For almost 50 years, the distressed voices of some Israeli soldiers who fought in the 1967 Six-Day War were muffled by the cheers of victory. A new documentary has changed that.
Mor Loushy, director of Censored Voices, brings forth audio recordings narrated by acclaimed Israeli author Amos Oz, and editor Avraham Shapira, who recorded soldiers just a week after the war. To their surprise, the testimonies were unpatriotic.
During the war, the men said, they were fearful for their lives and very concerned about multiple issues: the direction the country was taking; the poor treatment of Arab prisoners of war; and the forced evacuations of Palestinian communities.
Most of Israel and the rest of the world viewed the war as a huge victory, but these veterans of the front lines immediately took issue with that narrative.
The documentary was chosen as the best Israeli documentary of 2015 at the Ophir Awards, the Israeli equivalent of the Oscars. It makes its local debut on Dec. 11 at the Ritz at the Bourse.
The recordings were partially censored by the Israel Defense Forces at the time, but a book based on the transcripts, The Seventh Day: Soldiers’ Talk about the Six-Day War, was published in 1971. Although Loushy said it was a bestseller that year, “my generation didn’t know this book at all.”
Growing up, Loushy said she was taught in school that the Six-Day War was a heroic narrative. However, this war was the beginning of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, which she said is when “the core of our conflict began.”
Once she heard the recordings for herself, she wanted the opportunity to speak to these soldiers and ask them what the war really looked and felt like to them.
“The conflict is an ongoing conflict, and it’s my reality. I have so many questions about it, about my future here,” she said. “The main voice of ’67 was the voice of euphoria — not a voice of what you hear in those tapes,” she said. “It’s a crucial voice, not only of our past but also of the present and our future.”
The veterans listen to their own 48-year-old worried selves — some with tears welling in their eyes, others with unapologetic shrugs of agreement — but don’t speak on-camera until the very end.
“They were censored all of these years, and they were not only censored by the idea, but they were also censored by the society,” Loushy said. “No one wanted to hear the pain, no one wanted to hear the other voice, no one wanted to listen to them and those testimonies. “For me, the decision that they would not speak during the film and will only hear the voice — it connected me to the end, that they are speaking but they’re silent because they were censored for so many years.”
They were very candid in the recordings, sharing misanthropic and anti-Zionist opinions and stories Loushy and many others have never heard before.
Even based on their confrontations on the battlefield, the soldiers predicted at that time that the Six-Day War would not be the last war Israel faces.
“I think that these voices represent a story, and the fact is that we cannot face the future without really understanding our past,” she added.
The crux of her film is based on her decision to share the veterans’ unvarnished testimonies rather than showing judgment for the things they’ve done or said.
“There are no clean wars,” she said. “I agree that war cannot be clean, and I agree that the price that we’re paying on war is too high, and I agree from the perspective of today that the fact that we stayed in the territory and the fact that we’re occupying other people, I think it’s a disaster. We’re living in an ongoing conflict that has no end to it right now.”
Loushy said it’s important to hear these perspectives and acknowledge the pain on both sides to really understand the price paid by society during a state of war.
“I think it’s an important debate that must be talked about because it’s a part of our history and our present, unfortunately,” she said. “I think that the message of this film is a very anti-war message,” and one that unequivocally states that a political solution would be more beneficial than one on the battlefield.
She added that many soldiers who fought in the Gaza War or ones before and have seen the film relate to it.
“They told me that this film really returned them,” she said. “[It] really, really touched them.”
It carries a universal message also of people that went out to the war feeling like they’re defending their lives and their ideas and their families and went through such a moral breakthrough during the war, that I think it’s a story that happens in so many wars, not only in the Israeli-Palestinian war.”
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