Israel’s Supreme Court lifts ban on “Jenin, Jenin”

Today, Israel�s Supreme Court lifted a ban on Mohammed Bakri�s documentary �Jenin, Jenin�, ruling that Israel�s film board, also known as the film censorship board, had overstepped the red lines drawn by the freedom of expression. �Jenin, Jenin� was screened three times in Israel before it was banned.

According to the court the board�s decision infringes on freedom of expression �above and beyond what is necessary.� The censorship board is headed by Likud appointee Nissim Abuloff. The board called “Jenin, Jenin” a “propaganda film” that would upset the Israeli public and might lead Israelis “to mistakenly think that IDF soldiers are systematically and intentionally carrying out war crimes.” Previous bans have been imposed on the grounds of decency rather than for political reasons.

The documentary’s main purpose was to give to the camp’s inhabitants the face and voice they were stripped of after the United Nations backed down — under US and Israeli pressure — on pursuing an investigation into a series of war crimes the inhabitants, and human rights groups, claim were committed by the army in April.

�Jenin, Jenin,� directed and co-produced by Bakri, who is a Palestinian actor and director, includes testimony from Jenin residents after the Israeli military operation �Defensive Wall�. The operation ended with Jenin flattened and scores of Palestinians dead. Palestinians as well as numerous human rights groups accused Israel of committing war crimes in the April 2002 attack on the refugee camp.

The documentary is dedicated to Iyad Samudi, the producer of the film, who returned home to Yamun after the shooting of the film was completed. On June 23, as Israeli forces besieged Yamun, Samudi was shot and killed as he was leaving a military-closed area with three friends.

Now that the ban on the film is lifted, the first screening has been set on December 8 at the Tel Aviv Cinemateque.

Its director Alon Garbuz told reporters that the Supreme Court decision �puts everything back into proportion. This isn’t a war of the bereaved families against Mohammed Bakri or the Tel Aviv Cinematheque for showing the movie, but a war on freedom of expression and I am sorry the families are fighting the screening. Their war should be against the prime minister and his government for sending their sons to fight against the Palestinians.�

Talking to the Israeli daily Ha’aretz after the verdict, Mohammed Bakri said: “I am happy that my appeal was accepted and that in the end people will be able to see the film and decide for themselves rather than be limited by censorship from a board guided by politics,� adding �I hope the Israeli viewer will believe what he sees in the movie, despite the time that has passed and the character assassination that has been done to me. It’s important that people know the other truth and I believe that Israelis can distinguish between right and wrong. This is a 50-minute movie of the subjective truth of people who were there after the army conquered the city.”

Related Links:

  • “Jenin Jenin” features at International Documentary Filmfestival, Arjan El Fassed (27 November 2002).