Reservists, Filmmaker Reject Compromise in 'Jenin, Jenin' Lawsuit

Tomer Zarchin
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Tomer Zarchin

The five IDF reservists suing Mohammed Bakri for his negative depiction of Israeli soldiers in the film "Jenin, Jenin," yesterday refused a compromise proposed by the Supreme Court. The justices hearing the case suggested that Bakri apologize to the plaintiffs and specify that the film is not a documentary.

Bakri himself also rejected the offer, saying yesterday, "I'll never apologize, no one has a monopoly on the truth, not even the Supreme Court."

Mohammed BakriCredit: Tomer Appelbaum

The soldiers, who fought in the 2002 battle of Jenin that was the subject of the film, are demanding that the parts of the movie which they claim to be defamatory of Israeli soldiers be removed. Bakri's attorney, Avigdor Feldman, rejected the demand.

Yesterday's court session was marked by violent verbal exchanges that at one point nearly degenerated into a fistfight. At the start of the session, one of the plaintiffs, Yisrael Caspi, accused Bakri of collaborating with Israel's enemies. Bakri, who was accompanied by dozens of supporters, retorted, "Go away, you're a dog, you're all unleashed dogs."

Only the intervention of court security guards prevented a physical confrontation.

"The court doesn't feel what we feel. It's inconceivable that a suit like this will end without compensation, and just an apology," Caspi said after the justices put forth their proposal. "We were hurt very badly, the mark of Cain was placed on our foreheads. We were depicted as murderers and Nazis. It's inconceivable that Bakri will not be found guilty of defamation and ordered to pay the price to Israeli society."

In 2007 the soldiers sued Bakri for defamation, despite the fact that none of them specifically appeared in the film, nor were their names mentioned in it. In 2008, the Petah Tikva District Court ruled that while the movie did defame Israel Defense Forces soldiers, not every soldier who took part in Operation Defensive Shield has the right to sue for defamation.

Bakri said he had no regrets about making his film, and that it is the Israeli army that ought to regret its constant crimes. When asked whether the five plaintiffs were persecuting him, Bakri said, "It's the Shin Bet [security service] and the prime minister."

In light of the fact that both sides rejected an out-of-court settlement, the Supreme Court justices are now expected to rule on the case.