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Berlin Film Festival Prize Winner Denies Israel's Right to Exist

Danish-Palestinian film director provoked controversy after publicly questioning Israel's legitimacy and right to exist.
By Rachel Hirshfeld
First Publish: 2/21/2013, 8:01 PM

Berlin Film Festival award
Berlin Film Festival award
Reuters

Danish-Palestinian film director Mahdi Fleifel, who was awarded the Berlin International Film Festival’s annual Peace Prize, provoked controversy after publicly questioning Israel's legitimacy and right to exist.

Fleifel publically said at the Q&A session following the ceremony that he did not recognize Jewish legitimacy in the Land of Israel and made a plea for Palestinian refugees to be granted the right of return, The European Jewish Press (EJP) reported.

In an interview with Die Welt correspondent Igal Avidan, Fleifel said “the idea of a Jewish state is ridiculous” adding that no state should have its foundation based on any form of religion.

“G-d was not a real-estate agent who divided up countries based on religion”, he said. 

The jury of the Peace Film Award (PFA) honored Fleifel's autobiographical documentary, ‘A World Not Ours,’ for its “social-political and humanistic” background.  

The film, title inspired by the novel of Palestinian activist Ghassan Kanafani, takes viewers though the routine of every day life at his family's “hometown” at the Ain El-Helweh "refugee camp" in Lebanon. 

Jury-members were impressed with Fleifel's depictions of “hopelessness and isolation... free from the unusual patterns classifying the conflicts between Israelis and Palestinians”, according to EJP.

The jury recognized Fleifel's film as a “plea for a new peace process in the Middle East... at a time where more and more people around the world have to live in refugee camps.” 

Israeli Berlin correspondent Eldad Beck told the European Jewish publication that he was disgusted with the “overtly anti-Israeli” undertone of the film, which would likely be seen as harmless by the average viewer.