An Israeli documentary about a Palestinian village that was martyred in 1948
In the 1940s, Tantura was an Arab fishing port in Palestine, whose inhabitants could not for a moment imagine the horror that awaited them. This horror is called the “Alexandroni Brigade”, which took over a Palestinian village one day in May 1948 after the establishment of the State of Israel. The theme of the documentary film dedicated to this martyred village by the Israeli filmmaker Alon Schwarz is the tragic fate of the residents of Tantura.
RFI: You started your professional career in IT. What brought you to cinema?
Alon Schwarz : After a long career in high tech, one day I got tired of it. I wanted to do things that really mattered. Therefore, when I had the opportunity to work as a documentary film director, I did not hesitate. I have been a film director, a documentary film director for eight years now. So far I have done two films, one of them tanture. Before I started working on this film, I was in the process of developing a documentary project about the decline of democracy in Israel. But one evening, while crawling on Google, I accidentally discovered the extraordinary story of Teddy Katz. This former history student spent dozens of hours recording audio with veterans of the 1948 war, and based on the comments of his interlocutors, dedicated his thesis to the ethnic cleansing that took place in this village. Palestinian, the answer to his name is Tantura. Unfortunately, this thesis earned Teddy a defamation lawsuit aimed at silencing him. I called him. He was very hot on the phone and invited me to meet him. I did it. One thing leading to another is that I found myself with the records he kept. I was so upset by the contents of the tapes that Teddy gave me that I immediately went to my producers and told them that the subject of my next documentary would not be what was planned. In the end, they gave the green light and it happened tanture He was born.
What happened in Tantura in 1948?
No one really knows what happened in Tantura. After going through Teddy’s tapes and reading various documents, I can say that Tantura was once a Palestinian village of about 1600 people. It was a fishing village on the road connecting Tel Aviv to Haifa. An important village in the region, Tantura was also a strategically located major fishing port. On May 14, 1948, a week after the establishment of the State of Israel, an Israeli army brigade captured Tantura. The military occupation ended, the villagers were evacuated, most were exiled and many were killed in cold blood.
Teddy Katz was the first to tell the story, but he remains a controversial figure accused of imputing things to the veterans he interviewed that they would not say…
To me, if Teddy Katz is a controversial figure, it is because he is the only person to date who has done research on Tantura worthy of the name. It is controversial because it dares to tell the drama of ethnic cleansing and deportation that this village, like many other Palestinian settlements, experienced during that period. Teddy’s thesis does not fit the much watered down official narrative of the original state of Israel. You see, I grew up in Israel, in a deeply Zionist family, of course the heart was on the left, but no one among us mentioned the events of 1948. according to the official version, at the end of the clashes, the Palestinians chose to flee and settle elsewhere without being forced to leave by the authorities. Teddy’s courage was to follow his detective instincts and go and interview former Israeli soldiers who participated in the massacre and other actors who witnessed the events. He gave us a dramatic account of the events that took place in Tantura in 1948. In today’s Israel, there are not many people who accept this version, because it swallowed us up against the official history. This explains why Teddy has become a controversial figure in his country, especially since he was sued and ordered to back down by signing an apology letter from the veterans. The court proved him to be a liar. I read his brief of several hundred pages. I found two or three inaccurate quotes there, but not enough to invalidate his thesis. I used Teddy’s recordings in my film. The words of the veterans are confirmed by the soldiers, whom I re-interviewed for the needs of the film. My film does not only tell the story of Tantura, as the Palestinians call it. Al-Nakba or “catastrophe”, but its real subject, perhaps, is the fortunes and misfortunes of this historian.enterprise Israeli because he wants to tell the truth about the violent origin of our country.
Your film stages a gallery of characters: young, old, Arabs, Israelis…
Teddy Katz is the main character of the film tanture. This film also gives voice to the ex-Israeli soldiers I spoke about. They were in their seventies when Teddy interviewed them. They are twenty years older today. In 1948, they were part of the Alexandroni Brigade of the Israeli army tasked with capturing Tantura. I also spoke with Palestinian villagers who were witnesses and actors of the events. Finally, I interviewed historians on both sides, those who believed that the Palestinians were indeed the subject of mass murder, and those who did not. For a tape ripper like me, there is no doubting the reality of the carnage. But when I got the tapes, I didn’t know what I would find there. I wondered how I would know if Teddy was lying. But then when I listened to the recordings in Hebrew, all my doubts disappeared. I realized that these veterans that Teddy interviewed were really talking about mass shootings and how to get rid of people after the fight was over. What was shocking to me was not that these massacres happened, but that the Jewish state was able to hide the truth all these years. I made this film to explain the events of 1948 to my compatriots who do not know their history. That’s what really motivated me throughout the making of this documentary.
New Israeli historians also confirm the reality of the massacre of Palestinians. The head of this school, Ilan Pappe, makes several appearances in your film.
After the opening of independence archives in 1978, “new historians” appeared in the 1980s. They were the first to speak critically about Israel’s history and draw the attention of Israelis and the world to the dramatic events that accompanied Israel’s independence. Of course, there is no consensus among these new historians about the reality of the massacre of Palestinians, but they all believe that Nakba What the Palestinians are talking about is not folklore, but a historical moment. Ilan Pappe is one of these historians.
Your film is structured like a Greek tragedy, where the central action is interpreted by a chorus of four characters, and the dramatic events at the heart of the film are experienced as a kind of modesty in action. Were you inspired by an ancient tragedy to write your script?
You know, when you’re working on a documentary, you film a lot of people, and then you make your film in the editing room, so to speak. It’s not like in a feature film where everything is pre-written. The choir you mentioned is made up of men and women kibbutz Nahsholim, partially built on the remains of an old Arab village. The four people we see on the screen belong to the generation of 1940, but they have different ideas about what happened in Palestine during the period of independence. Indeed, with their words, an x-ray of Israeli public opinion is taken. Their memories, both conflicting and complementary, have sociological value. That’s why they are in the movie.
How did the Israeli audience react to this film?
tanture It opened the Sundance film festival in America, before it was projected as part of DocAviv, a very popular film festival in Israel. The general public could then see it in cinemas and on television. Commercial broadcasting was not without polemics and controversy, which impressed us with an average of one article in the press in seven months. This fueled the debate over the violence that accompanied the creation of the State of Israel. I’m just sad that neither Netflix nor other streaming services were interested in this movie. Probably because he was afraid of a documentary about internet video services Nakba Critics of Israel’s policies are disliked by their followers.
Remember that you were born into a Zionist family, but your ideas have evolved. Are you at peace with yourself after making this film about state lies that condemn consciences to silence?
I was very depressed during the shoot tanture, not only because of the shocking statements I discovered, but especially because I realized that the truth had been hidden from me. I still love my country and I am convinced that Israel has the right to continue to exist because the Jewish people are inseparable from the history of this land. But my work on this documentary also allowed me to understand that Israelis will never be able to live in peace in this area without acknowledging the suffering of the Palestinians. To come up with a workable solution, we first need two things: first of allKnowing the extent of the damage done to the Palestinian people in 1948 and sympathizing with their pain, the second, international pressure. I am sure that in the current state of relations between Israel and the Arab world, it will not be possible to resume dialogue for the sake of lasting peace without substantial pressure from the international community. We cannot do it alone.
What does Tantura mean to you today?
As a teenager, Tantura talked about a beautiful seaside resort. Little did I know at the time that this site once housed a Palestinian village. Today, I am sad when I drive my car on the roads of Israel and see the rubble and rocks scattered on the highways, because I know that in the past there were about 600 Arab villages in this area, which have now been wiped off the map. It is not enough for us to be upset as a people. We must face our demons to imagine a better future. This was my goal in making it happen tanture. I hope the general public will watch this film and try to understand the meaning of my approach.
*Source: RFI (Radio France Internationale)