Israeli TV Show That Planted Gun in Palestinian's Home Violated Order, but Watchdog Failed to Act

Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit has yet to take action, while advocacy groups charges the police violated the 'legal rights of many'

Right: Samar Sleiman in his basement. Right: Screengrab from the scene in Jerusalem District
Emil Salman

In making a miniseries whose episodes were pulled after Haaretz revealed that police officers planted guns and drugs in the homes of East Jerusalem Palestinians who appeared in them, the Israel Police also violated prohibitions against cooperating with the media.

Despite the lapses, Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit has taken no action against the police over the production of “Jerusalem District.”

In response to an inquiry from Haaretz, the attorney general’s office said the directives remain in effect and added that questions about their implementation should be referred to the Israel Police.

In a written response, the police did not address the violations but said that in the wake of “a comprehensive investigation” it had published the findings and would “take necessary action to implement the lessons we learned in areas related to production and television series.”

In a recent letter to Mendelblit, Oshrat Maimon of the Ir Amim advocacy organization quoted from the 2003 guidelines barring the “participation of media figures (reporters, radio or TV writers, media photographers etc.) in search, reenactment or investigation activities.”

“Jerusalem District” included dozens of searches, and despite the use of blurring techniques individuals and their homes could often be identified by acquaintances.

“This production,” Maimon wrote, “included filming individuals, their stuff, often under pressure, revealing searches in their homes, rooms, rifling through their closets, their drawers. ... Filming including identifiable details and exposed personal conversations with officers, often during distressing and wide exposure of their mental state. Beyond the grave violation of the legal rights of many, this production even endangered the lives of some subjects,” she wrote.

“The main failure is on the part of the police toward the residents and the public, in documenting officers facing a marginalized and vulnerable population that deviates from all accepted behavior and reaches a level that may be criminal.” Maimon demands an investigation of the entire production process and action against the officers.

The TV series was aired on Kan public television. It made headlines after a Haaretz investigation revealed that officers had planted a gun in a home in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Isawiyah and its “discovery.” Samer Sleiman, the Palestinian resident of the home, filed a complaint with the Justice Ministry’s department for investigating police officers, which has not yet notified him that an investigation has been opened.

In the wake of the Haaretz report about the planting of the gun, the entire series was removed from Kan’s website and the public broadcaster stopped working with the production company behind the series, Koda Communications. The police opened an internal investigation and said that the officers who took part in the series were not responsible for directing the scenes in which the gun was planted.