Amos Oz, the famous Israeli writer of worldwide acclaim, is also involved with film. While he occasionally defends Israel, Oz always remains true to his left wing ideology and ends up undercutting Israel’s reputation and status.
“Censored Voices,” the new version of Oz’s never-released documentary on the 1967 Six Day War, premiered last month at the Sundance Film Festival. Oz and fellow kibbutznik Avraham Shapira had made the archival recordings with war veterans on a borrowed tape recorder shortly after the war’s end, traveling from kibbutz to kibbutz. (It should be noted that the soldiers and officers of that era were often from the left-wing kibbutz movement; today many soldiers and officers are from the right-wing National Religious movement.) But when they tried to publish what they had gathered, the Israeli government censored 70 percent of the material.
Director Mor Loushy made “Censored Voices” together with producer Hilla Medalia. As described in a recent Jewish Telegraphic article by Anthony Weiss, “What emerges is a vivid portrait of the war as it was lived by those who fought in it. In the tradition of soldier’s-eye narratives like ‘A Farewell to Arms’ and ‘The Red Badge of Courage,’ the movie allows the soldiers to depict themselves as confused, selfishly afraid, often stupefied by the sight of death and dying, and morally troubled when they encounter the enemy as fellow humans. There is little doubt that prior to the war, the soldiers saw the build-up of hostile Arab forces on their borders as an existential threat. ‘There was a feeling it would be a Holocaust,’ one says.”
Weiss continues: “Yet once the battle was joined, the soldiers find themselves besieged by a welter of conflicting emotions. They watch their comrades die. They feel terror. They find themselves killing.”
While I am not a veteran (our two son are), I’ve read and seen enough to know that feelings of remorse and regret after returning from battle are common. What I object to about this movie is that is one in a series of books and films which are fodder for anti-Zionists (and inevitably anti-Semitics) to trash Israel yet again for merely defending itself.
The fear of another Holocaust always lurks in the background for many Jews, whether they are in Europe, Israel, or even the US. We wonder, “What are the lefties thinking? Do they not see the existential danger in which we all find ourselves?” It’s not only Israel that is surrounded by enemies who wish us dead, more poetically expressed as “erased from the map.” Islamic jihad threatens all of the West, and non-fanatic Muslims too.
Diaspora Jews face a similar problem, which often is swept under the rug, by themselves and/or, by the government. Right now, France is the most blatant example. Would you want to live in a country where your religious institutions must be kept under constant security, with even that no guarantee of safety? What about being afraid to wear Jewish-identified clothing or jewelry in the street? Can the government protect you from the danger of being mugged, or worse?
Unfortunately, Jews find themselves in the situation where being called a “Jew” has once again become a pejorative, something which the post-WWII generation finds hard to conceptualize, at least in the US.
Consequently, we hear criticism of Prime Minister Netanyahu being “crass” and “embarrassing,” “elbowing” and “pushing” his way to the front of the line at the huge Parisian Charlie Hebdo march (the Jewish market victims were ignored). In fact, Netanyahu would have been excluded from the event, if not for his ignoring the French president’s opposition. As the unofficial “head” of the world’s Jews, Netanyahu certainly should have been one of the foremost invitees. But the French president was more worried about offending Muslims than in acknowledging France’s nascent anti-Semitism. In the end, President Hollande got even by inviting Palestinian “statesman” Mahmoud Abbas, who was himself marching in the front row.
Similarly, there is a huge kerfuffle, among Jews and others, that Netanyahu is “poisoning the US-Israeli relationship,” and expressions of “outrage” and “anger” at Israel’s leader for accepting a coveted invitation to address Congress at a time crucial to Israel’s present and future security. Who is the responsible party here? The world’s only superpower or its relatively minuscule and most stalwart Middle Eastern ally?
Documentaries such as “Censored Voices” are very dangerous, but not because they express heartfelt emotions which are politically correct today. The film is dangerous because it will be mined for ammunition against the Jewish state, propaganda that will only augment the already huge outpouring of hatred and bias against Israel, and ultimately, Jews. None of us must forget that the Six Day War’s goal was to throw all the Jews “into the sea,” following the Arab’s embarrassing defeat 19 years earlier, when Israel was initially attacked for daring to declare its independence.
Yes, Amos Oz is a great writer. He will probably win a Nobel Prize for his literary efforts. But as for once more targeting Israel for defending itself against fanatic Muslim jihadist, I accuse him and his younger protégés of overbearing arrogance and ignorance, at a time when Israel receives almost no sympathy from the world’s cultural and political elite.