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Israel: Birth of a Nation (1996)

Unrated | | Documentary, History, War | TV Movie
Sir Martin Gilbert, author of over sixty books and the host of A&E's JERUSALEM, hosts this gripping account of Israel's difficult first years. Filled with rare footage, photographs, and ... See full summary »
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Sir Martin Gilbert, author of over sixty books and the host of A&E's JERUSALEM, hosts this gripping account of Israel's difficult first years. Filled with rare footage, photographs, and interviews with participants in the War of Independence, this is the definitive document of one of the turning points in modern history. Extraordinary footage filmed by Bernard Beecham, a British soldier, shows the reality of life in the fledgling nation, when all efforts were devoted toward winning the war. Written by Fiona Kelleghan <fkelleghan@aol.com>

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I still don't get why Israel was created.
5 October 2016 | by (The San Francisco Bay Area) – See all my reviews

Every other documentary I've seen that refers to the bight of the Mediterranean social history, does so benignly painting a picture of various religions and ethnicity, including Jewish people, living in a kind of pastoral harmony.

Ah, but then why does this documentary show fortified British police stations and British military forts dotting the Palestinian / Israeli landscape? Why is that?

To ask why Israel was formed seems like a logical question. But the only answer you'll get here from the participants is "we wanted to". Well, okay, but why? What necessitated the creation of a Jewish state, other than perhaps that obvious calamity of Germany during the second world war. To ask that is to ask the origins of antisemitism and anti-Jewish sentiment as a whole. It is the most important question, but you never get an answer for that in this documentary.

What you get is a historical account of the military conflict that led to the creation of Israel, framed as a kind of Jewish revolution for a Jewish homeland. We do hear of the UN's plan backed by the UK, US and I think France and a few other nations, to create a place where Jewish people could live free of persecution.

But there's not much beyond that, and the "free of persecution" I think is an elusive goal that ultimately only those Jewish people who have a vested interest in Israel can answer for themselves.

It's almost like any other documentary about any other military conflict, but with emotionally driven moments perhaps created to garner sympathy from the viewer.

My response is the same as General Ulysses S. Grant; "War is hell." And if you engage in the exercise, then be prepared for all that it is, and don't be surprised if people don't find your enterprise all that sympathetic, especially if they have issues with you to begin with.

And this two part mini-series documentary really misses that ultra important point. Every documentary or history book I've read about the American Revolution or the American Civil War has laid out the causes of what drove people to take up arms against their fellow man.

But we get none of that here. And I think that's ultra important on every level, because if all you're doing is selling the emotional struggle of the military struggle, then perhaps your basis for the struggle isn't all that strong to begin with. A good documentary would have addressed the pros and cons of creating Israel; who, how and what it would benefit, and who would it cost.

But there's none of that here, and to this day we get more and more news' reports of repeated violence on the fringes of that nation.

One wonders how Northern Ireland settled their disagreements. One wonders how the various Native American tribes in my nation settled their differences, or came to terms with "white" government in America. One wonders how the native people in Japan's northern islands haven't taken up arms against Japanese society, and are in fact now "dying off" because of becoming Japanese. How is it that these people came to terms, and yet Israel has not. And, further, why is it that Jewish people do seem to be targeted to the point of needing a UN mandate to create a safe haven for them from a country that was already occupied by another population.

It does make one a bit baffled. But perhaps that's another documentary for another time. In the meantime I would only recommend this documentary as a historical account of the military conflict that led to creating Israel, and not a source for why Israel was created in the first place.


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