Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev on Sunday called on Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit to launch an investigation against Israeli Arab actor and director Mohammad Bakri for incitement against the state and visiting an enemy country.
Bakri, who visited Lebanon last month to attend "Palestine Week" events held throughout the country, said at a press conference in Beirut that "attempts at normalization with the Zionist enemy are the equivalent of a betrayal of Arab nationalism," the Lebanese paper Al-Akhbar reported Saturday.
In a letter to Mandelblit, Regev said Bakri's actions "crossed the line, figuratively and literally, visiting an enemy country and incitement against the state. I ask that an investigation be opened and that [Bakri] be summoned [for questioning] immediately upon his return to Israel. The lack of a clear response from law enforcement agencies legitimizes actions of this sort, which we cannot allow."
Jewish rights group Betzalmo echoed Regev's call in a similar letter to Mandelblit.
Israeli legal watchdog Shurat Hadin sent a letter of protest to Police Commissioner Roni Alsheikh, saying that Bakri broke the Prevention of Infiltration Law.
Shurat Hadin Director Nitsana Darshan-Leitner said that "if in Bakri's opinion any cooperation with Israel is treason, perhaps it would be best if he remained in Lebanon. There he is honored like a king, and here he needs to face judgment and serve prison time."
Bakri, who is still in Lebanon, denied the reported comments, saying his remarks were taken out of context.
"I didn't act in violation of the law; I said the same things in Lebanon, Tel Aviv and Ramallah. My family is here [in Israel]; Miri Regev can say what she wants," he said.
Al-Akhbar, which is affiliated with Hezbollah, devoted most of its front page to Bakri's remarks, along with a large photo of the Israeli director and actor.
"The fact that some Arab states have publicly discussed the possibility of normalization with the Zionist enemy is a disgraceful, unacceptable action," Bakri was quoted as saying.
"The Israeli government behaves in a racist [manner] and oppresses all efforts by Palestinian artists who live within its borders," Bakri reportedly said, referring to Israeli Arabs. "The fact that I am here in Lebanon is in itself a victory over the racism of the Zionist entity."