Reel Peak Films
Reviewed for FilmFactual.com & BigAppleReviews.net, linked from Rotten Tomatoes by Harvey Karten
Director: Alon Schwarz
Screenwriter: Alon Schwarz, Shaul Schwarz, Halil Efrat
Screened at: Critics’ link, NYC, 10/26/22
Opens: December 2, 2022
Anti-Semites sometimes charge that Jewish Americans are more loyal to Israel than to their own country. While this is absurd (nobody took a poll), there may be an explanation, a reason that such a charge may have at least a shadow of validity. The U.S. is a powerful country protected by two oceans with the most powerful military in history, spending more on armaments than the next five nations put together. When our country uses obscene weapons like napalm on a little state like Vietnam, intervening in a civil war that was not America’s business, moral Americans criticize justly. By contrast Israel is younger, precariously situated in a largely hostile Middle East whose people outnumber Israeli Jews one hundred to one. If a Jewish American criticizes the U.S. yet holds back on giving voice to moral wrongs by Israelis, the difference lies in the vulnerability of the Jewish state, a tiny nation whose existence was challenged by five wars.
Maybe films about the Vietnam War should proliferate while this film should be suppressed.
That said, it’s to the credit of Alon Schwarz in his sophomore feature to awaken our consciences to some alleged savagery of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) during the 1948 war of independence, called the Nakba, or catastrophe, by Arabs. Just as Germany has with a vengeance acknowledged its shame during the Nazi era in so many ways, so has the director of “Tantura” opened up wounds that Israelis might have wanted healed and forgotten. The Israeli government could presumably have censored the film, just as Iran does the same for movies that show Iranian vulnerability, so it’s to the credit of the powers-that -be to allow the release of Tantura.
Summing up, director Schwarz, with a script that he wrote together with Shaul Schwarz and Halil Efrat, wants us to know that during the 1948 war that earned Israel’s survival, the soldiers of the Alexandroni Brigade may not have committed genocide, but they were responsible (though some authorities dispute this) for lining up and shooting residents of Tantura village even after the fighting had ended. This documentary is filled with talking heads—divided into those with three attitudes: A) It never happened. Israeli is a particularly moral state that would never shoot unarmed people who had surrendered; B) it happened, but why open wounds now? C) It may have happened and may not, but who cares? Don’t give it more thought.
The interviewed speakers are backed up by archival still shots and motion picture films of scores of Arabs with their hands up who had surrendered, many of whom are seen bused out of the village. The excuse given by IDF people who may have carried out the massacre of up to two hundred eighty Arabs is that Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion had said, in effect, “do what you can to empty out the village.” After the dispersion of the Arabs, the village becomes populated with Israelis, who allegedly want to make sure that the Arabs do not try to return to their homes. Buildings are razed, flattened to the ground. People now relaxing on the village beach may be walking on mass graves.
The most important character is Teddy Katz, now in his nineties and weakened by a series of strokes. He and others relate how his Master’s thesis at the University of Haifa is responsible for raising the issue to a large audience. He now defends his point of view, though the entire validity of his scholarship is questioned by one professor, who believes that the writing is so sloppy that Katz should have been thrown out of the college.
At this point I would opine that the documentary should be seen by a wider audience, but at a time that anti-Semitism has grown in the U.S.—with that idiot “Ye” not helping at all—would Jewish Americans be masochistic to root for the spread of this doc?
In Hebrew, Arabic and English with English subtitles
94 minutes. © 2022 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online
Story – A-
Acting – B
Technical – B+
Overall – B+