On Thursday, November 24, the Israeli Supreme Court rejected the appeal of Mohammed Bakri, the producer and director of the film “Jenin Jenin,” against the decision of the Lod District Court in the defamation case against him.
The Supreme Court placed the responsibility for the four screenings of the film between 2010 and 2012 on Bakri in a majority opinion by judges David Mintz and Alex Stein, who believe that Bakri is also responsible for the distribution of the film on YouTube, even though he did not upload it. Judge Yitzhak Amit was in the minority opinion. The court decided to uphold the district court’s conviction against Bakri.
The judges linked their decision to the attack at the Park hotel in Netanya that killed 30 Israelis, following which the Israeli army invaded the Jenin refugee camp, during which over 50 Palestinians were killed, including 22 civilians.
The Supreme Court relied on the claim of a soldier, Nissim Magnagi, who participated in the invasion of the Jenin refugee camp and discovered that his picture appears in one of the scenes in the film, subsequently filing a libel suit against Bakri and his film.
In 2003 Bakri filed a lawsuit against the state in the Supreme Court after the Israeli Film Ratings Board banned the screening of his film. The Supreme Court overturned the ban and the film was screened in Israel until 2021. In 2011, five IDF soldiers filed a lawsuit against Bakri for defamation. The district court rejected their claim after determining that they do not have a legitimate claim because they are not recognized in the public and referred them to the Attorney General. As a result, an appeal was filed with backing from the state, but was rejected by the Supreme Court.
Judges Stein and Mintz chose to leave the compensation to be paid by Bakri to the plaintiff according to the district’s decision in the amount of NIS 175,000 and ban the distribution and screening of the film in Israel. Judge Amit, who was in the minority opinion, saw that it was possible to remove the scene in which the soldier appears, removing some of the restrictions on the film. He also thought that the responsibility should be removed from Bakri since a third party was the one who uploaded the film to YouTube. Therefore, judge Amit considered that the amount of compensation should be reduced to only NIS 100,000. However, the other judges in the case rejected the opinion of Judge Amit.
In his response to the court’s decision, Bakri said he regrets nothing, and added “if I could go back in time, I would reshoot the film and expose the inhumane crimes of the occupation army during its invasion of the Jenin camp.”
Bakri added that the court’s attempt to define the testimonies of witnesses from the camp’s residents who were there during the Israeli invasion as fabricated and fake is an attempt to cover up the truth. For, as an artist, he did not interfere with the content of the testimonies. This is the truth, which the occupation does not want to hear, because it exposes its exploits and crimes.
Mohammed Bakri’s friends responded that this was a purely political decision, which takes the legal aspect of the lawsuit out of context, adding “and thus ends the persecution of the artist Muhammad Bakri that lasted for about two decades.” Throughout the period, they supported Bakri, “we said it and it will be said again, we will not leave any of us who stand against the system of oppression of freedoms and the freedom of artistic creation.”