Former Minister of State for Culture: Monika Grütters on the Berlinale scandal: “This appearance was a targeted provocation”


Former Minister of State for Culture: Monika Grütters on the Berlinale scandal: “This appearance was a targeted provocation”

Ms. Grütters, there were anti-Israel statements on the open stage at the Berlinale. What did you think when you saw the pictures?

I was horrified. With all understanding for artists who often overstep the mark - in the current heated atmosphere, an appeal for peace would have been an impressive signal, especially because both sides, Palestinian and Israeli filmmakers, were represented. Instead, this appearance was a targeted provocation. There should have been an intervention immediately.

And how?

For example, by getting up and walking. Or at least not applauded. There were many people in the room who had the authority to do this. Where were their voices? You don't have to jump on stage to protest. But also to clap? Culture in Germany is in danger of losing its reputation as a place of serious dialogue.

What did you find particularly problematic?

When the Palestinian scarves were seen, it was clear that a prepared action was to take place. The fact that no one reacted spontaneously, even if only symbolically, stuns me. There would have been room to show that one rejects this politically blind activism.

Criticism of Israel is mainstream in the international cultural scene.

From a German perspective, that doesn’t make it any better or right! From a Palestinian perspective, some of the demands are understandable, and anyone who doesn't see the suffering of the civilian population there simply lacks empathy. But here a German stage was abused for a calculated border violation. Everyone who appeared at the front knew that criticism of Israel is not mainstream here, and for good reason. The solidarity of the local creative scene is also being abused. This goes too far.

Who is responsible for the scandal?

Those responsible for culture, the directors, the institutions and, above all, cultural policy have failed. This is now about the big picture. Many creative people also suffer from the damage to the reputation of the art scene. We need unruly artists so that our democracy does not weaken. But blind activism rightly creates mistrust when it comes to public financing. Cultural policy, which is still watching helplessly, is responsible for this area of ​​tension and for the balance of society as a whole.

Claudia Roth is missing as an instance?

Debates about anti-Semitism in art run like a common thread through her term of office. The Documenta and especially the way it was handled were bad enough. A collective of curators from an Islamic state had to make us pay attention twice as much. In any case, the problem didn't come out of the blue.

Some are already questioning the public financing of art projects and are pushing for a kind of anti-Semitism TÜV.

Questioning the adequate financing of culture in Germany is fatal because it ultimately endangers the freedom of art. This is throwing the baby out with the bathwater. We also have to endure the unruly, that is the real value of culture. A democracy thrives on contradiction. That's the only thing that always wakes us up. But there must be guardrails against anti-Israel incitement and anti-Semitism. This is obviously missing.

And that is now Roth's task? If the last bit of trust is to be saved, these guardrails must be defined without restricting the freedom of art. But what I'm experiencing at the moment - almost everywhere in cultural policy - is a great sense of helplessness.