jenin jenin 311.
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
An IDF reservist traded verbal insults with Israeli-Arab filmmaker Muhammad
Bakri outside the Supreme Court in Jerusalem on Monday, following a hearing on
an appeal issued by five soldiers against a lower court’s rejection of a libel
suit the soldiers presented against Bakri for his 2002 film Jenin,
Bakri told reservist and attorney Yisrael Caspi he and his fellow
plaintiffs are “unleashed dogs,” while Caspi, for his part, told Bakri, “We’re
unleashed dogs and you’re receiving money from the Palestinian Authority and the
enemies of Israel, to make a movie against us. You should be ashamed of
yourself, you’re an Israeli citizen. You portrayed Israeli soldiers as Nazis, as
Pink Floyd frontman declares support for BDS campaign
Earlier, Bakri told reporters at the courthouse: “This is
what I believe, this is what I saw, what I felt, I have no regrets about what I
did. The one who should have regrets is the IDF, which commits crimes all the
During the hearing, the court offered a compromise in which Bakri
would agree to recategorize his movie as “nondocumentary” and apologize to the
reservists. The reservists refused to compromise, demanding that Bakri reedit
the film and compensate them for damages caused.
Bakri was escorted to
the courtroom by Israeli Arab MKs Muhammad Barakei (Hadash) and Ahmed Tibi
(United Arab List). Tibi told reporters “a crusade is being waged against
Muhammad Bakri. I hope he can find some sort of relief here in the Supreme
The five reservists, who fought in Jenin during Operation
Defensive Shield, brought the suit against Bakri in 2007, seeking NIS 2.5
million in damages for libel. The Petah Tikva District Court threw out the suit,
saying that it lacked merit, largely because the film did not mention the
plaintiffs by name.
Jenin, Jenin has been a lightning rod for controversy
since it was released in 2002 and subsequently banned by the Israeli censor,
which ruled that it could offend the Israeli public.
The film was made by
Bakri following the IDF’s incursion into the Jenin refugee camp during Operation
Defensive Shield, which was launched in March 2002, following a spate of suicide
attacks by Palestinian terrorists.
The attacks reached their peak with
the bombing of a Pessah Seder at the Park Hotel in Netanya on March 27, 2002
that left 30 Israelis dead and 140 wounded.
In the fog of the ensuing
battles in Jenin and with foreign journalists and NGOs banned from entering the
city’s refugee camp, reports swirled in the global media about a “massacre” that
left hundreds of Palestinians dead, buried in the rubble of their
When the dust settled, factfinding investigations held by the UN,
Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, among others, concluded that no
massacre took place, and that only around 52 Palestinians died, well over half
of them fighters.
Twenty-three IDF soldiers also lost their lives in the
Filmed during the initial confusion of the first days after the
fighting, Jenin, Jenin reflects the uncertainty and rumors that dominated the
news reports at the time, especially in the Arab world. Purporting to be a
documentary, it includes interviews Bakri made with a handful of Jenin locals,
all of whose contentions are presented as fact.
No Israelis, civilian or
military, are interviewed in the film, and no conflicting points of view are
given. In addition, there is no narration or presentation of a sequence of
events or times and dates, merely images of chaos, confusion and shattered
concrete, set to a dramatic and mournful soundtrack.
Among the more
contentious scenes in the film is one that is edited to suggest that an Israeli
Armored Personal Carrier was used to flatten a group of bound Palestinians
forced to lay in the dirt. Bakri also presents unsubstantiated claims of one
interviewee, who says that IDF soldiers used Palestinian children as human
shields, forcing them to go from house to house breaking holes in walls and then
executing them when their work was done.
One of the main arguments put
forth by Bakri’s lawyers is that because he does not speak in the film, he is
not guilty of libel, even if the claims put forth in the film by Jenin refugee
camp residents may or may not be true or exaggerated.