Soldiers face 'Jenin, Jenin' director in court

Court says Bakri should apologize, but not pay; reservists call director a "collaborator," he responds: "Get out of the way, dog!"

By
March 7, 2011 17:02
3 minute read.
Jenin Jenin movie poster

jenin jenin 311. (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

 
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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, 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 criminals.”

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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 time.”

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 Court.”

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 homes.

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 battles.

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.

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