The roots of the interminable Arab-Israeli conflict can be traced all the way to the 19th century, but in many ways the current situation is a direct result of what Israel calls the Six Day War (the Arabs call it the June 1967 War, and an-Naksah, "The Setback"). For one very tense week in June of 1967, Israel stood alone against the armies of Egypt, Jordan and Syria; when the dust settled, the Jewish state occupied Jordan's West Bank, Syria's Golan Heights, Egypt's Gaza Strip and the Sinai Peninsula, and all of Jerusalem. The hostilities inflamed by many of these altered boundaries continues to fuel much of the crisis in today's Middle East, and this interesting new documentary from Israeli filmmaker Ilan Ziv (THE HUMAN WEAPON) manages to present a fairly fresh perspective on a controversial history that's been analyzed time and again over the past 40 years.
The crisis was sparked on May 14, 1967, by a false report from Egyptian ally the USSR, which warned that Israel troops were amassing on the Syrian border. Egypt, already mired in a draining guerrilla war in Yemen but sharing a mutual-defense treaty with Syria, is quick to react. Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser quickly calls up an army largely made up of undertrained reservists and rolls into to the Sinai Peninsula, which had been demilitarized and kept under the watchful eye of a U.N. peacekeeping force (UNEF) since the Suez Crisis was resolved nine years earlier with an Israeli withdrawal from the region. A few days later, Nasser evicts UNEF entirely and, pulling right up to the Egypt-Israel border, does something even more threatening: He states that the Straits of Tiran, Israel's lifeline to the Indian Ocean, are closed to Israeli ships. As anti-Israeli broadcasts in Hebrew begin filling the airwaves, Israel girds itself for war. Prime Minister Levi Eshkol petitions the U.S. to force Egypt into opening Tiran, but President Lyndon Johnson demurs; he knows Egypt and Syria are both allies of the Soviets, and is wary of igniting a global crisis. Israel is left alone to fend for itself. As trouble begins brewing on Israel's eastern border after Jordan's King Hussein allies himself with Nasser, a nerve-racking waiting game begins, before all-out war erupts on three separate fronts.
With interviews with insiders and a number of key players, and a wealth of archival footage, Ziv's gripping film is as tense as any Hollywood movie and filled with a cast of larger-than-life personalities. Nasser, once the great hope of a deeply divided, postcolonial Arab world has now bluffed his way into a devastating war. Field Marshall Abdel-Hakim Amer, Nasser's right-hand man, is a power-hungry rival who misleads Nasser into overestimating Egypt's military might. Eshkol, the mild-mannered leader who, though the butt of jokes, shows surprising fortitude and a determination to maintain peace in the face of his military's mounting war cry. Yitzak Rabin, the chief of staff of Israel's military, initially pushes for war but begins to have serious doubts — and a nervous breakdown. And General Moshe Dayan is a pulp hero come to life who takes over as minister of defense and leads Israel into war. Though Israeli-born, Ziv speaks to soldiers from all sides and emphasizes the utter tragedy of it all. His evenhanded reportage even partially deflates the Israeli victory. Faced with photographic evidence that Israeli forces did in fact expel Palestinians from their homes in West Bank villages before mercilessly destroying the villages themselves, he reports it duly and soberly. (In English, Hebrew, Arabic and Russian)
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- Released: 2007
- Rating: NR
- Review: The roots of the interminable Arab-Israeli conflict can be traced all the way to the 19th century, but in many ways the current situation is a direct result of what Israel calls the Six Day War (the Arabs call it the June 1967 War, and an-Naksah, "The Setb… (more)