FIFTY YEARS AGO THIS MONTH
(Produced by BBC in 2007)
“This is a very well done documentary with some great archival footage. It not only documents the war itself, but more importantly, events leading up to it and the dilemmas faced by main characters on both sides of the conflict — Israeli PM Levi Eshkol on one side and Egyptian leader Nasser on the other. Both of these leaders were exposed to some pretty intense pressures and the documentary does a terrific job retracing all the steps, exposing the sources of pressure, motivations behind them, etc.
The other great thing about this documentary is that it also brings in a number of eye witnesses from both sides, who are all pretty frank about their assessment. It’s interesting to hear the commentaries from the point of view of Nasser’s secretary, high-ranking Soviet officials, a Syrian student in Cairo, an Egyptian soldier, a U.S.-born Palestinian journalist in Jerusalem, Jordanian commanders, the UN commander in the Sinai, CIA officials, U.S. government officials, Israeli generals, soldiers and fighter pilots as well as Israeli civilians. This really puts it in even greater perspective.
The other interesting thing is how this documentary illuminates the misinformation and bias about the real state of affairs perpetuated by many Arab governments and media. It’s interesting to hear Nasser’s boasts of almost sure victory in a conflict he instigated based on flawed intelligence from the Russians. He’s touting the strengths of his armies which are ready for war, unaware that the war had already begun. Yet, when it’s all over he refuses to take responsibility, blames the British and the Americans for intervening on behalf of Israel even when the Israelis have clear evidence from an intercepted phone call between Nasser and King Hussein of Jordan plotting how to find a scapegoat for their own folly.
But it also looks at the war and its outcome as the seed of the current conflict, the occupation of the West Bank and Golan Heights, the “land for peace” principle and the general trauma that the war inflicted on the Arab world. It effectively illustrates how we got to where we are now.
The producers got access to some pretty unique archival war footage, most of it from the Israelis. The one incident the documentary does not cover or even mention is the controversial Israeli attack on the USS Liberty, a US Navy electronic intelligence ship.”