The New York Times - Ron Wertheimer
"Watching 'Battle for the Holy Land' may not give you a better understanding of
the horror there. It surely won't give you hope. But the program...does put a
human face on the intractable conflict, even if that face is seen in shadow or
mostly wrapped in a scarf.
Most of this documentary was shot by British film crews in December ,
when the confrontation between Israelis and Palestinians had not reached the
current desperate state. Still, between grim scenes of confusion and death,
fighters on both sides speak calmly in interviews about their determination to
carry on. Neither side will consider any outcome except its own version of
Modern warfare, even this gut-level conflict, has its public-relations aspects.
And all the interview subjects here are clearly posturing for the viewer. If
today's headlines are not enough, these bitter speeches show why the killing is
likely to continue."
The Baltimore Sun - David Zuarwik
"For years, PBS executives have vowed to make their news and public affairs
programs more timely -- usually with little or no success. But it would be
hard to imagine a more timely or relevant report on the escalating warfare in
the Middle east than Frontline's 'Battle for the Holy Land.' ...
The report, produced by British journalists for the BBC and Frontline, takes
viewers deeper inside the world of Palestinian suicide bombers and the Israeli
commando units designed to intercept them than anything I have seen on American
television. The access alone is remarkable. ...
...[W]hat truly distinguishes the report is the understanding it offers into
the current standoffs in Bethlehem and the Ramallah headquarters of Palestinian
leader Yasser Arafat, as well as the mounting body count from suicide bombings
and warfare in the Middle East. Watch this report, and you will understand the
military strategy on both sides, especially the new realm of warfare into which
the daily suicide bombings targeting civilians have taken the Middle East.
'Battle for the Holy Land'...divides the hour between the two sides to offer a
structural balance. But it also succeeds in the far more difficult task of
letting us see a little bit of both military cultures from the inside out,
through the lieutenants living on the edge of death in the promised land."
New York Daily News - David Bianculli
"... depressingly topical -- and even more depressing in that it not only
offers no solutions to the escalating conflict, but infers that no solutions,
no peace, may be possible. ...
Both sides passionately defend their bloody tactics, and no one asked seen an
end to what is called the 'balance of terror.' If you're looking for ways in
which the peace process in the Middle East could be expected to resume, or the
current showdown between Ariel Sharon and Yasser Arafat resolved satisfactorily
to both sides, 'Battle for the Holy Land' couldn't offer less hope."
The Boston Globe - Mark Jurkowitz
"'Battle for the Holy Land' ... won't tell you anything new about the deadly
cycle of violence and retribution that wreaks havoc on both populations. But
it will show you things you've never seen.
From a trip in an Israeli helicopter gunship targeting a Hamas leader to an
interview with a 'living martyr' preparing to embark on a suicide mission, the
hourlong documentary succeeds in its fascinating and grisly task of capturing
the daily routine (if that's an appropriate word) of warfare between Israel's
sophisticated armed forces and the Palestinians' determined militants. ...
Tonight's 'Frontline' wisely limits its mission, refraining from taking sides
or refereeing competing claims. It's true that Israeli officers are quoted
about the need to spare innocents, while Palestinian fighters talk openly about
the need to sow terror in the hearts of the Israeli public.
Depending on one's view of the struggle, that can be seen as either a
reflection of the asymmetrical nature of the battle or as a moral yardstick.
But decidedly, politics takes a back seat to tactics in 'Battle for the Holy
New York Newsday - Noel Holston
"...Ali Sufari, head of the Islamic Jihad, contends that suicide bombings,
which he calls 'martyr missions,' are a means of achieving a 'balance of
terror,' so that Jews in Tel Aviv will know the same fear that his countrymen
feel when a rocket-bearing Israeli helicopter swoops low over a Palestinian
camp. 'The human being who dedicates his soul to Allah and his people strikes
at the heart of the Zionist enemy by turning his body into a bomb,' he says.
The just response to such an indiscriminate threat is the fundamental question
raised by this deeply perplexing documentary. ...
If there's a remotely optimistic note in the documentary, it's sounded by the
mother of a 'martyr' shot dead after he and a friend killed two Israelis and
injured 14 more in Afula. 'If someone had told me,' she says at his wake, 'I
would have chased after him and stopped him and then surrendered him to the
Israelis. Before the death of my son, when I heard of Israelis killed by us,
I felt both happy and sad. As I am a mother, they are also mothers. May Allah
help them, too. Just as I raised my child, they also raised theirs.'"
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