Sunday, January 24, 2010

BBC Storyville - Israel's Generals

This special season of Storyville is a trilogy about one of the most important aspects of Israel - the relationship between its armed forces and its politics. But instead of presenting a dry essay, we look at the problems through the inter-linked life of three charismatic Israeli soldier-politicians: Moshe Dayan, Yitzhak Rabin and Ariel Sharon.

It's an easy way to absorb over 50 years of Israeli history and the personalities are very colourful. These films are required viewing for anyone interested in discovering something fresh about the hell of Israel and Palestine.

Moshe Dayan

Dayan was the first Israeli celebrity. His eye-patch was featured on the cover of every news magazine. But he proves to be a more complicated person than one might have assumed. In the words of his son, "He was Clint Eastwood" - often nihilistic, an avid collector both of women and antiques.

Yitzhak Rabin

Yitzhak Rabin by contrast is a true-grit Israeli hero - a man whose principal virtue turned out to be his passionate obsession with detail, his utter principledness and total lack of imagination. The killing of Rabin by a Jewish religious fanatic, marvellously evoked in this film, was a great tragedy of modern Israel.

Ariel Sharon

Ariel Sharon is in some respects a harder figure to characterise. He is reviled by most of the world for his perceived brutality towards Palestine. But what does he really believe in? Well, this important film identifies his roots in the Zionist project. Sharon's family were the dissident right-wingers in the village where they lived - it was they who would put up fences around their property, and Sharon seems never to have lost the idea that the primary role of any Israeli is to protect himself from the Arabs.

It's a brilliant, despairing portrait of a man caught up in his own obsessions, wholly unable to escape from them.

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