“The truth has its own power. . . . The power of the truth cannot be hidden, and when it’s hot, it surfaces and more people ask questions.”
In 1948, Israel became a nation. Immediately, they were at war with the Arab world. Among Israelis this is known as the War of Independence. The Palestinians call it “Al Nakba” (the catastrophe). Tantura, from Israeli documentarian Alon Schwarz, looks at one small part of that history, and how an ugly truth has been denied, covered up, and nearly forgotten.
Tantura was a village of Palestinians. When the Israeli army pushed through the area, the village was captured and destroyed. The surviving people were moved to another village, which wasn’t prepared for all the people. A kibbutz was established at the site that had been Tantura. Such things were a part of the Israeli establishment of a homeland. But also at Tantura, there were rumors of a massacre of Palestinians.
In the late 1990, Teddy Katz, for a thesis at university, researched the possible massacre. He taped Jewish and Arabs involved. Several of the Jewish interviews confirmed the massacre. His thesis was accepted and acclaimed. But soon a backlash started. Katz was sued and discredited. Aron Schwarz took those tapes and has made this film to shed light on the truth that has officially been buried. He also takes us to the mindset that would want the truth to stay buried.
In press notes, Schwarz spoke of being brought up with the understanding that Israel was “a pure nation; our people were righteous then, as we are today. We have the most moral army in the world.” Certainly, the stories of a massacre would tarnish such an understanding. For many of those who spoke to Katz, and later to Schwarz, these memories need to be kept hidden. It would cut to the very center of Israel’s understanding of itself if such stories were brought to light. One of the four remaining original kibbutz settlers declares, “I only have good memories, because I’m fed up remembering bad things.”
The epigraph that Schwarz opens the film with states, “A nation that doesn’t know its past, has a dull present and a future shrouded in fog” [Yidal Alon]. Schwarz offers this documentary so that his nation can have a better understanding of who they are as a nation and a people. He wants their history to reflect truth, not just be a shining myth. Such an understanding could create new ways of dealing with the ongoing struggle of Israel and the Palestinians.
Recognizing truth in history is not just an issue for Israel. Americans continue to fight over what versions of the truth should be taught in schools. There are many who would like to hide our racist and even genocidal past. Should we glorify the “captains of industry” who became wealthy by manipulation and exploitation?
Myths are important. They help us to understand who we are and who we want to be. But the truth is even more important. Often it takes courage to tell and to hear those truths.
Tantura is in select theaters on Friday, December 2nd, 2022..