May 28, 2024

The International Documentary Festival Amsterdam (IDFA) has issued an apology after three activists burst on stage during the opening ceremony on Nov. 8 with a banner that read “From the River to the Sea, Palestine Will be Free.”

The slogan, which calls for the destruction of Israel, has been used by Hamas, the terrorist group behind the Oct. 7 attack that killed more than 1,400 civilians in Israel and took more than 140 hostages. As such, the slogan is banned in several countries, such as Germany.

After sparking uproar on social media and receiving an open letter from the Israeli film community. IDFA’s artistic director, Orwa Nyrabia, issued an apology saying the “slogan does not represent us, and we do not endorse it in any way. We are truly sorry that it was hurtful to many.”

Nyrabia also said IDFA aimed at creating “a safe and open space for civic debate, to exercise freedom and democracy, equity, and to present a complex view of the world and of the human condition.”

“Our mission and our intentions are the opposite of hurting anybody or making them feel unsafe,” said the artistic director, who added that the banner was only visible to the audience but not to him.

The apology came after an open letter signed by leading Israeli producers, filmmakers and executives -such as Hagit Ben Yaakov, chairwoman of the Israeli Documentary Forum, Assaf Amir, chairman of the Israeli Film Academy and Adar Shafran, chairman of the Israeli Producers Union — who said that “allowing and applauding a sign which states that ‘From River to the Sea Palestine will be Free’ is a call for the eradication of Israel, the Jewish homeland and of Jews in general.”

“Applauding and cheering the protesters on, was the festival’s director, Mr. Orwa Nyrabia, which allows us to believe that this is IDFA‘s official and reprehensible stance towards Israel and towards Jews,” the letter reads.

The letter also acknowledged that it was an “undeniably terrible times for the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip who are suffering daily, as they are for the citizens of Israel, in the wake of the atrocities carried out by Hamas on October 7th, and for the 240 hostages who are still being held by the terror organization.”

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