoms while recognising what many Germans see as a historic responsibility for Israel after the Nazi Holocaust.

Such disputes have also flared elsewhere in Europe since October 7. The European Broadcasting Union has resisted calls for Israel to be excluded from the Eurovision Song Contest.

Protests erupted in the Italian city of Naples in February after state broadcaster RAI distanced itself from an appeal made by rapper Ghali to “stop the genocide” during the closing night of the popular Sanremo Music Festival.

In Britain, a network of artists has been documenting events that were axed over artists’ pro-Palestinian views. The Arnolfini art gallery in Bristol also sparked a backlash after cancelling two Palestinian film events, fearing they could “stray into political activity”.

In France, a group of artists in November organised a “silent march” where they held a white banner with no slogans.

Strike Germany

In Germany, anger over the Israeli offensive in Gaza, which has killed 29,000 Palestinians, has clashed with sensibilities over supporting Israel. Critics say crackdowns on pro-Palestinian voices confuse criticism with legitimate protest.

As cultural events are often state-supported, critics say the government has used its financial power to prevent any criticism of Israel, a charge the government strongly rejects.

“Freedom of art and freedom of expression are among the most important basic principles of democracy in Germany, which are of course also protected by the federal government,” a spokesperson for the culture ministry said.

“The institutions and projects funded at the federal level have curatorial freedom and decide for themselves which artists they work with,” the spokesperson added.

While announcing his Berlinale boycott, filmmaker Sanzgiri voiced support for Strike Germany, an initiative launched by anonymous artists in January calling on filmmakers, musicians, writers and artists to withdraw from cultural events in Germany.

“It is a call to refuse German cultural institutions’ use of McCarthyist policies that suppress freedom of expression, specifically expressions of solidarity with Palestine,” the organisers wrote.

Some 1,600 artists have signed up, according to a list on the initiative’s website, including French Nobel prize winner Annie Ernaux. Reuters could not verify the list’s authenticity.

Last month, Berlin’s CTM music festival announced several artists withdrawing in solidarity with Strike Germany.

Strike Germany calls for the adoption of a different definition of anti-Semitism that does not include criticism of the state of Israel.

The Berlinale has not shied away from the Gaza issue. It is hosting a so-called Tiny House initiative, a small space inviting disparate voices to debate the situation in Gaza. One of the films spotlighted Israeli settlers encroaching on land.

It is one of several cultural events in Germany clouded by anger over Gaza.

Hundreds of international writers condemned the Frankfurt Book Fair after a Palestinian writer’s award was postponed in October. In November, the entire selection committee for one of Europe’s most important art exhibitions, “documenta”, resigned after disputes over Israel’s aggression against Gaza.


Multani Feb 22, 2024 03:50pm
Atrocities against Palestinian and Kashmiri Muslims should never be forgotten,Israel and india are same
T. Ahmad Feb 22, 2024 06:25pm
The land of Palestine belongs to all Palestinians that included Jews and Christians and other minorities who lives here over thousands years. Let bring peace and harmony between all Palestinians and The Gaza is the heart of all three major groups Christians-Jews-Muslims. all
NYS Feb 22, 2024 10:32pm
@MULTANI this is why Israel and India are shaking hands same mentality
Asad Feb 23, 2024 12:06am
India and Israel are the worlds two evil " I"s, for the dastardly occupation of Indian occupied Kashmir (IOK) and Israels occupation of Palistine.
Anonymouseee Feb 23, 2024 04:02am
Hats off to this man for standing up against apartheid israel