Israeli Army, Public Broadcaster Cut Ties With Disgraced Jerusalem Police Docudrama Producers

IDF says would look into past productions handled by Koda Communications, at the center of a controversy over planting a rifle at Palestinian's home for reality TV

Samer Sleiman files a complaint against the Israel Police, Jerusalem, August 7, 2019.
Emil Salman

The Israeli army has stopped working with the production company at the center of a controversy over the planting of an M-16 assault rifle at a Palestinian's home in East Jerusalem for a police docudrama, the Israel Defense Forces' spokesman said Friday. The announcement comes a day after Kan public broadcaster also said it would stop using Koda Communications' services.

Following Haaretz report on the staged East Jerusalem raid, the IDF said it would look into past productions Koda handled, but stressed it was "unaware of similar instances."

One of two docudrama series Koda Communications produced for the army was aired on Kan last year, whereas work on the second one was halted.

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Israel's public broadcaster said Thursday the raid on Samer Sleiman's home goes against its "most basic values… This is a betrayal in the public's trust."

On Wednesday, Sleiman filed a complaint with the Police Investigations Department at the Justice Ministry. Police also said "a thorough investigation" would be launched in the incident, adding “We apologize for any harm caused to the citizen pursuant to the segment’s broadcast. The incident is under investigation and the necessary lessons will be learned accordingly.”

Sleiman’s house in the village of Isawiyah was searched in November 2018, after which he was handed a document stating that nothing was found there. However, a few months later, Sleiman’s neighbors identified the house in an episode of the nine-part docudrama "Jerusalem District," in which a M-16 rifle was "discovered" in a cellar.

Sleiman, who had been unaware of the circumstances of the search filmed in his home, was never arrested or questioned about the weapon allegedly discovered in his cellar. During the segment, one of the show's protagonists describes the cellar as a “tunnel that wouldn’t shame the digging in Gaza.” The police officers are shown praising the rifle’s “discovery” and leaving satisfied.

Police sources said on Tuesday that there had been a police operation in Sleiman’s house based on intelligence reports about concealed weapons. The production and film crew of Koda Communications, which produced the show, was summoned but in practice, no weapons were found. The sources say at some stage, one of the people involved in production suggested that one of the policemen plant his weapon in the cellar. The suggestion was accepted by the senior officer at the scene, who took part in the series.

Koda Communications stated that the segments in question was an “illustration meant to manifest to the viewer unusual events the district encounters during its routine work.” The company added that such things are done “rarely, for the purpose of protecting the working methods of the police, or the safety of the participants in the show.”

Kan however rejected Koda Communications' answer, writing it a letter on Tuesday saying, “Koda’s response is insufficient and we are waiting to receive, by tomorrow, the production’s answer about how the events unfolded and who was responsible, or party to, planting the weapon and portraying it as part of a real event. Once all the information has been provided, the incident will be handled accordingly.”

Following the Haaretz report, Kan decided to remove all episodes of the series available online on Wednesday, and Koda Communications is examining three additional scenes that may have also included "the same motif."