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Reservists sue producer of 'Jenin, Jenin'

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Israel's Reaction to the UN Secretary General's Report on Jenin

Reservists sue producer of 'Jenin, Jenin'

Five reserve soldiers who served in Jenin during Operation Defensive Shield sued Israeli Arab moviemaker Muhammad Bakri for libel on Wednesday over his portrayal of IDF conduct in his film Jenin, Jenin.

They also sued the Cinematheque theaters in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv for showing the movie after the Film Censorship Board banned it for commercial viewing.

"In the movie," wrote the plaintiffs' attorney, Amir Tytunovich, "IDF soldiers who served in Jenin during Operation Defensive Shield, including the plaintiffs, are portrayed as having committed war crimes against the Palestinian inhabitants." The plaintiffs are Ofer Ben-Natan, Doron Keidar, Nir Oshri, Adam Arbiv, and Yonatan Van Kaspel.

They charged Bakri with lying about the events in the camp and falsely portraying the film as a documentary. The movie included such allegations as the fact that soldiers "cruelly and unjustifiably shot a helpless old man in the hands and legs, deliberately trampled helpless Palestinian civilians with a heavy vehicle as they lay in front of it, used Palestinian children as human shields, murdered Palestinian children, executed a disabled and retarded man, executed innocent Palestinian civilians, mutilated and concealed their corpses, executed a bound Palestinian, shot helpless Palestinian women, indiscriminately killed men, women, children and old people," and more.

Not only did Bakri lie, but he did not allow the accused to defend themselves, the plaintiffs charged. "The movie does not include any response for any Israeli official whatsoever including the army, the Defense Ministry, or any Israeli soldier or civilian."

The plaintiffs added that the Film Censorship Board had banned the movie "because it presents the events in a distorted way under the guise of a 'documentary', misleads the public, causes harsh injury to public feelings and constitutes a Palestinian propaganda film against Israel."

They also accused the two Cinematheque theaters of going all out to persuade the public to come see the film and charged that in advertising it, they had displayed a photograph of Ben-Natan and Keidar taken by Van Kaspel during the fighting without permission.

Van Kaspel said the accusations were baseless and that the film should not be shown. "We received emergency call-up orders and went out to defend the State of Israel in a very tough battle that raged in Jenin," he said. "We advanced slowly from house to house in order not to damage property or harm innocent people. We lost 13 soldiers because the IDF chose not to use all the weapons at its disposal to prevent injury to innocent people.

After we returned home, we saw the film that portrays us as war criminals, and decided to fight for our good names."

Tytunovich said "the suit asks the court to prohibit the distribution of the movie, the seizure of all copies in the hands of any of the respondents, and assign compensation for the damage the plaintiffs have sustained." The lawsuit calls on Bakri and the Cinematheques to pay NIS 250,000 damages to each of the plaintiffs and NIS 30,000 to Van Kaspel for the use of his photo without permission.

In response to the allegations, Alon Graboz, director of the Tel Aviv Cinematheque said, "Many films shown at the Cinematheque do not reflect the truth. We are not responsible for the truth. Our job is to enable the general audience to see films. The fact that the lawsuit reached the media before us indicates that there is only one motive behind it to make headlines."

Jeningrad: What the British Media Said.
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