This fast-paced chronicle of the first two decades of Israel's turbulent history was produced by the Simon Wiesenthal Center, so it should come as no surprise that, despite a few passing attempts at objectivity, the story is pretty much told from one side of the dispute. It's something of a sequel to 1997's THE LONG WAY HOME, Mark Jonathan Harris's Academy Award-winning documentary about the post-WWII Jewish diaspora, which ended with the arrival of Holocaust survivors in Palestine. This film, directed by LONG WAY HOME producer Richard Trank, opens with the 1947 UN resolution to form the state of Israel by partitioning Palestine, and the violence that quickly erupted in its aftermath. Narrated with suitable gravitas by Michael Douglas, the film traces Israel's development as it struggles to establish a national and cultural identity while daily facing the prospect of annihilation. From the bombing of Tel Aviv that immediately followed Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion's signing of the Declaration of Independence (and his dire prediction that blood would soon follow) to the tense 1956 Sinai War, Trank presents Israel's birth pains in vivid detail; photos, newsreel footage and key historical documents read aloud by the likes of Anne Bancroft and Edward Asner add to the drama. The film also includes an incisive precis of the civil war that nearly erupted when Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Shamir faced off against the forces of Ben-Gurion, and ends with a gripping account of 1967's pivotal Six Day War. Unlike THE LONG ROAD HOME, which somehow managed to tell the story of the Israel's roots with nary a mention of the world "Arab," Trank's film makes some effort to describe the Palestinian predicament in sympathetic terms, and even includes several Arab interviewees. But it's hardly an even reckoning, and whenever admission of Israeli culpability is unavoidable, Trank is quick to share the blame with its Arab neighbors. To present a more balanced viewpoint would have certainly presented the filmmakers with a greater challenge, but would have made for far more interesting and enlightening viewing.
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