Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein on Tuesday declared the proposed “Jenin,
Jenin” bill unconstitutional, stating that it violated the fundamental right to
freedom of speech.
The bill – which allows class-action lawsuits against
anyone who defames IDF soldiers’ operational activities – was inspired partly by
the 2002 film Jenin, Jenin, which claimed that the IDF committed a massacre in
the West Bank refugee camp.
The same year, five reserve soldiers filed
suit for defamation, but the judge dismissed their case because they were not
personally slandered in the film.
Weinstein noted that the intent of the
proposed Jenin, Jenin Law had been to “fix” that Supreme Court ruling
determining there was no basis to sue the makers of the film. The law’s aim was
to create such a basis, providing new ways to litigate against such persons,
But Weinstein also said that the ultimate result of the
proposed law would also be to negatively impact the fundamental right to freedom
of speech, and would upset the balance between defamation and freedom of
He especially criticized the law for empowering individuals and
groups other than the attorney-general himself to file defamation lawsuits on
behalf of the public interest.
Weinstein said that such power was
intentionally reserved for the attorneygeneral so that it would be utilized only
in the most extreme cases, and to avoid unnecessarily chilling people’s right to
Earlier Tuesday, the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice
Committee discussed the bill.
“This bill comes out against provocative
use of IDF combat soldiers, like the film Jenin, Jenin, which lies and incites,”
MK Yoni Chetboun (Bayit Yehudi), who co-sponsored the bill, told the
“I’m in favor of criticism of the country’s institutions and
even of IDF soldiers, but I am against lies.”
However, the Constitution,
Law and Justice Committee’s legal adviser said the legislation is problematic in
that it singles out one group – specifically a group greatly admired in Israeli
society – for special treatment.
Coalition chairman Yariv Levin (Likud
Beytenu), another of the bill’s cosponsors, said that “since laws against libel
were passed, the attorney-general hasn’t made use of it and his
As such, Levin explained, this bill allows those who were
defamed to speed up the process and sue. “This arrangement is balanced and
minimal. It does not harm freedom of expression,” Levin stated.
Gnaim (United Arab List-Ta’al) attacked the bill, saying that “everyone has an
ideology and his own truth, and this bill is meant to stop any criticism of the
“Murdering women and children is not an ideology,” MK Shuli Muallem
(Bayit Yehudi) retorted.
MK Miki Rosenthal (Labor) posited that “there
are better ways to deal with people who lie like [Jenin, Jenin director
“This bill will open the door for people to misuse the
legal process. It’s an attempt to protect IDF soldiers as a group, but there are
many weak groups that would want to be part of this law, and the additions will
be never-ending,” Rosenthal said.
MK Jamal Zahalka (Balad) said freedom
of expression is essential to any democracy.
“Bakri is a great artist,
and if he thought there were war crimes in Jenin, then he has the right to say
so, and the public can judge his statements,” Zahalka said.
reservists who attended the meeting supported the bill, saying they want to be
allowed to set the record straight and sue Bakri.
“This movie follows us
year after year,” Yonatan Kaspel said. “It cannot be that the country sends us
to fight and then tells us to fight for our good name on our own. The minute I’m
presented as a murderer and a criminal, the law must be changed to allow me to
Another reservist, Pavel Juliac, pointed to the Academy
Award-nominated film 5 Broken Cameras as proof that “the Jenin, Jenin phenomenon
isn’t over” and that incitement against the IDF continues.
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