Israel’s culture minister asked the attorney general Sunday to order the investigation of a prominent Arab Israeli filmmaker who spoke out against the Jewish state during a visit to Lebanon. Mohammed Bakri, who is in Lebanon as part of the “Palestine Days” cultural festival, reportedly said over the weekend that “normalization with the Zionist enemy is treason, and the debate surrounding it is disgraceful and totally unacceptable”.
Bakri called his presence in Lebanon, which is officially in a state of war with Israel, “a victory over (Israel’s) racist laws”, in remarks carried by the Lebanese newspaper Al Akhbar. On Sunday, Culture Minister Miri Regev asked state attorney Avichai Mandelblit to launch an investigation against Bakri upon his return over visiting an enemy country and “inciting” against the state.
“The absence of a firm response from law enforcement agencies would legitimize this type of unacceptable conduct,” Regev wrote in a letter. The justice ministry refused to comment on the issue. Bakri told Israel’s television that he didn’t “believe a word” Regev said. “I don’t take her seriously,” he said, stressing he was not afraid of being arrested.
Bakri enraged the Israeli establishment and Jewish public with his documentary film “Jenin, Jenin” about April 2002 clashes 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.
The outspoken Regev, a former military censor who belongs to what is seen as Israel’s most right-wing government ever, has also repeatedly taken on the country’s largely left-wing Jewish cultural elite.
In recent days, she lashed out against a new film, “Foxtrot”, which won the grand jury prize at the Venice film festival as well as Israel’s best film award, making it eligible for the Oscars. Regev, who accused the film of “choosing to lie about the Israeli army”, vowed to change how public funds are allocated to the cinema industry.