Israel's Next War [site homepage]
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press reaction

Sam Allis · Boston Globe

"…The torque of the settlements as a political issue never disappears. They are once again front and center as Prime Minister Ariel Sharon seeks to close down those in Gaza while allowing a huge expansion of another on the West Bank. The timing of …[this] Frontline then, is uncommonly good.

Frontline excels at weaving together disparate threads of the extremist settler saga, presented over the years in isolated news stories, into a coherent look at the underground movement. The program includes chilling interviews with those bent on a holy war against the secular Israeli state as well as against Palestinians living on what they consider the ancient Kingdom of Israel. …"

Kevin McDonough · United Feature Syndicate

"... chilling look at Israel's small, violent population of religious extremists..."

Michael R. Potts · The Weekly Standard

"The documentary gives enough background of the Middle East crisis for the novice historian and gives us an interesting glimpse at a flavor of radical that we don't often see."

Israeli Press Reviews
(The program aired in Israel in October 2004):

Editorial · Walla! News

"... [O]ne of the best films aired here in recent years. A superb series by the director Dan Setton who succeeded in capturing a phenomenon, which for most of us had been as evasive as creases on cloth.

'Israel's Next War' did yesterday, for an hour what Gideon Levi has been writing [doing] for years, only from the other side of the fence: giving faces, names, and nuances to those who are perceived in the eyes of substantial sections of the Israeli society as an enemy that is equally spiteful to the Arabs as to the existence of the State [of Israel] -- the people of the extreme right.

Netanel Ozeri, for example, had vanished from the public's consciousness since he was murdered in 2003 as another sacrifice in the war of the extreme settlers against Palestinian terrorists. The film exposes the story of his death in a different manner. Ozeri, a charismatic young man, married to a beautiful wife, perceived himself as a biblical prophet and diligently worked on the next Jewish revolution. His friends are of the kind for whom Yesha council is Jesus [Yeshu] council. This is perhaps the only kind of humor that they are willing to demonstrate. After the rupture that took place within them following the murder of their hero, they planned to go out on a campaign across the country headed by Ozeri's dead body. 'So that he will be the last sacrifice, so that we will not find it sufficient to wail as in the funerals of IDF soldiers,' said one of his friends.

The story of Ozeri and his league of friends is without a doubt an extreme story. However, the truth is that the film was favorable towards the extreme settlers. It avoided comparing them in usual leftist simplicity to the Palestinian Shahids, because unlike the latter, they do not sanctify the death. Setton presented their willingness to sacrifice one for the sake of another, their insistence, unlike the moderate settlers, not to rely on the assistance of Palestinian workforce with the building of their houses so as not to exploit, he rescued the sensibility of the craziness.

All this, of course, is not supposed to convince the viewers to side with their activity, which in the bottom line does not cancel out murdering Arabs just because they are Arabs. In this episode, an attempt to grapple with them from a theological perspective -- the source of inner strength for these extreme Jews -- on the manner in which they interpret the Tanakh, was conspicuously absent. After all, on each verse that calls for revenge, as they love quoting, one may present in response 'and you shall love your neighbor as yourself.'

But even in this form, 'Israel's Next War' is an important film. Especially if you have viewed it from the left side of the story -- and despite Kahane's people it is hard to believe that it is possible to find too many of those who are not placed there. This is so because in the thicket of hostility, hatred and tension that characterize the extreme burning head of the Jewish-Arab conflict at this time, our best option to put it out is to strip all of the extreme sides - theirs and ours - of their principles and read them in a human, refined manner. Deep inside, they, too, must be human beings."

Ehud Oshri · Haaretz

"...This is not the first time (and certainly not the last) that television is treating the hooligans of the fundamentalist right and that is why the program is evaluated first of all, by that which is new. According to the first episode - not much [that is new], but enough to view with interest. To the best of my recollection, until yesterday I have yet to run into a direct documentation of stoning an Arab vehicle with rocks and iron bars (in front of the eyes of helpless soldiers). And I had never been exposed to the detailed and fascinating confessions of the convicted terrorist group of Bat Ayin who set out to bomb an Arab school for girls. It is recognizable that the work done here is an investigative work more thorough than usual (Abat Tal shir and Tzadok Yechezkeli), especially on the Bat Ayin affair. …

The first episode ends with the great wave of arrests in August 2003, which brought about the illusion that the Shabak had captured 'the second Jewish underground [Makhteret].' As is known, the big promise had burst like a bubble of soap and the question is how successful can the following episodes be in probing the shortcomings of the investigations conducted by the Shabak (whose personnel were completely absent from the first episode). In any case, the series has already contributed to a deeper and more clear understanding of the messianic, racist and fanatic ideology and spirit of the 'new Jew' who was born to Zionism."

Yehudah Littani · Yediot Akharonot

"... The protagonists of Dan Setton's documentary film ... the prisoners of the Bat Ayin underground, Shlomi Dvir-Zeliger and Yarden Morag … do not seem at first glance as merciless avengers.

Quite the contrary, at first it seems that they are poor of spirit and would settle for very little, [they are] somewhat hesitant, lacking any interest in the material world, willing to sacrifice everything for the idea they believe in. Only after things permeate, one gathers that the deportation of all of the land's Arabs is only one stage in their plan to destroy the State of Israel and turn it into a Halakhic state, to delete its current democratic pattern, including its legacy, institutions, and laws.

From reports and articles in the paper and the television news on the same group, it seems that the threat is not concrete -- just another group of insane extremists, one says to oneself, trusting that the police and the Shabak will take care of them. But after viewing this excellent film, whose makers had won two prestigious 'EMI' prizes in the past, it appears that taking care of this group is most difficult. ... Due to their isolationism and separatism, the Shabak became helpless and finds it difficult to penetrate into their midst and monitor their actions and future plans.

In their eyes, the 'leftists' are not the people of Meretz and 'Peace Now,' but the members of Yesha Council, whom they degradingly call 'Jesus [Yeshu] Council.' They do not make an effort to please public opinion and the press, and they do not ask to be depicted as law abiding and moderate -- they are against the entire law and order system of the secular state they hate....

...This is not a tiny and marginal group of delusional day-dreamers, but a group of people with iron will and fitting skills who at this very time are engaged, with a chilling composure, in planning the war that would change all of our lives from one end to another."

Editorial · Haaretz, Oct. 28, 2004

"….Today, nine years after that rash and bitter day [Yitzhak Rabin's assassination], the same [extremist] voices are expressed piercingly and with double audacity. 'The lesson has not been learned,' said the Minister of Security, Shaul Mofaz, in the ceremony. 'Evil and raging voices are being heard again, Halakhic decision calling for obstinacy, violent intentions and meddling with the parliamentary democracy and its sovereign decisions.'

Mofaz is not exaggerating. Following November 4th 1995, one may not consider a slur writing which promises 'we have terminated Rabin, we shall also terminate Sharon' to be merely empty words.

These things were given further resolve with the statement made by a former senior member of the Shabak, Yitzhak Dar, who said yesterday in an episode of the series 'Israel's Next War' that when it comes to another political murder in Israel, the question is not 'if,' but 'how will it happen.' Since the beginning of the right's struggle against the disengagement plan, the threat of terror has been hovering in the air: the lives of Ariel Sharon and other politicians are in danger, and so is the fragile balance at Temple Mount.

The Jewish terrorism may strike again. It is hard to detect, and even harder to fight against without breaking the rules of democracy or harming principles which are dear to the heart of every advocate of human rights, such as the freedom of expression and the freedom of movement. …

Be that as it may, there are times when the obligation of the democracy and of the sovereign state -- that are asking to carry out their legitimate policy -- to protect themselves overrides other values. One may still anticipate that Yesha rabbis will understand the need of the time and condemn the Jewish terrorism and its verbal expressions. There is doubt whether they will do so. The government, at any rate, has to take any measure, within the reasonable limits allowed it by law, to prevent a disaster that would set Israel on fire, and perhaps the entire Middle East."

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posted april 5, 2005

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