BLOOD AND TEARS: THE ARAB-ISRAELI CONFLICTNR
Making his first feature film, director-producer Isidore Rosmarin probably intended something of a short, balanced history lesson—a primer of sorts for those interested in Middle East issues. Yet, Blood and Tears: The Arab-Israeli Conflict is nothing more than a collection of sound bytes, most of them biased, many of them inflammatory, by a variety of speakers. It is hard to know what good this does.
Rosmarin, a former cable and network news producer, attempts to tell the modern history of the “Holy War” between Jews and Arabs in the region. But during a relatively short 73-minute running time, Blood and Tears gives at best a sketchy overview using scanty details.
Rosmarin includes on-screen titles and patronizing “definitions” of buzz words and phrases (like “Jihad” and “Palestinian Authority”), selected archival footage of violence, protests and other newsreel events, and (most of all) talking-head interviews by representatives of both sides of the conflict.
The range of interviews is inarguably extensive—everyone from former Israeli Prime Ministers Ehud Barak and Benjamin Netanyahu to Jibril Rajoub, security advisor to the Palestinian Authority, and Ameed Al Masri, a Palestinian University student. But for some reason, Rosmarin includes unintentionally comical figures, like the president of the Family Research Council, Gary Bauer, and no one speaks long enough to shed any light on anything.
In fact, the ping-pong approach to the editing—from Israeli supporter to Arab supporter and back—is simplistic and dizzying. The only challenge to some of the statements comes from the counterstatements, but who is correct? The film doesn’t try to answer this, except in the most subtle, insidious way: by including a few extra critical comments against Palestinian terrorism. (For example, attorney Alan Dershowitz is followed by Orthodox Jewish New York Assemblyman Dov Hikind in just one of these imbalanced, double-whammy segments.)
Rosmarin also employs subtitles much more often for the Arab-born speakers, even when they speak English in a clear, perfectly understandable way. When Rosmarin uses archival footage of an Arab leader, such as Yassir Arafat, the material shows the representative in his absolute worst light. But where are the damning portraits of Netanyahu or Yitzak Shamir, a terrorist-turned-Israeli prime minister who isn’t even mentioned? Finally, the repetitive, banal background music (a cross between Klezmer and “Hawaii Five-O”) is downright annoying.
Even if it were more up-to-date and newsworthy, Blood and Tears: The Arab-Israeli Conflict wouldn’t be worth catching in a theatre and certainly shouldn’t be shown in classrooms.