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Israel attorney general joins lawsuit against Palestinian filmmaker

Palestinian filmmaker Mohammad Bakri [Eman /Anadolu Agency]

Israeli Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit has joined a lawsuit by an army reservist against Palestinian filmmaker Mohammad Bakri, over the latter's 2002 film "Jenin, Jenin".

According to a report in Haaretz, "the unusual move" will see the top legal official support Nissim Meghnagi's defamation of character suit against the acclaimed director due to the "public interest in the case". The paper says this is a "rarely exercised" privilege of the Attorney General.

Meghnagi is a veteran of "Operation Defensive Shield", which saw Israeli occupation forces conduct large-scale attacks on Palestinian population centres. In Jenin refugee camp, more than 50 residents were killed, including some two dozen non-combatants.

In 2016, Meghnagi sued Bakri for 2.6 million shekels ($0.74 million), claiming that "he appears in and was named in the movie, and that the film libelled Israeli soldiers by presenting them as war criminals".

"Bakri argues that the purpose of the suit is persecution and political silencing, and says the case is without merit", reported Haaretz, since Meghnagi only appears on camera for a few seconds, and "he cannot be identified as the person behind the deeds described in the movie".

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Haaretz says that "Mendelblit's announcement throwing his weight behind the suit followed requests from Meghnagi himself and from Israel Defence Force Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot."

Five years ago, a district court rejected a lawsuit by five other soldiers who participated in "Operation Defensive Shield", a decision upheld by the Supreme Court.

Then Attorney General Menachem Mazuz sided with the soldiers, but Mendelblit said in his announcement that "in contrast to the previous proceedings, this plaintiff actually appears in the movie while the narrator accuses the Israeli soldiers of looting".

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