Censor Allows Screening of 'The Secret Kingdom' After Agreeing With Director on Scene Cuts

The military censor and Nir Toib, director of the film "The Secret Kingdom," have reached an agreement that will enable the film's screening at the Jerusalem Film Festival on Thursday, as part of the festival's documentary film competition.

The Secret Kingdom

"The censor retracted most of his demands," said Toib on Saturday, "and I committed myself to removing a few small things. But there was an agreement here, not a compromise. Had there been an artistic compromise I would not have agreed."

"The Secret Kingdom" recounts the affair in which Brig. Gen. (res. ) Yitzhak "Yatza" Yaakov, a former research and development head for the Israel Defense Forces and Israel's first chief scientist, was accused of aggravated espionage against the state.

Last December, a few days before the film's planned premiere at the Tel Aviv Cinematheque, the military censor forbade Toib to show the film unless he cut out substantial sections. Toib refused and canceled the screening.

Two weeks ago Toib, together with the New Israel Foundation for Cinema & TV, Reshet, Channel 8 and artists' organizations petitioned the High Court of Justice to revoke the censor's orders and permit the screening. In the suit, they contended that the censor's decision to ban the film "is unreasonable, based on immaterial considerations, violates the petitioners' basic rights and does not abide by the guidelines established by court rulings."

Toib argued in the petition that his film does not reveal any secrets of the security establishment or secrets harmful to state security, and the censor's ban was for immaterial reasons following criticism in the film of the Defense Ministry's security authority (known by its Hebrew acronym Malmab ).

Immediately after the petition was filed and a report about the case was published in Haaretz, the court imposed a gag order on the petition and its contents.

The court asked the sides to reach an agreement outside court, and on Thursday the sides agreed which passages will be cut from the film.

Toib said that his film is not about the "secret" itself, but rather the "kingdom" that tries to protect it and its modes of operation. "We consented to reach an agreement because, we said, 'for the prudent shall not keep silent in that time.' They were prepared to remain in this limbo indefinitely, but to my mind it is better for this film to contribute to the public debate and enrich the public discourse than to be buried at the High Court for many years."

The military censor responded: "Our agreement was given to broadcasting the film after, from the censorship perspective, there is no more harm to state security, as we perceive it."