Israeli journalist and director Yuval Abraham (left) and Palestinian co-director Basel Adra receive an award for their "No Other Land" film at the 74th Berlinale International Film Festival in Berlin on February 24. Abraham said that after their acceptance speech, he received death threats and a right-wing Israeli mob came to his family's home and threatened them. (Photo: Reuters/Fabrizio Bensch)

CPJ urges protection for Israeli journalist threatened with death after accepting film award

Washington, D.C., February 29, 2024—Israeli authorities must ensure necessary protections for Israeli journalist Yuval Abraham and his family, who were repeatedly threatened following criticism from high-level Israeli and German government officials.  

Yuval Abraham, an Israeli film director and journalist with the independent news +972 Magazine, said on February 27 that he canceled his flight home to Israel after receiving death threats following his acceptance speech at the Berlin International Film Festival. 

The speech was characterized as “antisemitic” by several high-level German and Israeli officials, including the mayor of the German capitol, Berlin, and Israel’s ambassador to Germany.

Abraham and his Palestinian co-director Basel Adra accepted two awards on February 25 for their documentary “No Other Land,” which chronicled Israeli authorities’ evictions and demolitions of Palestinian homes in the occupied West Bank.

During his acceptance speech, Abraham called for equality for Israelis and Palestinians, a ceasefire in Gaza, and decried the “situation of apartheid.” “We are standing in front of you now, me and Basel are the same age. I am Israeli; Basel is Palestinian. And in two days, we will go back to a land where we are not equal,” Abraham said

Abraham’s family fled their home in the night, fearing for their safety, after a “right-wing Israeli mob” came to the home in search of the journalist and threatened them, according to the journalist’s February 27 post on X, formerly known as Twitter, and a report by his outlet.

“We are deeply alarmed by the death threats received by Israeli film director Yuval Abraham, as they illustrate an atmosphere of self-censorship and anti-press rhetoric in Israel, which has been expanding since the Israel-Gaza war,” said CPJ Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator Sherif Mansour. “Israeli authorities must ensure the necessary protection for all journalists, regardless of their views, and hold accountable those who threaten journalists and their family members.”

Israeli public broadcaster Kan News labeled the speech “antisemitic” during a report, which they later removed after Abraham wrote the outlet a letter demanding such, as well as an on-air and written apology. As of February 29, Kan has not issued a public apology.

Abraham is a well-known Israeli journalist and his reporting on the use of artificial intelligence by the Israel Defense Forces in its war on Gaza is one of +972 magazine’s top five most-read features. CPJ’s messages to Abraham did not immediately receive a reply.

Since the October 7, 2023, start of the Israel-Gaza war, Israeli and international journalists working from Israel have reported physical assaults and threats

Itamar Cohen, a journalist with the Israel-based media outlet News 360, was covering a stabbing in Jerusalem’s Old City on February 11, 2024, when a group of Israeli police officers removed him from the area despite him identifying himself as a journalist, according to a report by the Israeli news website Israel National News and a statement by The Union of Journalists in Israel.

“They drew truncheons and beat me until I bled, at least eight times. The officers were the same ones who had attacked my journalist friends before, and they recognized me from previous encounters,” Cohen told Israel National News, adding that when he requested medical care, an officer beat and broke his hand. “He then instructed other officers not to speak to me but to continue beating me aggressively.”

The Israel Police suspended the officer on February 12 and issued a statement saying, “One of the officers took action, apparently using force in a manner inconsistent with the values of the police, and the commander of the Border Police has ordered him suspended until the incident has been clarified.”

CPJ’s email to the Israel Police for comment about Abraham and Cohen did not immediately receive a response.

On October 16, 2023, Israeli journalist and columnist Israel Frey went into hiding after his home was attacked the previous day by a mob of far-right Israelis after he expressed solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza.