When first released, this Israeli historical documentary had quite poor reviews, in the 50% range. However, having realized the anti-semitism bias that often turns up on Rotten Tomatoes (and other review sites), The Boy and I endeavored to see it anyway. Currently, the documentary is in the 90s for both critics and audiences which is, I suspect, due to its attempt to balanced.
Now, when it comes to “balance” and Israel, I tend to be suspicious. Because there is no balance there: The Israelis struggle with trying to find a way to co-exist with the Palestinians, who are dedicated to destroying them. This is definitionally impossible.
So, a “balanced” movie is going to be horribly imbalanced in terms of, you know, actual truth.
This movie makes for a pretty good history, for those who don’t know it. It covers the 19th and early 20th century questions of “Zionism” and the “Jewish Problem”, as we saw in It Is No Dream. It also covers the revolution and the Jewish takeover of Israel, if somewhat apologetically. It says the Jews had no choice, even if much of what they did—in particular, evicting the Palestinians—was suboptimal.
It’s enlightening to note that, prior to the revolution, Jews had been buying up land in Palestine (this is back when Jews were called Palestinians, and the people calling themselves Palestinians today were just called “arabs”, though the movie doesn’t mention that) and the arabs who were, essentially, serfs on the land didn’t care for this more peaceful form of settling. The Jews would modernize and thus displace the arabs, who naturally wanted to live their medieval lives forever. (Not to imply that is limited to arabs. Luddism was named in England, and flourished in Europe throughout the second millennium.)
It’s also interesting to note that this land was “originally” owned by the Turks, and by “originally,” I mean that they had more-or-less recently conquered it and were constantly squabbling over it. So the whole “you stole our land!” cry has a false echo to it. The movie doesn’t detail that, either, nor the treatment of Jews under the Sultan.
It’s also a little light on the history of Israel’s existence after the War, in terms of various arab nations attempts to crush Israel. And, of course it never mentions that there are many religions in Israel, but only one in Palestine. We saw the war stuff covered much better in Above and Beyond, and the second Prime Minsters movie. (Waltz With Bashir was devoted to the Lebanon adventure; it is not without merit even featuring as it does the existential angst of post-War western European-based cultures.)
We see a lot of Jewish/Israeli stuff, is what I’m saying.
It’s not a bad overview, although heavy on the Rabin and light on the Begin. (The docudrama Rabin: The Last Day was playing at the same time this was, but again, I think Rabin is seriously overestimated.) And history stops with the ’90s, leaving the filmmakers free to ignore the upshot of the retreat from the “settlements” and the subsequent attacks (as featured in Red Zone).
This is how “balance” was mostly provided then: By almost completely eliding the crimes of the Palestinians and Muslims in Israel, most especially their devotion to destroying Israel and all the Jews therein. But, if you know that going in (and the high 90s critic review tips it), it works as a nice introduction to the history of Israel.