Israel is by no means a “perfect” democracy in the sense of equal rights for all citizens. There are a number of reasons for this situation, some stemming from the reality of the situation on the ground (e.g. it is unsafe to make military service mandatory for Israeli Arabs due to their divided loyalties) and some stemming from the fact that Israel is a Jewish state (e.g. immigrant rights for Jews and offspring of Jews to encourage Jewish immigration). I plan to blog on this topic at some later stage. However, right now, I want to point out this news story that highlights the indisputable fact that Israel is a democracy nonetheless.
The Supreme Court ruled this morning, unanimously, that the film “Jenin, Jenin” – which contains “testimony” by Arab residents of Jenin regarding alleged Israeli atrocities – may be screened in Israel. The Court thus overruled a decision by the Censorship Council, and stated that the original decision to restrict the movie’s screening overly limited the right to freedom of expression. The Censor must pay 15,000 shekels in court costs to the film’s director Muhammad Bakri.
Education Minister Limor Livnat said several months ago that the movie, which portrays the Operation Defensive Shield warfare in Jenin of Spring 2002 as if it were an Israeli massacre of innocent Arabs, is a “severe blow to the memory of the fighters who fell.” Investigative bodies that looked into the warfare, including the United Nations, stated conclusively that nothing approaching a massacre took place there.
Justice Dalia Dorner said, “The decision to censor the film simply promoted it, and even if the film deeply offends the public, this does not justify restricting its screening.” The fact that the movie contains lies, ruled the judges, does not mean that the Censor can ban it.
Can you imagine if someone wanted to screen an anti-Muslim movie in any of the Arab states? The only ruling involved may be one involving the issuing of a fatwa.