Israel bans screening of ‘Jenin, Jenin’ after soldier’s lawsuit

The documnetary depicts stories from the 2002 deadly confrontations between armed Israeli soldiers and Palestinians in the occupied West Bank.

Bakri, a Palestinian with Israeli citizenship, said that he would appeal the court decision [File: Jason LaVeris/Getty Images]

An Israeli court has banned screenings of a documentary film about the 2002 deadly confrontations between armed Israeli soldiers and Palestinians in the occupied West Bank city of Jenin.

The Lod district court made its decision on Monday, concluding a libel lawsuit filed against prominent director Mohammed Bakri by Israeli soldier Nissim Magnaji, whose participation in Israel’s Operation Defensive Shield is portrayed in the film which was released in 2002.

Magnaji filed the lawsuit after he was accused in the film “Jenin, Jenin” of stealing money from an elderly Palestinian man, an allegation he denied.

Monday’s ruling said Meghnagi had been “sent to defend his country and found himself accused of a crime he did not commit”.

It ordered Bakri to pay damages to Magnaji of 175,000 shekels ($55,000) as well as 50,000 shekels of court expenses.

The court also said it found that some of the representations in the film – which describes the events that took place for about two weeks in April 2002 – are untrue.

At least 52 Palestinians, including women, children and elderly, were killed in the rampage that unfolded in a refugee camp, according to a Human Rights Watch (HRW) investigation.

Some 23 Israeli soldiers were killed at the time.

Palestinians initially feared hundreds had been massacred after an Israeli bulldozer demolished 300 homes, many with the occupants still inside.

The HRW probe accused Israel of severe human rights violations, including unlawful killings, disproportionate use of force, arbitrary arrests and denying access to medical treatment.

The film was banned in Israel after a few screenings when it was initially released in 2002, but the Supreme Court later overturned the ban.

‘Political decision’

Bakri, a Palestinian with Israeli citizenship, told the AFP news agency the decision was “unfair” and that the judge had acted on instructions “from above”.

“I intend to appeal the verdict because it is unfair, it is neutering my truth,” Bakri told the Walla News website.

“I will not apologise for what I did … [the film] was attacked ferociously by the Israeli media,” he told the New Arab.

For 54 minutes, the film depicts the stories retold by survivors of the massacre.

Without the use of a narrator, it pieces together the events of the massacre through the survivors’ stories.

Bakri said that he did not expect a better court decision in light of the current “political reality” in Israel, referencing the rise of the “far-right”.

His lawyer, Hussein Abu Hussein, characterised the ruling as a “political decision” aimed at “silencing any voice that differs from the Israeli narrative”.

The Palestinian Minister of Culture, Atef Abu Seif, decried the court decision, saying in a statement that the move is an attempt to fight the Palestinian narrative and hide “racist and fascist” practices of the “occupation”.

In addition to prohibiting any screenings of the film in Israel, the court issued an order to confiscate the 24 copies of the film.

There is no ban on the film on YouTube.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies