So Basic, So Fragile

Most viewers of "Jenin, Jenin" will see it as an "anti-Israeli" film. In fact it is a film against the occupation. Anyone who is against the occupation will see it as a film that could help Israel.

The film "Jenin, Jenin," which was approved for screening this week, is a demagogical film that leaves in the memory mainly a little Palestinian girl skipping among the ruins of houses and reciting nationalist slogans against Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

This is his truth, says the filmmaker, Mohammed Bakri, and here is the basis for some bleak musings about what has happened to Bakri's artistic sensitivity since he was identified as an actor with "The Opsimist," Emile Habiby's restrained, ironic and wise novel.

The decision by the High Court of Justice to allow the screening of the film annoyed a number of people. They argue that the film presents a false picture of what happened when soldiers entered the refugee camp in Jenin in April of last year.

Insofar as it is possible to discover such a "truth" - it is now in the reports of several investigative committees - there is an argument about the details; there is no argument about the fact that what happened in Jenin was terrible. About 60 inhabitants of the camp were killed, some of them armed fighters; people were wounded and dozens of homes were demolished.

To this day it is not clear what of all this was necessary in the war against terror and what was done in order to avenge the deaths of the soldiers who were killed at the beginning of the operation, and what was done there simply as part of the systematic and sweeping damage to the human rights of the inhabitants of the territories, far beyond what is necessitated by the fight against terror.

Most viewers will see it as an "anti-Israeli" film. In fact it is a film against the occupation. Anyone who is against the occupation will see it as a film that could help Israel.

The attempt to prevent the screening of "Jenin, Jenin" was an attempt to deny Bakri the right to protest against the occupation. This week it turns out that he is allowed to. "The meaning of freedom of expression," wrote Justice Dalia Dorner, "is that the government must not restrict the possibility of making opinions heard and airing them in public." Dorner, like Justices Ayala Procaccia and Asher Gronis, was not impressed by the argument that the film could encourage terror, and also the extent of the "truth" that it depicts is not relevant, of course. This is one of the most important rulings that has been issued recently, primarily as a reminder.

In the historical archive of the Jerusalem municipality are the minutes of a discussion with the mayor and his deputy a few months after the Six-Day War. A municipality official warned in the discussion that anyone could enter the building "carrying an unpleasant package" with no one checking his belongings. There is something captivating and nostalgic about the security naivete that characterized the early days of urban terror, and since then a person can hardly enter a cafe without a metal detector first being passed over his body. Terror has become part of the routine of life. It not only endangers life itself, but also the values of democratic society.

This is a process that is already evident in the United States, among other things in the damage to the rights of the arrested, the accused and the imprisoned.

It is evident in Israel, among other things in the equanimity that characterizes the attitude of most Israelis toward the oppression of the population of the territories: It seems as though interest in human rights has never been so negligible as it is today. And thus it can also happen that some bureaucrat suddenly proposes that in the name of the war against terror the government should issue press cards only to people who have been investigated and cleared by the Shin Bet security service. And it can also happen that in the name of the war against terror they will try to prevent a person from making a film against the occupation. This is what terror can do to a free society.

In such a situation there is nothing more important than reminders. This was the importance of the debate about the pilots' initiative: From time to time it is worth mentioning in public that a soldier must not carry out a blatantly illegal order.

And this is also the importance of the ruling by the High Court of Justice in the matter of "Jenin, Jenin." Freedom of expression: This principle is so basic, and so very fragile.