Photo Credit: IDF Spokesperson
IDF forces enter Jenin to locate suspects in the shooting attack near Khavat Gil'ad. Jan 17, 2018.

The Lod District Court on Monday night ruled that the screening of the film “Jenin Jenin” will be banned in Israel and ordered the confiscation of all copies of the film in the country, the latest phase in 18 years of defamation legal suits surrounding the movie.

In addition, the court ordered the film’s director, Muhammad Bakri, to pay the plaintiff, IDF Lt. Col. Nissim Magnaji. compensation in the amount of NIS 175,000, as well as legal expenses in the amount of NIS 50,000.

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Footage of Magnaji was added to the film.

The judge noted that Bakri could not be protected under the Defamation Prohibition Act “when it is found that there is no truth in the substance of things published in the film, there is no good faith in their presentation, and no steps were taken by the defendant, not as reasonable steps, in order to substantiate the alleged argument woven into the publication.”

“We are dealing with a defendant who found it appropriate to produce a film that claims to be a documentary based on a group of interviews of those who are supposed to be residents of the Jenin refugee camp, “Judge Halit Silesh wrote. “The defendant chose not to examine, even minimally, even initially, the allegations and facts that came up in the interviews and found it appropriate to weave between the interviews a variety of images, videos and music, which have in themselves, both in the location and the way they were inserted into the film, to illustrate, and in some cases even reinforce, what was said in those interviews.”

Jenin, Jenin, directed by Bakri, allegedly portrays what Bakri calls “the Palestinian truth” about the “Battle of Jenin”, the clash between IDF forces and local terrorists in April 2002 during the IDF’s counterterrorism Operation Defensive Shield.

The film is mostly fictional and portrays the IDF troops and a vicious force that committed a massacre and multiple war crimes.

Since the film was released 18 years ago in 2002, it has received harsh reviews in light of lies about the portrayed events, and courts have previously criticized the film and the distortions depicted in it.

Previous libel suits filed by IDF soldiers who participated in Operation Defensive Shield were dismissed with the claim that the plaintiffs did not actually appear in the film.

The Forum of Bereaved Families welcomed the ruling, stating that “after 18 years of a legal and public war, justice has come to light and an Israeli court made a brave decision to stop the incitement and ban the distribution of the film on every possible platform.”

Everyone will know that “Muhammad Bakri is a terrorist of criminal incitement against bereaved families, IDF officers and fighters and against the State of Israel,” the Forum added.

Minister of Culture Yehiel Tropper stated that that “freedom of expression is a central value in a democratic society, and I will preserve it as much as I can, but freedom of expression does not allow false accusations and defamation. I welcome the court’s support for the IDF fighters and for the values of honesty and truth.”

Former Minister of Communications Yoaz Handel said that “after many years, Muhammad Bakri will pay compensation for his false film, Jenin Jenin. The determined ones win. The disseminators of the slander of the country and the IDF soldiers now know that there is a price to pay.”

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Aryeh Savir is director of the International division of Tazpit News Agency.