Daily Israel Report

Supreme Court Grants Freedom of Speech to "Jenin, Jenin"

The Supreme Court unanimously ruled this morning that the film "Jenin, Jenin" may be screened in Israel. The film spreads the myth that the IDF committed a massacre in Jenin during Operation Defensive Shield over a year ago.
First Publish: 11/11/2003, 10:21 AM

The Supreme Court ruled this morning that the film "Jenin, Jenin" - which contains "testimony" by Arab residents of Jenin regarding alleged Israeli atrocities - may be screened in Israel. The Court thus overruled a decision by the Censorship Council, and stated that the original decision to restrict the movie's screening overly limited the right to freedom of expression. The Censor must pay 15,000 shekels in court costs to the film's director, Muhammad Bakri.

Education Minister Limor Livnat said several months ago that the movie, which portrays the Operation Defensive Shield warfare in Jenin of Spring 2002 as if it were an Israeli massacre of innocent Arabs, is a "severe blow to the memory of the fighters who fell." Investigative bodies that looked into the warfare, including the United Nations, stated conclusively that nothing approaching a massacre took place there.

Justice Dalia Dorner said, "The decision to censor the film simply promoted it, and even if the film deeply offends the public, this does not justify restricting its screening." The fact that the movie contains lies, ruled the judges, does not mean that the Censor can ban it. Muhammad Bakri said today, "Whoever says that my movie contains lies, he himself is a liar... The movie has only the truth, even if it is not the truth according to the Israeli viewpoint."

Atty. Ilan Bombach, representing the bereaved families whose loved ones were killed in the Jenin battles, has asked the Court to delay the implementation of the ruling for 15 days. The families plan to ask for another hearing on the matter.

In February of this year, five reserve soldiers who served in Jenin during Operation Defensive Shield filed suit against the film's director Muhammad Bakri and against two theaters that screened it. The five soldiers demanded 2.5 million shekels because of the movie's "lies" and "slander" against them and their colleagues.

Bakri's anti-Israel opinions became known once again after two of his cousins were convicted of murder for helping a Palestinian suicide bomber blow himself up on a bus at the Meron Junction. Nine people were killed in the attack, including a Druze soldier, an Israeli-Arab, and two Filipino women. Bakri blamed the police and GSS for arresting his cousins, and in response to Police Chief Solomon's remarks that they were murderers, he said, "He himself is a murderer."