“Censored Voices”, now available on VOD (http://www.musicboxfilms.com/censored-voices-movies-126.php), is the latest in a series of Israeli films that rue the transformation of David into Goliath. Typically they feature members of the IDF or Mossad wringing their hands over the evil that circumstances forced them to do. This includes narrative films such as “Waltz with Bashir and “Zaytoun” or documentaries like “The Gatekeepers”. “Censored Voices” is based on tapes made in 1967 by veterans of the Six Day War who after returning to their kibbutzim recorded their disaffection over what they had done and where Israel was going. Up until recently, the tapes have not been available in their entirety. Once you hear them, you understand why. The IDF veterans come across as men disgusted by their own brutality in the service of venal goals having little to do with Zionist propaganda.
As a perfect symbol of their outlook, the film begins with famed novelist and liberal Amos Oz listening to his taped lamentations as a soldier just returned to his kibbutz nearly 50 years earlier. He sits there silently listening to his recorded voice, as do all the other men now in their seventies accepting that Israel’s depraved status today was sealed by its tarnished victory in 1967. What they probably are not willing to acknowledge is that its depravity was preordained by its first victory in 1948.
If you want to understand Amos Oz and others of his ilk, I recommend Lawrence Davidson’s CounterPunch article titled “The Dilemma of the Liberal Zionist”. He writes:
In truth the term “liberal Zionist” has never made much sense. The only way to explain its survival is to consider the survival of the Zionist storyline itself – the story of Israel as a democracy upholding the Western model in the Middle East. As long as one believed that this was true, one could dismiss Israeli brutality as just occasional slippage from progressive political and civil principles supposedly underlying the state. Within this context, there could be liberal Zionists privately decrying occasional Israeli bad behavior. But the Zionist storyline was not true. We never were dealing with just occasional slippage but rather with the inherent brutality of a state with policies and practices designed to bring about racist ends (a nation exclusively for one group) – while conjuring up a remarkably durable cover story that it was, after all, a liberal democracy.
As a sign that the liberal self-justification might finally be breaking down, the film concludes with the words of the various IDF veterans as they reflect on Israel today. For the most part, they sound much more like CounterPunch contributor, IDF veteran and bold anti-Zionist Gideon Levy than spokesmen for Peace Now coming to terms with the reality that the creation of the state of Israel was neither progressive nor democratic—at least understood in terms of the rights of the people who had been living there for millennia.
As soldiers, they were first of all shocked by what it felt like to be a conquering power and an occupation army. Coming from the world of the “socialist” and secular-minded kibbutzim, they were left cold by all the messages they heard from rabbis, their officers, and government officials about how their victory fulfilled the “promised land” ideals put forward in Otto Preminger’s “Exodus”, a film that Dalton Trumbo would probably eventually have second thoughts about even though it helped him get a foothold back in the screenwriting business.
Since it would have obviously not worked in filmic terms to just play back the audio of the various statements made by the soldiers with a blank screen (even though the words are very dramatic), the film relies heavily on TV footage and other archival material from the period.
Never referring once to “Palestinians” and always using the word “Arabs” instead (a strategy to avoid recognizing them as a distinct nationality), the soldiers talk about their revulsion over forcing villagers to become refugees after blowing up their homes. They can’t help but to see themselves victimizing innocent people the same way their parents or grandparents were victimized in the 30s and 40s. As one soldiers says, “I had an abysmal feeling that I was evil.”
Mor Loushy, the young female director of “Censored Voices”, hopes that the film will help to restore Israel back to its ostensibly idealistic roots as she puts it in the press notes:
As an Israeli who is now raising a young boy, I believe it is necessary to expose these recordings to today’s audience. Because the Occupation has become an axiom and the settlements grow larger and larger, it is critical to stop and listen. Especially today, we should look back and see what society have we become in the 45 years following the war. I believe that returning to this authentic moment will teach us something new about this never-ending conflict. I believe these recordings are a piece of history that must see the light today, right now.
Given the increasingly reactionary tendencies of Israeli society today in which figures such as Loushy and Amos Oz are pushed to the sidelines by Likudnik politicians who would fit nicely into Hitler’s bureaucracy, it is doubtful that the film will have much impact on Israeli opinion. I do recommend the film for my readers outside Israel who are involved with BDS since it is a powerful testimony for the need to isolate and eventually break down the Zionist system that makes people like Amos Oz soul-sick and the disenfranchised Palestinians simply sick.