Israel’s Supreme Court discussed on Monday an appeal by reservists who fought in Jenin 'refugee' camp during Operation Defensive Shield and had brought a libel suit against Israeli Arab actor and director Mohammad Bakri.
Bakri created the film "Jenin, Jenin" in 2002 following the IDF’s Operation Defensive Shield. The film aroused fury among IDF soldiers and their families for depicting IDF soldiers as murderers who massacred civilians during the takeover of the camp, which was carried out following a string of suicide bombing attacks (including the Passover massacre at the Park Hotel in Netanya) by PA Arab terrorists, which had left dozens of Israelis dead.
Bakri claimed that Jenin, Jenin is a fact-based documentary, but in reality it is a film which portrays fabricated facts on what really took place in Jenin. The truth is that the IDF had refrained from bombing the camp to avoid civilian casualties, it warned residents to leave before the battle and left soldiers open to explosions and sniper fire from hundreds of Palestinian gunmen who remained in it.
To quote Yagil Henkin's definitive report in the Azure academic quarterly:
"For eight days, Israeli soldiers engaged in intensive house-to-house fighting in a densely populated urban area filled with hidden explosives. Only when armored Israeli bulldozers demolished buildings sheltering the last of the Palestinian gunmen was the resistance finally quelled and the full extent of the damage revealed: According to the United Nations, 23 Israeli soldiers and 52 Palestinians were killed ."
In short, while the PA claimed that the IDF massacred thousands of Jenin’s residents during an attack on the city during Defensive Shield, an investigation proved that only a small number of Arabs died, most of them gunmen. All could have left the city before the battle had they heeded IDF warnings.
Among the Zionist Israeli population, the battle's high IDF casualties aroused fierce controversy over the definitive dilemma regarding battles in civilian areas, an issue ignored in the film: whether the IAF should have strafed the camp before allowing soldiers to risk their lives in close combat in the narrow streets,, as it had warned residents to leave and given them the opportunity to do so.
During Monday’s discussion of the petition against Bakri, Judge Miriam Naor suggested that Bakri apologize for creating the film. The reservists’ attorney, Amir Titonovic, claimed that Bakri should not be allowed to continue to screen the film which contains false claims as if the soldiers had massacred the residents of Jenin. The discussion ended without a compromise being reached between the parties.
Bakri later told the cameras that he “will never apologize. Never. For something I didn’t do I won’t apologize.”
A verbal confrontation broke out outside the hearing room between Bakri and Attorney Israel Caspi. Responding to a question by Arutz Sheva’s Hezki Ezra if he has confidence in the court system, Bakri said: “I have no expectations from this day” and added that “no one in this world has a monopoly on truth, not even the court.”
In response, Caspi told Bakri: “You serve the enemy and made a film against us in the name of the enemy. Shame on you. You are an Israeli citizen but you betrayed the country.” Bakri responded by telling Caspi that IDF soldiers are “roused up dogs”.
Following the discussion, clashes erupted between reservists and Bakri’s supporters. The security guards sent the rioters outside and restored order. A verdict in the case is expected soon.
The reservists’ appeal came after District Court Judge Michal Nadav said that although Bakri had made claims which constitute defamation in his film, the plaintiffs are a “non-specific public” and therefore, by law, only the Attorney General is authorized to file an indictment against Bakri.
In response to Judge Nadav’s ruling, the reservists filed an appeal with the Supreme Court and contacted the Attorney General with a request that he initiate criminal proceedings against Bakri. The Attorney General refused to do so.