Published on Thursday, December 12, 2002 by the Guardian/UK
Israeli Censors Ban Film About Battle of Jenin
by Ewen MacAskill
The Israeli board of censors was criticized by both Palestinians and Israelis yesterday for banning a documentary about the battle in Jenin which took place earlier this year.
It is the first film banned in Israel for 15 years.
Israel's film ratings board said the documentary "distorted presentation of events in the guise of democratic truth which could mislead the public". It said the public could be misled into thinking that Israeli soldiers had committed war crimes.
The board judged the documentary, Jenin, Jenin, to be a "one-sided propaganda film".
The director, Mohammed Bakri, an Arab Israeli, protested yesterday: "It is a real shame for me because it shows that democracy in Israel is not reserved for all of its citizens.
"This is a clear political game that the Likud doesn't want people to see the movie."
Mr Bakri, one of the one million Palestinians living in Israel with Israeli citizenship, said he would appeal to Israel's supreme court to overturn the ban.
The board is supposed to take decisions on the grounds of decency alone, as it did with the last film it banned - a Japanese production that was deemed to be pornographic.
Raanan Shaked, a commentator in the Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth said: "The ratings board - and the cable companies which also decided to pull the plug on the film - consider the Israeli public...to be complete idiots incapable of judging a cinematic work for themselves."
The documentary was filmed in the weeks immediately after the Israeli offensive in the spring of this year in which Jenin witnessed some of the fiercest fighting. The Palestinians claimed there had been a massacre - an allegation now discredited - while the Israelis insisted there had been no massacre but only intensive fighting between Israeli soldiers and Palestinian militants.
Most Jenin residents, unlike the Palestinian leadership, did not claim there had been a massacre but they did claim there had been war crimes, with Palestinian civilians buried alive by Israeli bulldozers. The film reflects these claims. It also shows the destruction of a large part of the Jenin refugee camp and interviews with residents claiming that there had been war crimes.
Sonya David-Elmalea, a spokeswoman for the board, said the body banned the film because it falsely depicts fictional events as truth. The movie is "propaganda that represents a biased view of the group with whom Israel finds itself at war," she added. The film has already been premiered in Israel and immediately provoked an outcry.
© Guardian Newspapers Limited 2002