A district court in Israel ruled on Monday, January 11, that the screening and distribution of actor and director Muhammad Bakri’s documentary film Jenin, Jenin (2002) should be banned throughout the country, and that authorities should seize all 24 cinematic copies of the film. Lod District Court Judge Halit Silash also ruled that actor and director Bakri must pay 175,000 shekels ($55,000) in damages to an Israeli army reservist who is interviewed in the film as a combatant who participated in the 2002 siege of the Jenin refugee camp in the northern West Bank during the Second Intifada.
In an interview published on Tuesday, January 12, in Al-Ittihad, Bakri said he had “paid too high a price,” as director and actor, adding, “I intend to petition the High Court against the district court’s decision.” According to a statement issued by Hadash, “Preventing the screening and distribution of the film Jenin, Jenin is part of the official Israeli policy of prohibiting any activity aimed at exposing its violations in the Palestinian territories. The extended criminal prosecution of the film over many years reflects Israel’s keenness to provide permanent immunity for individuals and entities involved in violating Palestinians’ rights and protection.”
Hadash MK Aida Touma-Sliman (Joint List) said the ruling constituted “occupation protected by the court.” She continued, “The film Jenin, Jenin has exposed the true wicked and criminal face of the occupation. Not only the government, but now a District Court as well tries to silence and conceal it. Mohammad Bakri knowingly fought against the odds, and we will continue to support him and the Palestinian people, fighting the occupation and oppression.”
The Palestinian Minister of Culture, Atef Abu Seif, decried the Israeli court’s decision, saying in a statement that the move is an attempt to fight the Palestinian narrative and hide “racist and fascist practices of the occupation.”
“The Israeli government should have investigated the testimonies presented in the film that reflect the horror of the violations committed by the Israeli soldiers during Operation Defensive Shield, instead of ordering financial compensation for one of the alleged perpetrators, and having its legal advisor join the case,” said Anas Aljerjawi, Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa.
Aljerjawi added, “The court’s decision is a continuation of Israel’s violations against the peaceful activity. The decision is a clear violation of international legal texts, including Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights that stipulated, ‘Every human being has the right to freedom of expression. This right includes his freedom to seek, receive and impart various forms of information and ideas without regard to borders, whether in written or printed form, or in artistic form, or any other medium he chooses.”