The initial impression is that this DVD contains a remarkable collection of archive footage covering, as its cover says, “the complete story of the wars of Israel”. After the opening title the DVD jumps straight to a timeline menu, with the first chapter “1917-1948 War of Independence” and the eighth “2005-2007 Disengagement and Second Lebanon War”. However once the viewer has jumped to that chapter the movie plays to the end, it does not return to the chapter menu after playing the required battle.
There is certainly plenty of invaluable footage of all the conflicts – for there is material on the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem reviewing Nazi troops which should be required viewing for all of the opinion that it is only the position of Israel’s borders that dictate whether the surrounding Arab states are able to live harmoniously alongside her.
The changed role of news cameramen in shaping our views of these conflicts came through very clearly in this two-hour movie. The news-gatherers of the Six Day War and the War of Independence documented events very objectively. Yet, move forward to the Second Intifada and something has happened to the news footage – now it no longer attempts to be an impartial observer, but is evidently recording shots to support a specific viewpoint. The unintended subtext of the movie was how censorship can manipulate media coverage, which in turn manipulates viewers’ perceptions of these conflicts. Freedom of the media in Israel means that journalists have ‘carte blanche’ to shoot anything they wish and showcase it however they wish. Thus we saw shots of the second intifada stone-throwers, but not their adult supporters transporting carloads of rocks to the ‘arena’ for use as ammunition. And we saw the area in Jenin where the non-massacre took place – but were not shown the area in context i.e just how small an area was involved compared to the town of Jenin.
The emergence of ‘news coverage with an agenda’ when covering the more recent wars was not confined to the news footage - unfortunately the commentary followed suit. So, in discussing the second intifada, the commentary described actions of the young stone-throwers in quasi-heroic terms; Arafat’s passing was also covered as if he were some kind of elder statesman with the stature of a wartime Churchill (the line followed at that time by the BBC’s Barbara Plett which resulted in her excoriation). Both issues would have benefited from some clips from Palestinian Media Watch or MEMRI – for example the clips showing the incitement of children to hate Jews, of Arafat calling the children to become shahids (suicide ‘martyrs’). The lucidity and objectivity of the first part of the movie was spoiled, for me, by the choice of material and commentary, which was seemingly written to harmonise with the ‘media agenda’.
For a movie showcasing such a stunning archive of news footage, more care should have been taken with the more recent “talking head” sequences – lighting varied during a shot (looked like someone may have walked in front of a movie light!). Audio levels needed proper post-production – the commentary was well recorded, but the live interview audio levels were either deafening or too soft! And what on earth possessed them to post-dub certain battle scenes with Wild West gunfire, complete with pinging ricochets?
This movie represents an excellent compilation of news footage,
and every school that teaches this subject certainly needs a copy in its
library. However the commentary of the more recent conflicts follows the
bias of the news organisations who supplied the footage and for me that
let this production down.