First screened in 2002, the documentary "Jenin Jenin" asserts that the IDF committed atrocious war crimes and deliberately slaughtered innocent civilians during Operation Defensive Shield in the West Bank town. Following the screening, the reservists filed suit for defamation against both Bakri and the cinematheques that screened his films to the tune of NIS 2.5 million.
The five reservists involved—Attorney Ofer Ben-Natan, Doron Keidar, Nir Oshri, Adam Arbiv and Yonatan Van Kaspel, were all on active duty— and acting as part of an IDF reconnaissance unit— during "Operation Defensive Shield".
Though the five reservists themselves do not personally appear in the film, they claimed that it slanders both their IDF unit, and the fellow soldiers with whom they served.
On their part, the cinematheques involved claimed that they enjoy artistic license to screen whatever films they deem fit. They objected to demands to censor films, or to ensure their factual accuracy. The cinematheques furthermore asserted that the High Court has sanctioned the screening of Bakri's film.
Bakri appealed to the High Court after the Israeli Motion Picture Association refused to screen his film, claiming it offered a skewed and one sided depiction of events in Jenin. In its verdict, the High Court stated that it is up to the public to view the film for themselves, and evaluate its factual accuracy.
On his part, Attorney Amir Titonowitz, who filed suit on behalf of the reservists, asserted that the High Court employed legal considerations in its decision that are unrelated to libel law. The Court's decision could therefore not be utilized as a defense in a libel case.
Moral debt to combatants
Ultimately, the cinematheques decided to settle the case out of court, and pay the IDF reservists the aforementioned sum as restitution. The Tel-Aviv Cinematheque will pay the defendants NIS 30,000 altogether, where as the Jerusalem Cinematheque will pay the defendants NIS 10,000 in total. The case was settled yesterday in the Petah Tikva District Court.
The plea agreement between the two parties essentially means that the lawsuit against the cinematheques was dropped; though the reservists still intend to pursue their lawsuit against director Bakri.
"This plea agreement is a major achievement," said Yonatan Van Kaspel, one of the IDF soldiers involved. "Every director will now have to think twice before filming blatant lies, and every movie theater will have to be considerably more careful about what they screen.
Right now we only have the battle against Bakri left," Van Kaspel continued. "I feel that we owe this as a moral debt to our friends who were killed or wounded in Jenin."