The court debate saw accusations tossed between the attorney representing the soldiers, Yisrael Kaspi, who said Bakri was being paid by Israel's enemy. "You are wandering dogs," Bakri yelled at the soldiers. Security guards were forced to intervene to prevent clashes.
Justice Miriam Naor suggested at first that the defendant apologize to the plaintiffs, telling Attorney Avigdor Feldman to "check with Bakri if he is willing to say that he made a film which is not a documentary and, in light of the court's findings, apologize before the plaintiffs".
Despite his initial refusal, Bakri agreed to apologize to the plaintiffs "if they were offended" and to remove the label of 'documentary' from his film.
The soldiers, however, refused to accept the judge's suggestion and demanded that the film be re-edited. "We were harmed very badly and the mark of Cain branded on our foreheads. We were described as murderers and Nazis and this trial cannot end with an apology and not compensation," Kaspi said.
He also accused Bakri of colluding with Israel's enemies. "You describe us as Nazis. Until you apologize and ask for our forgiveness you have no place here," the attorney for the prosecution said, nearly causing a brawl which security guards were forced to prevent.
"I am not sorry for anything," Bakri asserted as the hearing began. "This is my belief, this is what I saw, and I have no regrets. Those who should have regrets are the IDF, the Shin Bet, and the prime minister, who are persecuting me."
The director said he had spent a few peaceful days among the Jewish community in Rome, where he was treated better then in Israel. "I showed parts of the film there. The responses were warm," he said, adding that he had received funding from the Palestinian Authority upon completing the film.
MK Ahmad Tibi (United Arab List-Ta'al) came to support Bakri in court, and said that there was "a crusade" against the director in Israel.
"The problem is that the focus of what is happening in Jenin should be on the victims – the civilians who were killed – and not the film. These are difficulties caused by the soldiers and all artists should be free to represent them as he sees fit," Tibi said.
Bakri heads to court for hearing (Photo: Gil Yohanan)
'Blood libels must be punishable'
The unit's doctor, David Tzangen, told Ynet before the hearing that he expects the court to support him and his colleagues. "Our soldiers should not be walking around with knives in their backs as murderers or war criminals," he said, adding that judges should prevent soldiers from being branded with "blood libels".
"People who spread blood libels must be punishable, and when a man fires in your direction and the direction of your state you must defend yourself and fire back," Dr. Tzangen said.
Bakri's film has been under the public eye since 2002, when it was supposed to be released. It relates the story of residents of Jenin just days after a lethal battle in the West Bank town, which was part of the army's Operation Defensive Shield.
The film, which Bakri contends is a documentary, was at first censored but then released publicly by order of the High Court of Justice, after a public battle that lasted two years.
But in February of 2003 five reserve soldiers who took part in the battle sued Bakri, as well as theaters in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, for libel. The plaintiffs are seeking NIS 2.5 million ($690,000).
In their suit, the soldiers claim that the film "poses as a documentary presenting alleged testimonies and facts" such as soldiers firing unlawfully, harming children, and trampling corpses – things they claim never happened.
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