Israeli film gives voice to soldiers’ self-doubts after ’67 war

One of the most thought-provoking moments in Israeli director Mor Loushy's documentary "Censored Voices" comes when a soldier who fought in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war says the plight of the Arab refugees reminded him of the Jews in World War Two.

"I could see myself in those kids who were carried in their parents' arms, when my father carried me," the unidentified soldier says on an audio tape in the documentary shown at the Berlin International Film Festival.

"Perhaps that's the tragedy, that I identified with the other side, with our enemies," the soldier continues.

The soldier's testimony, and that of dozens of others, was recorded by authors Amos Oz and Avraham Shapira after Israel's spectacular victory against overwhelmingly superior Arab forces.

"They (Oz and Shapira) felt when everyone was dancing and celebrating, they felt that other voices are there and all the fighters who came back from the war are broken but are not talking about it," Loushy, whose film will be released in Israel in May, said in an interview.

The book based on the tapes, "The Seventh Day: Soldiers’ Talk about the Six-Day War", was a best-seller in Israel, but Loushy says it was never the whole story.

"They initiated the idea of making these conversations and it took them two weeks in 20 kibbutzes all over Israel and then they wanted to publish it as a book and the Israeli censorship censored 70 percent of what they wanted to publish…but even though it was very censored it was a very anti-war voice," she said.

The documentary shows some of the former soldiers today listening to the tapes they recorded, but as the film unfurls, the speakers from almost 50 years ago are not identified.

Instead, the viewer hears a soldier's testimony while seeing archive footage of the war and its aftermath, interspersed with news reports.

What comes through very clearly is that while the soldiers believed the war was just, several of them had doubts about forcing the Arabs out of Nablus and Jenin, and taking the old city of Jerusalem, giving the then in many ways secular Israeli state access to potent religious sites.

"Are we doomed to bomb villages every decade for defence purposes?” one of the soldiers asks.

"They knew our future then," Loushy said. "They knew how this war is going to complicate our life, they knew back then of this bloody circle of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict if we stay in those territories."

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