Mohammad Bakri
Photo: Gil Yohanan

Troops lose suit against Bakri

Supreme Court rules 'Jenin Jenin' not libelous film because characters do not portray specific soldiers

The Supreme Court rejected on Wednesday an appeal filed by soldiers who fought in Jenin during Operation Defensive Shield against Arab director Mohammad Bakri for his portrayal of troops in the film 'Jenin Jenin'.


The soldiers claimed in the appeal that the film, labeled at first a documentary, was libelous, and sued the director for compensation.



Judges debating the case say they recognize that the charges waged against soldiers by the film "place them on the same level as the worst of the war criminals and murderers", they concede that "the average viewer does not recognize slander of this group of IDF soldiers who fought in Jenin".


Justice Yoram Danziger called the case borderline, but said the panel of judges had decided in the end that the film does not make any claims about specific IDF soldiers, and cannot therefore be called slanderous to the plaintiffs.


He added that the average viewer sees the characters in the film as representatives of any number of soldiers, hundreds or even thousands. But Danziger stressed that the characters' actions, such as willful killing of innocent people, "are in direct violation of both the law and IDF values".


The justice added that his decision does not disregard the fact that soldiers were hurt by the film.


The attorney representing the plaintiffs, Amir Titonovitch, told Ynet that although his clients were disappointed, "we are satisfied that each of the three judges stressed that the film was full of lies, that this was very serious slander and that Bakri could claim no legal defense".


"Each of the judges stressed that he feels great discomfort at having to reject the appeal, only because a technical order in the law that does not allow claims to be filed based on the libel of an entire public," he 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 sought NIS 2.5 million ($690,000).


Though their suit was rejected in 2008, the soldiers received backing from former Attorney General Menachem Mazuz and decided to appeal to the Supreme Court. Mazuz said he would not indict Bakri, but that he would support the soldiers in their legal battle.


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.



פרסום ראשון: 07.27.11, 14:25
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