Court: 'Jenin, Jenin' Untruthful, but Does Not Slander Soldiers

Film, directed by Israeli Arab Mohammed Bakri, alleged that IDF soldiers committed war crimes during 2002 operation.

The Petah Tikva District Court on Sunday ruled against five Israel Defense Forces reserve soldiers suing actor and director Mohammed Bakri for slander in his film "Jenin, Jenin."

Bakri's cinematic description of Operation Defensive Shield in 2002 alleged that IDF soldiers had committed war crimes.

Judge Michal Nadav ruled that the film did in fact slander the soldiers; however, since the slander was directed against an entire group, individuals within this group did not have the right to file suit.

Bakri told Haaretz the verdict "made me happy because my film, 'Jenin, Jenin,' was not about IDF soldiers and certainly not about the five people who brought the suit. I have nothing to do with them, they didn't appear in the film and are not mentioned it it. My film is about the soul of the resident of the refugee camp during Operation Defensive Shield, and nothing more."

Bakri, who spoke with Haaretz before he read the full verdict, said he was surprised the court had agreed to try the case at all. He said the five "for some reason decided to harass me." Bakri added that he was considering countersuing the soldiers for slander because they had done "great damage to my film."

Nadav stated in her verdict that Bakri had not brought even one of the many witnesses that appear in the film to be questioned about his charges against the IDF, and did not prove that the statements were backed up by reports of human rights groups, as he said they were.

Nadav also said Bakri's lack of good faith was apparent in the fact that the film's English subtitles use the terms "slaughter" and "genocide" although those interviewed in the film did not actually say these words in Arabic, nor do these words appear in the Hebrew subtitles. Bakri countered the judge's charge of lack of good faith by saying that he had his whole heart in the movie's production, "and that is what I call 'in good faith.' My good faith was that I went to a destroyed place and gave people the chance to speak from their hearts... I made the film only for the hoped-for peace and against the occupation."

The soldiers' attorney, Amir Tytunovich, said the outcome was the best that could be expected from a public perspective since it determined that the film had been slanderous. Tytunovich said he would consider appealing to the High Court of Justice after studying the verdict.

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