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7 Israel Documentaries Worth Seeking Out

7 Israel Documentaries Worth Seeking Out
Israeli director Dror Moreh sits for a portrait in Tel Aviv, Israel, February 14, 2013. (Nir Elias/Reuters/Landov)

By    |   Sunday, 19 October 2014 01:53 PM

Many documentaries from all points of view have been made regarding the ongoing conflict between Israel and other interest groups in the Middle East. Here are seven worth watching.

1. 'The Gatekeepers'

Written and directed by Israeli Dror Moreh, the documentary consists of interviews with six retired heads of the Israeli security agency, Shin Bet, whose activities and members are strictly confidential.

Initially focused on internal matters under Israel's first Prime Minister, David Ben-Gurion, the organization evolved to counterterrorism and intelligence-gathering in the West Bank and Gaza following the 1967 Six-Day War.

"The Gatekeepers" re-examines familiar events from the candid perspective of the former leaders who don't belong to the country's military command. Moreh captures "pointed, sometimes devastating assessments of the failings of successive governments," according to The New York Times.

Topics discussed include "targeted assassinations" of Hamas militants as well as torturing of Palestinian prisoners, which at times led to death. The film also addresses the failure to prevent the 1995 assassination of Yitzhak Rabin by a right-wing Jewish extremist Yigal Amir.

"It is hard to imagine a movie about the Middle East that could be more timely, more painfully urgent, more challenging to conventional wisdom on all sides of the conflict," according The New York Times said.

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2. 'AIPAC: The Israeli Lobby'

Despite Israel's standing as a country rich in resources, it receives about $3 billion in economic and military aid from the United States. At the same time, the U.S. vetoes key measures in the United Nations that would offer more help. This documentary asks whether it's permitted to question such a reality, or whether the pro-Israel lobby is too strong that an alliance with them must stay quiet.

The film is based on the 2006 controversial article, "The Israel Lobby and US foreign policy," written by American political scientists John Mearsheimer and Steve Walt, which asserts that it's no longer advantageous for the U.S. to support and protect present-day Israel because of Congressional power shift and additional doubts regarding the current Middle East policy.

3. 'Elusive Peace: Israel and the Arabs'

Between 1999-2005, a constantly escalating and seemingly never-ending cycle of violence in the Middle Eat made for a dangerous Arab-Israeli peace process. This three-part 2006 documentary chronicles the efforts of several key figures, including Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, Minister Ehud Barak, Colin Powell, and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

It also looks at some of the individuals behind the suicide bombs and assassinations, and studies the peace talks against the backdrop of the rising Palestinian intifada.

4. 'Israel: Birth of a Nation'

Produced by The History Channel, this 2005 documentary focuses on the country's tension-filled early years. The film includes interviews with the participants, and employs archival footage, a lot which was shot by British military officer Bernard Beecham, who traveled to Israel explicitly to capture life in Israel's first days as a sovereign state.

"This is the definitive document of one of the turning points in modern history," reads the product description on Amazon.com. "(It) shows the reality of life in the fledgling nation, when all efforts were devoted toward winning the war. ... This is a remarkable chronicle of a nation won by courage and determination more than weaponry, the saga of a people finally returned to the land from which they had sprung."

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5. Israel's Secret Weapon

"Which country in the Middle East has undeclared nuclear weapons? Which country in the Middle East has undeclared biological and chemical capabilities? Which country in the Middle East has no outside inspections? Which country jailed its nuclear whistleblower for 18 years?"

So begins the narration of the BBC 2003 documentary, which goes on to tell the story of the U.S. and Britain preparing for war with Iraq over their undisclosed weapons of mass destruction. At the same time, Israel's nuclear, biological, and chemical arsenal remained uninspected. Meanwhile, Mordechai Vanunu has spent 16 years in jail for exposing Israel's secret nuclear bomb factory in the 1980s and is viewed as a traitor to his country. This 60-minute film tells of "the nuclear-bomb, Vanunu and Israel's wall of silence," according to the documentary's IMDB page.

6. 'Inside Hamas'

Jewish filmmaker David Rosenberg explores the reality of daily life in Gaza under Hamas and wonders whether a militant religious organization can graduate from international outcast to a powerful political factor.

7. 'Israel vs. Israel'

This 2011 film documents four very different Jewish peace activists — a Rabbi, a soldier, a grandmother, and an anarchist — who all want to bring peace to the Middle East and end the Israeli occupation of Palestinian Territories. As an added obstacle, they must endure scorn and insults from fellow Israelis as they seek a peaceful solution to improve the lives of Palestinians and their fellow countrymen.

Terje Carlsson's "powerful documentary that will stir up discussion and debate. ... The movie brings up the issues of nationalism versus religion and differentiates between the state of Israel and the biblical land of Israel that God promised to the Jewish people in perpetuity," wrote Keith D. Cohen, contributing writer for the Kansas International Film Festival.

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Many documentaries from all points of view have been made regarding the ongoing conflict between Israel and other interest groups in the Middle East. Here are seven worth watching.
israel, documentaries, worth, seeking, out
Sunday, 19 October 2014 01:53 PM
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