An Israeli court has banned screenings of a controversial documentary film about 2002 clashes in the occupied West Bank by prominent director Mohammed Bakri, in ruling seen by AFP yesterday. Bakri enraged the Israeli establishment and Jewish public with his documentary film “Jenin, Jenin” about April 2002 clashes in a Palestinian refugee camp in which 52 Palestinians and 23 Israeli soldiers were killed.

The film was banned in Israel after a few screenings, but the supreme court later overturned the ban. An army colonel who participated in the Jenin operation, Nissim Meghnagi, then filed a defamation suit against Bakri after he was accused in the film of stealing money from an elderly Palestinian man, an allegation he denied.

In a ruling late Monday, the district court in Lod found in favour of Meghnagi and banned “the broadcasting and screening of the film in Israel”. The ruling said Meghnagi had been “sent to defend his country and found himself accused of a crime he did not commit”.

It ordered Bakri to pay damages to Meghnagi of 175,000 shekels ($55,400). Bakri told AFP he would appeal, dismissing the decision as “unfair” and insisting the judge had acted on instructions “from above”. Bakri’s lawyer, Hussein Abu Hussein, characterised the ruling as a “political decision” aimed at “silencing any voice that differs from the Israeli narrative”.

Israeli armed forces chief Lieutenant General Aviv Kochavi hailed the verdict as a “clear message of support for the army”. Bakri is an Arab Israeli, a term used to describe Palestinians who stayed on their land following the creation of the Jewish state in 1948 along with their descendants.

“Jenin Jenin,” which recounts deadly clashes during the second Palestinian intifada, or uprising, has been the subject of repeated legal challenges. A 2008 complaint filed by army reservists who participated in the Jenin operation was dismissed, but the judge chastised Bakri for not including the army’s account of the clashes to balance the testimony of witnesses. – AFP