Regev urges Arab Israeli director probed for saying Israel ties are treason

Culture minister asks attorney-general to look into comments by Mohammad Bakri, made while visiting Lebanon, against Arabs normalizing relations with Israel

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Culture and Sport Minister Miri Regev arrives for the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem,  June 18, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Culture and Sport Minister Miri Regev arrives for the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, June 18, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev on Sunday asked the attorney-general to investigate Arab Israeli film producer Mohammad Bakri for reportedly declaring, while on a visit to Lebanon, that it is treason for the Arab state to have ties with Israel.

Regev wrote to Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit asking him to probe Bakri for “visiting an enemy state and inciting against the state [of Israel].”

Bakri, a film actor and director, is in Lebanon to take part in the annual “Palestinian Days” film festival.

“Bakri, who is known for his confrontational position regarding Israel, dared to call Arab states that have ties with Israel ‘traitors’ — he claims that Israel is nothing more than a Zionist enemy [and] that any contact with it is considered treason,” Regev wrote.

In response, Bakri told Channel 2 that he was not in the least concerned by Regev.

“I don’t believe a single word that comes out of her mouth and I don’t take her seriously,” he said. “It is very simple. I fear only God — not Israelis, not the Israeli government, and certainly not Regev.”

Regev’s call for action came after a Lebanese newspaper associated with the Hezbollah terror group on Saturday carried a picture of Bakri on its front page and quoted him denouncing ties between Israel and the Arab world.

The Al Akhbar daily reported that a day earlier Bakri held a news conference in Beirut during which he said that normalization of ties with the “Zionist enemy” is treason and that discussion around the subject is “embarrassing and unacceptable.” Bakri also reportedly declared that his visit to Lebanon, considered by Israel an enemy state, was a triumph over racist laws.

On Saturday Bakri told the Walla news website that he was quoted out of context and that he was speaking from the point of view of Palestinian refugees in Arab states and not as he sees things as an Israeli citizen.

Screen capture from an interview with Israel-Arab film producer Mohammad Bakri. (YouTube/Stay Human The Reading Movie)

“I said many deeper and more important things, and I answered in earnest all the questions on various subjects, especially everything relating to my work in theater and cinema, and not on politics which is not exactly my field,” Bakri said. “At the end of the press conference I was asked my opinion on the normalization of Arab producers from the Arab world with Israel and I answered that it is forbidden for Arab producers outside of Israel to cooperate with Israel, as long it is occupying another people and dispossessing the Palestinians of their rights.”

“It was clear that I don’t include myself because I live in Israel and not outside of it. If I lived in a refugee camp in Lebanon of course I wouldn’t cooperate with the state [Israel] due to which I would be homeless and deprived of my basic rights.”

Earlier this month Regev asked the Finance Ministry to reduce funding for a Jaffa theater that Bakri co-directs after it put on two performances of readings from Palestinian prisoners that the minister considered to be incitement to terror.

Bakri caused controversy in the past with his 2002 film “Jenin, Jenin,” which falsely alleged the IDF carried out a massacre of civilians in the West Bank city during the Second Intifada.

The release of “Jenin, Jenin” prompted five IDF reservists to sue Bakri for defamation, arguing that they had been depicted as war criminals. The Supreme Court ultimately dismissed the case, although it ruled that the movie falsely accused and slandered the soldiers.

Regev has threatened several times in the past to cut state funding for cultural productions and organizations that appear to be disloyal to the Jewish state.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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