Director Muhammed Bakri
Photo: Gil Yohanan

Accepting Arab slander

Op-ed: In name of freedom of expression, Israel fails to punish creator of Arab ‘documentary’

The word “lie” in Arabic is associated with a prevalent way of life in the Middle East. As not to be confused here, it’s important to clarify that we are not dealing with minor untruths, but rather, provocative, blatant and insistent lies.


Earlier this week, the Supreme Court held a hearing on the lie produced by Mohammed Bakri in the film Jenin, Jenin. One of the prominent scenes in the movie shows IDF soldiers forcing Palestinian detainees to lie down on the ground with their hands tied behind their backs; a tank approaches, and a frightened voice in the backdrop announces that the tank is running over the people.


The scene ends with bodies on a stretcher. Later on we are treated to interviews with residents who describe soldiers shooting the elderly, women and babies. The story is accompanied with music and images of the ruins.


Bakri explains that these are his artistic tendencies – intermixing scenes, voices and images and editing one-sidedly; lying in order to “tell” the story of what happened in IDF Operation Defensive Shield.


Had this been a case of fulfilling his personal fantasy – Jews in the role of Nazis and Palestinians in the role of sacrificial lambs –it would have been annoying and prompt a different kind of discussion. However, Bakri seemingly produced a documentary. Under the guise of art and with a budget that came from unclear sources he sinned, lied, and mostly slandered everyone who fought and was killed in Jenin.


Legal system stuttering  

A libel suit was a called-for step. With the support of the bereaved families, the soldiers turned to the court, which ruled that Bakri lied and did not act in good faith. However, this wasn’t enough. In the name of freedom of expression and fears of entanglement, the judges refrained from punishing the film’s producer and the affair dragged on through appeals.


One could have expected theState of Israel, which sent its troops to fight in Jenin, to offer automatic support in battling the slanderer. However, that is not the case. For eight years now, this battle is being managed by citizens who are financing from their own money the fight against the stain on their reputation during their reserve service.


The State only joined the lawsuit from the sidelines, the legal system is stuttering, and if this isn’t enough, some people around here are displaying lovely solidarity with Bakri and his artistic lies; a long list of TV producers, actors, theaters, and of course Arab Knesset members who miss no opportunity to do the wrong thing for their constituents.


Yet Bakri was right about one thing this week. We are all “drooling dogs.” In the name of freedom of expression we nurture de-legitimization and lies.



פרסום ראשון: 03.12.11, 16:23
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