In the week since A WORLD NOT OURS won the Peace Film Prize at the Berlinale a 'controversy' broke out due to statements made by director Mahdi Fleifel during Q&As and to the press. This was picked up by various German media outlets who called for the prize to be withdrawn. On February 21st, the jury met and decided to stand by their original decision. Below is the response of the director Mehdi Fleifel.
I'm deeply saddened by the reactions in the German media to the Peace Prize I received last week.
During the Berlinale, I gave my time and trust to many journalists who were curious to know more about my film. Unfortunately, some of them have taken the privilege to misquote and put words into my mouth out of context.
I insisted that we speak about the film. My film is a simple story about my family - Palestinian refugees who have lived in a camp for 65 years, as a direct consequence of the establishment of the state of Israel. That is very clear from the film's very first scenes.
But my film is not about Israel. And it is ridiculous to expect every filmmaker who talks about Palestine to somehow justify the current policies of the Israeli state.
I was struck by how obsessed certain journalists, even some of the people speaking at the award ceremony, were about this - and how they felt the need to bring even the Holocaust into the discussion.
The Holocaust was an immense tragedy against mankind and I understand why it is still such a sensitive subject today. But am I obliged to discuss it every time I want to raise my point of view? Is it unacceptable that a Palestinian filmmaker tells his story? And does the tragedy of one people justify the tragedy of another?
Some journalists certainly believed so. They insisted that I talk about my feelings towards Israel, as though I was the ambassador for the entire Middle East conflict.
I have said nothing that I can't stand by. The simple question posed by my film is this - Why, 65 years after being forced from his home is my grandfather still living in a refugee camp?
I believe that anyone with common sense cannot accept this continuing injustice. That is what I said, and that is truly what I believe in. How can we even conceive of real peace as long as we have segregation between people based on their religions?
When I say that I feel Israel cannot continue as an exclusively Jewish state I am not calling for its elimination. I simply want the right of every refugee under international law - the Right Of Return. For this to happen, Israel must change; those who have immigrated since 1948 must live peacefully beside those who were dispossessed, and a common law must be developed which protects the right of all citizens and not just a 'chosen people'.
But this requires courage. Courage to remember that we are all breathing the same air, all equal beings.
Only then can we achieve real Peace.