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Court Rules Anti-IDF Filmmaker Lied, But Won’t Pay Damages

High Court rules Bakri anti-IDF film malicious and false, but denies IDF plaintiffs' restitution.
By David ben Yacov
First Publish: 7/27/2011, 5:51 PM / Last Update: 7/27/2011, 7:40 PM

Mohammad Bakri outside the courtoom
Mohammad Bakri outside the courtoom
Israel News photo: Arutz Sheva

Judges of the High Court of Justice have ruled that Arab film director Mohammed Bakri will not have to compensate the IDF fighters for the defamatory and false content of his film 'Jenin Jenin’.

The film portrays IDF fighters as vicious war criminals, presenting falsified testimony claiming that IDF soldiers cracked the skulls of women, children and elderly people during the bloody house to house battle in Jenin during Operation Defensive Shield in April 2002

Thirteen IDF soldiers were killed in that battle, because the IDF refrained from air strikes to flush out terrorists so as to avoid hurting civilians, even though the civilians had been warned to leave.

A previous court ruling on the libel lawsuit against Bakri brought by reservists who fought in Jenin confirmed that the film was riddled with falsehoods and libel, but also found that Bakri did not have to provide compensation because Israel's law on libel does not make it possible to compensate a large group of people. A High Court Judge upheld the ruling on appeal today.

The Judges admitted that the average audience tends to believe Bakri’s lies, but the film’s slander is directed at the IDF at large, and not at an individual. As a result, Bakri doesn’t owe compensation to the IDF soldiers portrayed. They added that they were not comfortable with their ruling, but were confined to the letter of  the Israeli Slander Law.

The court had originally proposed a compromise, by which Bakri would not define his film as a documentary, in exchange for the removal of the slander claim, but the offended soldiers refused the terms.

Speaking to Arutz Sheva Hebrew , IDF Major (Res.) David Tzangen, an Operation Defensive Shield Jenin fighter and one of the plaintiffs explained. ”We get a ten-ton rocket fired at us, and they tell us we can’t respond. This hatred-propagating dangerous incitement must end.”

Tzangen added, “they proposed not calling the film a documentary. Just art. Art can lie. But MK Ahmed Tibi (Ta’al) keeps touting the film as the truth, and so will the audiences.

“The hospital Bakri claimed we demolished is standing tall. He says we shot women and elderly people, but no corpses were found.
We demanded the court rule that Bakri is guilty of libel, and must pay,” he said.

The reservists who filed the appeal expressed satisfaction with the fact that the court unanimously found the film libelous.