Mohammad Bakri
Mohammad Bakri. Photo by Nir Keidar
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An Israel Defense Forces reservist soldier on Monday accused Israeli Arab director Mohammed Bakri of presenting IDF fighters as Nazis in his film about an IDF operation in the West Bank city of Jenin in 2002. 

The two traded verbal blows on the steps of the Supreme Court in Jerusalem, where the reservist soldier and four comrades - who all fought in the battle in Jenin - were seeking to overturn a lower court rejection of their libel suit against Bakri for his 2003 film "Jenin, Jenin." 

The battle in the refugee camp in the city was part of the IDF's Operation Defense Shield, launched following a spate of bloody terror attacks that left dozens of Israelis dead. Palestinian officials initially claimed that hundreds of people in the refugee camp had been "massacred" by Israel, while it later emerged that some 55 Palestinians had been killed in the fighting, more than half of them armed fighters.

The confrontation between Israel Caspi and Bakri erupted after the director said he had no regrets over making the film, rather that the Israeli army should be the one to be sorry.

"You are making Israeli fighters look like Nazis, it's disgraceful, you are colluding with the enemy," Caspi told Bakri. "Until you say that you made a mistake, we have no desire to acknowledge you."

Bakri has admitted that he received funds from the Palestinian Ministry of Culture once the film had been made.

Inside the courtroom, the court suggested that the appeal be withdrawn if Bakri admitted that his film was not a documentary, and apologized to the soldiers. The soldiers exited the court to discuss the offer.

The five first brought the NIS 2.5 million libel suit against Bakri in 2007, even though they do not appear in the film and their names are not mentioned. The suit was rejected by the Petah Tivka District Court, which ruled that their claim lacked merit.

Rafik Bakri, a relative and member of a solidarity committee for the filmmaker, said Monday that they were protesting the director's "political persecution."

"We are saying that this starts with political persecution perpetrated by soldiers and ends with government persecution," Rafik Bakri said. "When former Attorney General [Menachem] Mazuz is dragged into it, declares his support for the complaint and joins the soldiers' appeal."