‘Tantura’ Review: What Really Happened During Israel’s War of Independence

If you ask a random group of Israelis and a random group of Palestinians to describe the events surrounding the founding of Israel in 1948 (primarily among them the War of Independence, which lasted almost a year ), you can think as close as you can get to a world political “Rashomon”. The Israelis will likely tell the story of their nation’s founding as a heroic tale of Zionist destiny shrouded in historical justice. Palestinians will probably tell the story of how they lost their country, and would evoke that loss with the phrase they always used to describe it: Nakba (“Disaster”).

Hundreds of Palestinian towns and villages were destroyed by the Israelis in 1948, and at least 750,000 Palestinians became refugees. However, to this day, uttering the word “Nakba” is a taboo in Israeli society. Documentary by Alon Schwarz”Tantura“Discover why that is. And it does so by digging into what was, in Israel (and largely in the mainstream American media), forbidden territory. The film chronicles what happened during the War of Independence – a story far more evil and brutal than Israel ever wanted to admit. The film includes illustrative testimonies, and it comes from the most authoritative sources possible: the people who fought and lived the war – the Palestinians, but also the Israeli soldiers themselves.

The central character of the film is a man named Teddy Katz, now in his 70s and having had several strokes, but still a historical interrogator. In the late ’90s, while working as a PhD student in the Middle East Studies department at the University of Haifa, he put together a thesis on what had happened, just weeks after David Ben-Gurion announced his appointment. the state of Israel in May. On May 14, 1948, in Tantura, a Palestinian fishing village built around two small coves on the Mediterranean coast. Katz interviewed witnesses, half Palestinian and half Jewish who were members of the Alexandroni Brigade, recording their words on 135 hours of cassette tapes that we hear throughout the series. documentary. What he discovers, without much going on, is the chronicle of a massacre.

The battle for Tantura was brief; we say only 10 people died in there. “Tantura” was almost entirely concerned with what happened after the battle, once the villagers had surrendered. It is about the fate of civilians and soldiers taken prisoner. And what we heard – almost entirely from veteran Israeli soldiers – was appalling. There are stories of people being lined up and shot. There are stories of rape. There are stories of people being killed with flamethrowers. There are stories of robbery and looting. There is a story about a man in a helmet who came and shot a bunch of civilians in the head. And there are stories of bodies being dumped in mass graves. In Tantura, what is now an idyllic site that looks like a Greek holiday getaway, that tomb has been paved with a parking lot.

What we hear in “Tantura,” on tape and from some of the soldiers interviewed today, is not a description of the agony of battle. What we heard were descriptions of war crimes and ethnic cleansing. It is estimated that 270 to 280 people died in the Tantura Massacre. To give some perspective on that number, the number of Vietnamese civilians killed in the My Lai massacre is believed to be between 350 and 500. “Tantura” is a record of brutality and tragedy.

But that, in a strange way, isn’t even the documentary’s thrust. When Katz first submitted her thesis, it received approval at the university, and not so much about it. But when a journalist for the daily Ma’ariv learned of Katz’s findings and published them, the story broke. The Israel Defense Forces denied the claim was real and Israeli soldiers – the same people who gave their testimony to Katz – reported what they said and sued Katz for defamation. The entire Israeli system has turned its back on him. He was not even allowed to play his tapes in court.

Schwarz turned around and interviewed many of the men on the tape, all in their 90s. One witness said: “There were a lot of Arab casualties, and they were scattered, like garbage. “Not allowed,” said another with an awkward smile. What Schwarz gets is a range of perspectives (some confess, some deny, some balance the books). However, much of the story can be read in the faces of the soldiers. I read that most of them are too honest, in their old age, to lie well.

“Tantura” is about how knowledge of Israel’s conduct during the war has been suppressed, denied, and masked in Israel by an anti-mythology. In the documentary, historian Adam Raz describes “the DNA of the Zionist story” how the Israelis were the most moral army on earth. Ilan Pappe, professor emeritus of the University of Haifa, said, “I think the image of Israel as a virtuous society is something that I have not seen anywhere else in the world. We are ‘The Chosen One’. This is part of Israel’s self-identification. And I think it’s very difficult for the Israelis to admit that they commit war crimes. Because the Zionist project is fundamentally problematic… You cannot create a safe haven by creating a disaster for others.”

In other words, the poignant accusation made in “Tantura” – that Israel committed war crimes in 1948 and covered it up – is not merely a matter of calling Israel hypocritical. That’s the case when the rooster crowed home. It is about the way in which the reality of being held back in the founding of Israel is an important aspect of what has fueled the Arab-Israeli crisis for seven decades. Of course, observers from around the world might say: So what’s new? If you’ve read his Noam Chomsky, none of this becomes news. However, the extent to which the reality has been masked in Israel, and to a large extent in the United States, remains puzzling.

“Tantura” also documents the expulsion of Palestinians from their homeland in 1948, and how that was accomplished with the help of the global media. Palestinians are ripped from homes and villages and sent in belongings, but Schwarz documents how the Israelis brought in camera crews from around the world, including one from MGM, to create a news release. fake news of what’s going on, making it look relatively light. “Tantura” kept an eye on David Ben-Gurion by noting how in the 1950s he had conducted studies and asked them to illustrate the point left by the Arabs in their own way.

Given how much criticism Israel has received in recent years for the ruthlessness of its settlement program, and for a system that is equally just and sympathetic to a statesman like Jimmy Carter, depicts, in 2007, as racist, a documentary documenting Israel’s hidden sins. The military past seems to be of only distant relevance. However, as “Tantura” makes it clear, these lies are ghosts that have continued to return to haunt Israel. That’s exactly why the lies persisted: because the Israelis knew that their occupation of a “moral high ground” was based on elevating those lies to myth. “Tantura” is far from the last word on this topic. It was like a salvo explosion that, for Israel, raised the stakes of truth.

https://variety.com/2022/film/reviews/tantura-review-what-really-went-on-during-israels-war-of-independence-1235167565/ ‘Tantura’ Review: What Really Happened During Israel’s War of Independence

Fry Electronics Team

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