Palestinian film-makers walk out of documentary festival after series of rows

The latest Jewish News

Read this week’s digital edition

Click Here

Palestinian film-makers walk out of documentary festival after series of rows

Israelis complain of feeling attacked by 'river to the sea' stage protest as International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam becomes political battleground over war in Gaza

Festival director Orwa Nyrabia on stage in Amsterdam
Festival director Orwa Nyrabia on stage in Amsterdam

Political skirmishes over the Israel-Gaza war that have played out at an international gathering of documentary film-makers in the Netherlands have led to a walk-out by the Palestinian delegation.

The gala opening last week of the festival in Amsterdam had been interrupted by a group who stormed the stage and called the Israeli action on Gaza “a genocide”. Orwa Nyrabia, director of the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA), outraged some Israeli film-makers by applauding the group as they left the stage.

There were cheers from the audience as well as apparent approval from Nyrabia when the group, from an organisation called, spoke of their action as linked to pro-Ukraine protests before shouting “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.”

Sixteen prominent Israeli film-makers wrote an open letter to the IDFA to express their “uttermost dismay, disappointment and concern” at the interruption of the opening of the 12-day festival. “We see this as a personal attack against us,” they said. “We call on the director of IDFA, and on its board of directors, to clearly and resoundingly distance themselves, reject and denounce these calls for violence and withdraw any platform from those who knowingly incite for the annihilation of Israel, instigating violence and giving rise to antisemitic sentiments against Jews everywhere.”

When the IDFA apologised for the “hurtful” slogan shown by the activists, the Palestine Film Institute was incensed. On 13 November, it issued a statement saying the IDFA announcement ”unjustly criminalises Palestinian voices and narratives”. The PFI then withdrew from all IDFA market participation.

The man in the middle, Nyrabia, knows a thing or two about war. He is a native of the city of Homs, a rebel stronghold that was subjected to a three-year siege from 2011 to 2014, during Syria’s civil war, and was briefly detained in Damascus in 2012.

After the opening-night interruption, the respected producer and director of the Damascus-based documentary festival DoxBox was finally able to make his speech. Nyrabia, who took over the helm of ADFA five years ago and who has said that no festival can escape the fact that it is also a political activity, referred to what he called “a massive disaster like what’s happening now in Gaza and Israel”. The festival director continued: “Film has been telling us that oppression feeds extremism, that the lack of hope breeds anger and violence, that violence breeds violence.”

With five more days of the festival to run, organisers will be hoping hostilities are at an end.

Support your Jewish community. Support your Jewish News

Thank you for helping to make Jewish News the leading source of news and opinion for the UK Jewish community. Today we're asking for your invaluable help to continue putting our community first in everything we do.

For as little as £5 a month you can help sustain the vital work we do in celebrating and standing up for Jewish life in Britain.

Jewish News holds our community together and keeps us connected. Like a synagogue, it’s where people turn to feel part of something bigger. It also proudly shows the rest of Britain the vibrancy and rich culture of modern Jewish life.

You can make a quick and easy one-off or monthly contribution of £5, £10, £20 or any other sum you’re comfortable with.

100% of your donation will help us continue celebrating our community, in all its dynamic diversity...


Being a community platform means so much more than producing a newspaper and website. One of our proudest roles is media partnering with our invaluable charities to amplify the outstanding work they do to help us all.


There’s no shortage of oys in the world but Jewish News takes every opportunity to celebrate the joys too, through projects like Night of Heroes, 40 Under 40 and other compelling countdowns that make the community kvell with pride.


In the first collaboration between media outlets from different faiths, Jewish News worked with British Muslim TV and Church Times to produce a list of young activists leading the way on interfaith understanding.


Royal Mail issued a stamp honouring Holocaust hero Sir Nicholas Winton after a Jewish News campaign attracted more than 100,000 backers. Jewish Newsalso produces special editions of the paper highlighting pressing issues including mental health and Holocaust remembrance.

Easy access

In an age when news is readily accessible, Jewish News provides high-quality content free online and offline, removing any financial barriers to connecting people.

Voice of our community to wider society

The Jewish News team regularly appears on TV, radio and on the pages of the national press to comment on stories about the Jewish community. Easy access to the paper on the streets of London also means Jewish News provides an invaluable window into the community for the country at large.

We hope you agree all this is worth preserving.