Organizers of students' Hadash party branch at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem screened the controversial film "Jenin, Jenin" at a Hadash-sponsored event on the university's Mount Scopus campus last night, although the university had prohibited the screening.
However, 10 minutes before the end of the film, university security personnel cut the electricity to the hall.
After the film, its director, the actor Mohammed Bakri, was to have presented his one-man play "The Pessoptimist," based on the novel by Emile Habibi, in a nearby hall; however, security personnel locked all the halls. Some 200 students saw the play at the entrance to the building instead.
The halls were locked because the Hadash activists had refused to pay the university NIS 2,500 for security, which they said was unprecedented, unjustified, and intended to prevent them from showing the play.
Bakri made "Jenin, Jenin" in 2003 about an Israeli offensive in Jenin during Operation Defensive Shield. Five Israeli reservists who participated in the battle sued Bakri in 2005. The judge dismissed the case because, although she agreed that the film slandered Israeli soldiers, the five soldiers were not personally slandered and therefore had no standing. The five have petitioned the High Court of Justice to overturn the ruling.
According to Naji Abbas, secretary of the Hadash university group, the activists were not told why the university had prohibited the film's screening. "They only said the legal department had prohibited it," he said.
Abbas said the film was in the central library's media department and could be seen by any student, so the university's decision is "at the very least, surprising."
The Hebrew University said in a statement: "Some years ago the Hebrew University was among the first institutions to allow the screening of "Jenin, Jenin" because it was permissible by law. However, the District Court has recently determined that the film is mendacious and constitutes slander, and therefore the university cannot show it. Otherwise, it will be party to slander."
The university also said all student groups have to finance their activities on campus, which frequently include security costs.
A spokesperson for the Association for Civil Rights in Israel said: "The university's claim is mistaken, because the District Court ruled that the film itself is not a cause for a slander suit. While it is now before the High Court of Justice, a ruling has not been issued. The claim is also mistaken because the university is not responsible for the content expressed at activities by various political groups."
"Clearly there is institutionalized demonization of everything connected to me," Bakri told Haaretz yesterday. "Unfortunately, it seems the university has joined the chorus. I told the students that for humane reasons "Jenin, Jenin" should not be shown just at this time, after the terrible attack at Itamar. Evil spirits are stirring and things must quieten down rather than add fuel to the fire," the actor said.