Mohammad Bakri: ‘art’ is his shield

Bakri's propaganda film is popular worldwide.

Bakri's propaganda film is popular worldwide.

Filmmaker and actor Mohammad Bakri, a ‘Palestinian resident of Israel’, may be prosecuted for criminal libel for his 2002 film “Jenin, Jenin”.

You may recall that in 2002, after a horrendous wave of bombings and shootings in which hundreds of Israelis were murdered and thousands injured, Israel launched Operation Defensive Shield in the West Bank to root out the terrorists responsible for it. One of their strongholds was the city of Jenin,  in Northern Samaria. According to the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in the period of 2001-2002, 57 Israelis were killed and hundreds injured by terrorists based in or directed from Jenin alone. During April 3-11, 2002, IDF soldiers fought a fierce battle in Jenin with members of Fatah’s al-Aqsa brigades, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Hamas.

After the first day, the fighting moved to the adjacent ‘refugee camp’, which had been heavily fortified and booby-trapped by the Palestinians. Nevertheless, in order to reduce civilian casualties as much as possible, IDF soldiers fought house-to-house instead of employing artillery and air strikes. As a result — as ultimately attested to by the UN — only 52 Palestinians were killed, almost all combatants; but 23 Israeli soldiers were lost, 13 of them in one ambush on April 9.

After the battle, Palestinian spokesmen such as Nabil Sha’ath, Hassan Abdel Rahman, Yasser Abed Rabbo and Saeb Erakat, claimed that Israel had massacred hundreds of Palestinians, burying them in mass graves or leaving their bodies to decompose under the rubble. But unlike the situation in Gaza, the Palestinians did not control access to the area, and the truth ultimately came out (although, as CAMERA notes in the link above, the fact that they had lied through their teeth didn’t seem to hurt the credibility of the Palestinian spokesmen with the international press).

The anti-Israel media, particularly in the UK, took up the story of the ‘Jenin Massacre’ with glee, embellishing it with ever-more bloody details and accusations of wanton Israeli cruelty. Alleged body counts rose to the thousands. And Mohammad Bakri’s crude propaganda film won a film-festival prize for “Mediterranean Documentary Film-making and Reporting”.

The film consists of after-the-fact interviews with Palestinians who tell ever more horrible stories, and ‘visualizations’ of events such as tanks crushing Palestinians which even Bakri admits didn’t happen:

Bakri spliced together video footage shot during the offensive in which an Israeli tank [armored personnel carrier — ed.] appears to trample a group of Palestinian prisoners. Bakri said there was no proof that incident ever took place, but that he was trying to demonstrate what an Israeli tank symbolized to Palestinians.Joshua Mitnick in the NJ Star-Ledger, from Electronic Intifada [my italics]

As I reported once before, my daughter met Bakri in Tel Aviv a few years ago and asked him if he really believed that his film was accurate. He responded that he was an artist and not a historian, and that although perhaps all the details weren’t accurate, the film was a true depiction of what Israel was doing to Palestinians. Bakri’s theory of truth seems a bit different from mine.

The definitive refutation of Bakri’s film is a short article by Dr. David Zangen, who was present during the battle as an IDF doctor, and even treated one of Bakri’s interviewees. It’s called Seven Lies about Jenin. Almost as interesting as his comments about the film is his account of the way the audience at a Jerusalem screening treated him.

The film was originally banned by Israel’s film board, but the ban was overthrown by the Supreme Court. Bakri was then sued for civil libel by five IDF reservists who had taken part in the operation. However, the suit was thrown out because the judge ruled that while the film libeled IDF soldiers as a group, it did not single out these soldiers, so they did not have standing to sue.

Now the soldiers have appealed to the IDF Advocate General, who asked Attorney General Menachem Mazuz to indict Bakri on criminal charges. Bakri’s response was typical: “This is the difference between me and the military advocate general: He is busy with murdering people and I am busy with art.”

Bakri is wrong. He is as much a soldier in the war against Israel as any Hamas bomber. It is unacceptable that he be allowed to use ‘art’ as a shield and to benefit from Israel’s free society as he does his best to destroy it. He should be indicted and held responsible for his actions.

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One Response to “Mohammad Bakri: ‘art’ is his shield”

  1. Shalom Freedman says:

    I am not sure it is wise to ‘indict’ Bakri. There will be an international outcry about the Zionists persecution of ‘artists’ and our denial of freedom of expression. He will be made a ‘free speech’ martyr.
    There is another way he should have been judged and condemned. The court of public opinion in Israel should have totally discredited him. The Media should have done this. If there had only been responsible journalists who had written about the subject the way this article does, then he would be outlawed in the most important way.. But in an Israeli media world in which the Radical Israel- hating Journalists have a substantial place this kind of total condemnation was impossible.
    Perhaps the best that can be done is what this article has done, exposing his mendacity and anti- Israel actions.