IDF Opposes the Screening of Israeli Documentary About West Bank Legal System

The documentary film The Law in These Parts, critical of the IDF justice system in the territories, was not authorized to be screened for IDF soldiers.

The IDF Spokesperson's unit has recently forbidden the screening of an Israeli documentary film about the West Bank legal system before an Israeli Defense Forces unit.

The creators of the film, which critically examines Israel's legal system in Judea, Samaria, and Gaza, contacted senior officials within the IDF court system in attempts to screen the film before soldiers serving in military courts. The IDF Spokesperson's unit, however, thwarted the plan and forbade the screening.

Ra'anan Alexandrowicz - Tomer Appelbaum - March 2012
Tomer Appelbaum

The Law in These Parts, directed by Ra'anan Alexandrowicz, was first shown at the most recent Jerusalem Film Festival, and won the prize for best documentary. Two months ago, it competed in the prestigious Sundance Film Festival where it won the World Cinema Grand Jury Prize in Documentary.

In the film, Alexandrowicz interviews several Israeli lawmakers who were former senior officials in the military courts, in order to better understand the development of the Israeli legal system in the territories. Alexandrowicz attempts to understand the logic used by the people who created the legal system, and determine what are the ramifications of such a court system on the principles of law and justice in Israel.

A few months ago, the creators of the film contacted officers within the IDF courts and offered to screen The Law in These Parts for the judges in the military courts at the Ofer prison, located near Ramallah. The filmmakers also offered to hold and participate in a discussion of the film and its contents with the judges, as they have done at screenings in the past.

"Despite their disagreement with a large portion of the film's contents, the officials in the unit expressed interest in our offer," said producer Liran Atzmor. "However they told us that a screening of this type can only be done with permission from the Spokesperson's unit," he added. Despite the agreement between the filmmakers and the court officials to screen the film, the IDF Spokesperson's unit did not give permission to hold the screening. The event planned for the judges at the Ofer prison was cancelled but according to sources, a small screening, initiated by a few officers with a copy of the film provided by the filmmakers, was held for a few justice officials and the Military Advocate General.

Another incident of IDF opposition to the film arose nearly two months ago, when a professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem decided to show the film to his students. The professor, who preferred to remain anonymous, contacted the Military Advocate General to invite a representative to join the screening and participate in a discussion with the students. The professor's request was turned down, as the Military Advocate General's office had received "orders not to comment on this film."

In the end, an agreement was reached and the Military Advocate General sent a representative to discuss the issues presented in the film, however not as part of a screening of the film. The students saw the film a week later.

"We think that the film The Law in These Parts is very relevant to military history, and should very much interest the Military Advocate General," said Atzmor. The filmmakers were astonished that "the IDF Spokesperson's unit did not see fit to authorize the screening of the film, even in a closed setting for military officials, and refused to send a representative to an academic screening of the film."

At this point the film has been screened all over the country at more than 150 separate screenings, among them screenings for public defenders, State Attorney workers, members of the Council for Peace and Security, and law schools. Atzmon noted "that in two weeks, the film will be shown on television, which makes the attempt to keep the film under wraps that much stranger."

When asked for comment, the IDF Spokesperson's unit replied "In these matters, the IDF does not comment about the internal decision-making process to newspapers."

Read this article in Hebrew