Claudia Roth attends the Berlinale Closing Gala red carpet during the 74th Berlin International Film Festival 'Berlinale' in Berlin, Germany, 24 February 2024. EPA-EFE/CLEMENS BILAN


German Government culture chief slams ‘disgusting anti-Semitism on the Left’


Claudia Roth, Green party MP and Commissioner for Culture and Media in the German Government, has accused left-wing elements of anti-Semitism.

“There is this disgusting, open anti-Semitism among left-wing radicals, as represented by the Frenchman Jean-Luc Mélenchon,” Roth said in an interview with German news outlet Der Spiegel.

Her remarks were made following events at the Berlin Film Festival (Berlinale) over February 15-25, where controversial statements about the war in Israel and Gaza were made publicly.

Israel was accused of being an “apartheid State” and guilty of “genocide” by some speakers on the stage.

A post on the festival’s Instagram profile also caused outrage while a screenshot shared on X showed the controversial slogan “Free Palestine – From the River to the Sea” had been added to a photo.

In a statement, the Berlinale said its Instagram account had been hacked and “anti-Semitic image-text posts about the Middle East war, with the Berlinale logo, were posted on the channel”.

One such post read: “From our unresolved Nazi past to our genocidal present – we have always been on the wrong side of history. But it’s not too late to change our future.”

The victims of the Hamas terror attack on October 7 played were not alluded to at the award ceremony, apart from a brief statement by Berlinale Managing Director Mariëtte Rissenbeek, according to Der Spiegel.

Roth put blame for the controversy on the festival’s management. “There should have been a completely different and better preparation, how to deal with such [instances], not to let it stand, and who does it on the part of the Berlinale.

“But,” she added, “Afterwards, many are always wiser.”

Regarding her own apparent lack of action over the issue, Roth said: “I find it very difficult to imagine that at an international film festival, a cultural event hosted by the Berlinale, representatives of the Federal and State Governments and thus of the State, would intervene.

“But I see my role as Minister of State for Culture, above all, in helping to ensure that such events do not happen in this way in the area of tension between the role of the State and artistic and cultural freedom. ”

Roth also noted: “We need to counter anti-Semitism in the cultural sector much more effectively.”

She said she was considering installing a code of conduct regarding potential subsidies for the arts and a possible anti-Semitism clause but noted there were legal concerns around the latter.

“The fight against anti-Semitism, which is so necessary, must not lead to the State playing the role of saying which art and culture may be [shown] and which may not, Roth said.

“The special thing about art is that it is often ambiguous and can be interpreted in very different ways.”

Roth also talked about the possible exclusion of Israel from the forthcoming Eurovision Song Contest from May 8-11, saying that the 1998 Israeli entry by Dana International stood for “the cosmopolitan, free and diverse Israel – of which the people who today speak of Hamas as a supposed liberation movement obviously have no idea at all”.

Regarding the Hamas terrorist October 7 attack, she added; “People have been killed, raped and abducted with unspeakable bestiality, many of whom are still in the hands of Hamas.

“That was the criminal beginning and starting point of this war.

“We must also express empathy for the great, immeasurable suffering in Gaza, for the civilians in Gaza, who are also hostages of Hamas,” Roth said.

“These days, in particular, we need to speak clearly about the great humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza and the danger of how this catastrophe could be dangerously exacerbated by a continuation of the war in the South.

“But anyone who talks about the suffering of the Palestinians and remains silent about the hostages, as happened on stage at the Berlinale, has other things in mind than peace,” she concluded.