The Israel Broadcasting Authority has agreed to delete a controversial scene in a television docudrama that cast Hannah Senesh, one of Israel’s mythic figures, in a negative light.
In the scene, Senesh, who left Israel to return to Eastern Europe during World War II to help rescue Jews, is a accused of breaking down during interrogation by her Nazi captors in Hungary and turning in two of her comrades.
Members of Senesh’s family and the right-wing group Women in Green petitioned the High Court of Justice for the removal of parts of the scene, which they argues would cause irreversible damage to Senesh’s reputation. They also stated there was no proof that she ever broke under questioning.
The Israel Broadcasting Authority, which said the show was a fiction based on fact, countered that any change in the program would impede freedom of expression.
Senesh was captured by the Nazis 50 years ago while she was on a mission to save Budapest’s Jews. She was later killed by her captors.
The family’s lawyer, Gabriel Levy, said the producers of the program were using the issue of freedom of expression to boost ratings and that their actions were coming at the expense of an individual’s right to dignity.
Hannah Senesh’s brother, Giora, said it would not only be a blow to the family, but to Israeli society, for whom his sister is a national figure.
“The message to Israeli society is, `don’t be heroes because if you are, then they will say you are a traitor anyway, and if you are a prisoner, you will be broken anyway,’ ” he said.
After viewing a segment of the video, the three-justice panel agreed with the petitioners that removing the lines would not be detrimental to the scene.
But they stopped short of directing the Broadcasting Authority to edit the scene, saying they did not have the authority to do so.
Following the ruling, the Broadcasting Authority issued a statement welcoming the High Court’s position on free expression. The Authority added that it would nonetheless remove the disputed scene.