Israeli Ministers Back Law Calling Libel Against IDF a Criminal Offense

Ministerial Committee for Legislation endorses 'Jenin Jenin' law, meant to exact a legal price for defamation of Israeli soldiers, named after the 2002 movie implicating the IDF in a massacre in the West Bank city.

Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis
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Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis

Israel's Ministerial Committee for Legislation decided Monday to approve the Jenin Jenin law, which would allow a person or group to be sued for slandering the IDF in a civil action suit, within the framework of the existing libel law.

The bill, proposed by MK Yoni Sitbon (Habayit Hayehudi), is now expected to win the approval of the coalition. "Those who are deployed to protect the citizens of Israel and its borders are the ones who find themselves consistently vilified in various media outlets," MK Sitbon explained in his proposal.

The bill was endorsed by the committee despite opposition by three ministers: Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, Finance Minister Yair Lapid, and Health Minister Yael German. Livni claimed in the discussion that the bill could generate a "boomerang effect" that damages freedom of speech. Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch , on the other hand, demanded the bill be broadened to include the police and other security forces.

MK Sitbon's bill attempts to amend a legal loophole to the existing libel law. According to the current law, libel of a public body – and not a private entity – does not constitute the pretense for a civil action suit or a criminal charge that draws an indictment.

Coalition Chair MK Yari Levin lauded the decision to advance the law. "This is an important step in preserving the honor and status of IDF soldiers. The bill will put an end the defamation of our combatants that will exact an appropriate price for people who generate fictitious propaganda, such as that promoted by the movie Jenin Jenin," Levin said.

In 2012, the IDF requested the attorney general indict Mohammed Bakri, director of the film "Jenin, Jenin," for libel. The film features interviews with Jenin residents during Operation Defensive Shield in April 2002, which left the impression a massacre had occurred. No Israelis were interviewed for the film.

According to the text of the bill, "Those who defame Israel, waging a campaign of de-legitimization against it in the international community, who wish to bring about a boycott of the state and its citizens have chosen IDF soldiers as a comfortable target in recent years, fully aware that no legal steps can be taken against them."

"Though many fabricated claims against IDF soldiers have been exposed over the years, but due to procedural constraints, the soldiers who were trampled and whose reputation was damaged were left without any legal solution."

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