In the twenty years after its
creation by declaration of the United Nations, the new state of Israel was torn
by war and internal conflict. In Search of Peace: Part One 1948-1967
recounts the events of those years, using extensive archival footage as well as
interviews to give a detailed depiction of the birth of Israel. While it's not
precisely a balanced or objective look at the topic, In Search of Peace offers
a reasonably informative look at the subject.
In Search of Peace: Part One
picks up exactly where the previous documentary from the same filmmakers, The Long Way Home,
leaves off (thus mitigating some of the flaws of the earlier documentary, which
stops very abruptly). It opens with a jump forward to1993, at the signing of a
peace accord with Palestine. Of course, ten years on, we know that the conflict
has continued, though varying in intensity; the peace of the film's title has
proved to be elusive.
The film does highlight some
interesting aspects of the origins of Israel. For instance, we see how the
pressure to defend the newly-created state encouraged total gender equality,
with women fighting equally side by side with men; for 1948, this was quite
ahead of their time. It's also interesting to see a few glimpses of the
economic and social difficulties of assimilating hundreds of thousands of
refugee Jews, while also rebuilding the destruction of the war.
However, it's abundantly clear
that In Search of Peace isn't really aiming for a balanced look at the
Israeli situation. At the very beginning of the film, it's mentioned that the
Arabs in Palestine objected to the creation of Israel, saying that they had
lived in that area for 700 years and had a claim on the land. The counter-argument
was that the Jews had a previous claim from thousands of years earlier; when
we're talking about spans of time like this, far beyond living memory, does it
even make any sense to discuss claims of precedence? This issue is not even
discussed, even though it's at the heart of the entire Arab-Israeli conflict.
How can a documentary fairly treat its subject when it overlooks the core of
the issue? The film does show that atrocities took place on both sides from the
very beginning, from Jewish attacks on the inhabitants of an Arab village near
Jerusalem to Arab retaliation on captive Jewish fighters. But the Jewish
attacks are denounced as those of extremists, not representative of the new
Israeli nation, while the Arab attacks are not.
We see the Jewish fighters and
hear from them as they passionately describe their belief in their new state;
we hear the sorrowful stories of the Jewish settlers who became refugees as the
Arab armies shelled Tel Aviv and besieged Jerusalem. What about the plight of
the Palestinians whose land was annexed? To be sure, some attention is paid to
the experiences of the Arabs in Israel, including Israel's appropriation of
Arab-owned property and its refusal to allow any of the Arabs made refugees by
the Israeli war to return to their homes in Israel. Even so, this side of the
story is given very little time overall, and the film even deflects the issue
by blaming the Arab states for not accepting the refugees themselves, and for
mistreating the Jews in their own borders.
Israel's aggressive nature is
also clear from the beginning, though it's somehow given a positive slant. In
the war for independence, Israel did not just defend its territory, but also
expanded outward to seize Arab lands; even after conceding some of those gains
in the cease-fire agreements at the end of the war for independence, Israel
ends up taking over more land than it had originally been granted by the United
Nations. The ethical problem of Israel's seizure of even more lands in the
Six-Day War is also overlooked in the film's upbeat conclusion.
At 112 minutes, In Search of
Peace: Part One moves along at a steady pace, sticking to a straightforward
chronological structure. Dates of events are clearly indicated whenever
archival footage of important events is shown, which is very helpful in
following the sequence of events. The pacing does falter at times, as when the
film sidetracks slightly to cover a war crimes trial, but for the most part it
is smooth going.
In Search of Peace: Part One
is presented in a widescreen, 1.85:1 aspect ratio; it is not anamorphically
enhanced. The image is satisfactory, considering that the majority of the film
is made up of footage from 1948-1976. This archival footage is worn and grainy,
but it's certainly watchable. The modern footage, in the form of a few
interviews, takes up a very small percentage of the overall film; it looks
reasonably good but it's not outstanding, with a slightly reddish tint and some
Two audio tracks are provided:
a Dolby 5.1 and a Dolby 2.0 soundtrack. The 5.1 track is slightly better, with
a bit more depth, but on the whole the two are about the same quality. Michael
Douglas' narrative voiceover is clear and always understandable; for the most
part, the other voiceovers are also clear.
The only special features on
the DVD are a trailer for the film, a photo gallery, and a section of
Some very poor DVD design is in
evidence here: before we get to the menu, we get stuck with a preview for The
Long Way Home. Not only is it unskippable, it's not even possible to
fast-forward through it.
For viewers interested in the
history of the Middle East conflict, In Search of Peace: Part One offers
a look at rare archival footage from the events of 1948-1967 as they happened.
It's not a particularly balanced discussion of the situation, but it may be
worth a rental for modern history buffs.