January 17, 2005
Palestinian producer: False film funded by PA claims Israeli army committed war crimes
By Aaron Klein
A Palestinian filmmaker who produced a documentary alleging Israeli troops committed war crimes in a refugee camp admitted in a deposition last week to falsifying scenes, using inaccurate information and obtaining financing for the project from the Palestinian Authority, WorldNetDaily has learned.
Muhammad Bakri, producer of "Jenin, Jenin," a documentary that claims Israel committed genocide in the Jenin refugee camp in April 2002, admitted in a deposition to inaccuracies throughout his film. The filmmaker is being sued by five Israeli soldiers visible in still footage in the film, which alleges IDF troops killed a "large number" of civilians, mutilated Palestinian bodies, randomly executed and bombed women, children and the mentally and physically impaired, and leveled the entire refugee camp, including a wing of the local hospital.
The documentary doesn't show footage of the alleged atrocities, but in some scenes, faces of the soldiers now suing Bakri were superimposed over "eyewitness testimony," and it was indicated they had committed "war crimes."
But Bakri, in a deposition obtained by WND, admitted he "believed" selected witnesses but didn't check the information they provided.
"I believed the things that I've been told. What I did not believe was not included in the film," said Bakri.
When asked about a scene in which it is implied Israeli troops ran over civilians, Bakri admitted to constructing the footage himself as an "artistic choice." He also answered "no" when asked if he believed "that during the operation in Jenin, the Israeli soldiers killed people indiscriminately."
In perhaps the most explosive element of the deposition, Bakri admitted his documentary, which was screened in theaters around the world, was financed in part by the Palestinian Authority. He said Yasser Abed Rabu, Palestinian minister of culture and information and a member of former PLO leader Yasser Arafat's executive committee, "covered a part of the film expenses."
Israel entered Jenin, which was considered a center for terrorist recruitment and operations, as part of its Operation Defensive Shield to crack down on increased suicide bombings by Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades. Israel sent infantry units to fight house-to-house and lost nearly two dozen soldiers to ambushes, Palestinian snipers and booby-trapped houses.
Claims of a massacre were immediately made following the operation by the Palestinian leadership, which spoke of upwards of 500 civilians killed and thousands wounded, but it was later determined 56 Palestinians, mostly gunmen, were killed, and 23 Israeli soldiers died in the battle.
Media accounts, documentary evidence and investigations by several international humanitarian organizations quickly proved there was no massacre.
Bakri's film features several "witnesses" describing "brutality" by the IDF, claiming Israel attacked and killed "many, many" Palestinians with tanks, planes and snipers, although Bakri never lists the exact number of Palestinians killed.
But a film by Pierre Rehov, "The Road To Jenin," seems to disprove many of Bakri's claims, and has been cited in the lawsuit against the Palestinian filmmaker.
One charge by Bakri is that Israel fired 11 missiles at a Jenin hospital, leveling the facility while patients were inside, and later wouldn't allow emergency personnel to access the area. Hospital manager Dr. Mustafa Abo Gali tells Bakri's audience, "The whole of the west wing was destroyed. Fighter planes launched their missiles every three minutes."
But in "The Road to Jenin," Rehov also interviews Gali, who shows the filmmaker the extent of the damage &endash; a small hole on the outside of a building, with the entire west wing intact. Rehov also provides aerial images of the hospital on the last day of the Jenin incursion showing all sections of the hospital standing normally.
With regard to Bakri's claim that ambulances weren't able to reach the area, Dr. David Zangen, the IDF chief medical officer in Jenin during the incursion, describes to Rehov how Israeli soldiers treated many wounded Palestinian fighters, including members of Hamas. Rehov even cuts to a scene of an Israeli soldier authorizing Gali in person to receive any medical supplies he needs for the Jenin hospital.
Writes Tamar Sternthal of the Committee for Accuracy in Reporting in the Middle East, "Even casual observers will notice apparent inconsistencies in the 'witness testimony' on which Bakri relies. For example, an older interviewee charges that the Israelis made Palestinian prisoners fully undress: 'Some people were completely undressed in front of their brothers, sisters and children, who were used as human shields.' Yet, the accompanying image does not support this claim; it shows a group of Palestinians, some of them without shirts. All wore pants."
Bakri also claims the IDF shot in the hands an unarmed Palestinian villager, Ali Youssef, and when he couldn't stand up, they shot his feet. But Rehov found Youssef for his documentary and reveals Youssef was standing in a housing complex with Hamas gunmen when he was shot once in the hand. Israeli medics treated Youssef's wound, found a congenital heart problem, no foot injury and brought him to Israel for treatment at a hospital in Afula. Hospital papers disclose Youssef was not shot in the leg at all.
Zangen says Bakri uses deceptive filmography techniques to create the myth of a massacre, a charge now supported by Bakri's deposition. Zangen cites one scene of a tank heading toward a crowd. The scene then blacks out, falsely suggesting the people were all killed, says Zangen. Also, Bakri, who Zangen says was not on scene at any time during the battle to get footage, deceptively juxtaposes images of Israeli tanks and snipers taking aim with pictures of Palestinian children, another charge Bakri has admitted to.
Some of the juxtaposed soldiers include the five who filed suit against Bakri in Tel Aviv court seeking more than $500,000 in damages. The lawsuit, filed in Hebrew and obtained by WorldNetDaily, charges Bakri falsely claims the soldiers committed war crimes.
The five plaintiffs are current reserve soldiers and say their professional lives require constant contact with Palestinians who may recognize their faces from Bakri's documentary and seek to attack them.
"Bakri's blatant use of lies and deception to build his one-sided case about Palestinians suffering at the hands of brutal Israel disqualifies it from having contributed to any 'big truth.' Rather, 'Jenin, Jenin' amounts to incitement fueling vicious propaganda that claims Jews 'are not even human.'" writes Sternthal. She credits Rehov with exposing the "inflammatory &endash; and defamatory &endash; falsehoods spread by works like 'Jenin, Jenin.'"
Aaron Klein is WorldNetDaily's special Middle East correspondent, whose past interview subjects have included Yasser Arafat, Ehud Barak, Shlomo Ben Ami and leaders of the Taliban.