Top Israeli and Palestinian War Films

The Israeli and Palestinian conflict is one of the many topics that you can bring up if you're looking to incite an argument.  Just look at the message board for any article on the current Israeli military campaign in Gaza:  Some argue that the Israeli military is committing war crimes, pointing to the thousands of dead civilians, hundreds of them children.  Others argue that the Palestinians are complicit with the terror campaign of Hamas, allowing missiles to be fired from their territory into Israel.  The arguments go back and forth.  Who fired first?  Who lived there first?  There's been conflict between Israel and Palestine for almost 80 years now.  Here are some of the best documentaries about the Israeli and Palestinian conflict for anyone seeking to consider some alternative points of view from both sides of the conflict.

01
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The Israeli Lobby (2007)

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America is an unyielding ally of Israel.  America provides weapons, money, and geo-political backing.  In opinion polls, the American public staunchly supports Israel and woe to the politician that doesn't agree with this support.  But how much of this support is organic?  And how much of it has been manufactured?  This 2007 documentary examines the powerful Israeli lobby within the United States, a group that has been lobbying politicians, and waging a media campaign within the United States on the American people.  Regardless of your views on the Israeli / Palestinian conflict, this film provides a lot to consider.

02
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Waltz With Bashir (2008)

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A film that made my top animated war movies list, Waltz with Bashir tells the story of an Israeli soldier struggling to piece together his memory about a massacre that he may or may not have participated in.  By speaking to his comrades, he's able to start to re-collect his memory, an action which has horrible consequences.  More than a film about the Israeli and Palestinian conflict, it's a film about the frailty of memory, and the way the mind erects barriers to that, which we do not want to remember.  

03
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With God on Our Side (2010)

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This 2010 documentary details a peculiar yet powerful subset within American culture:  Christian Zionists.  Their belief system is predicated on the end of the world, and Jesus returning to the Earth, meaning that the Rapture has arrived.  It might seem that this is the sort of ideology belonging to some marginalized religious cult, but the practitioners of this theory are pretty mainstream.

04
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Israel vs. Israel (2011)

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This 2011 documentary follows four unique individuals - a grandmother, an anarchist, a rabbi, and a soldier - as they campaign for an end to the Palestinian occupation.  It's fascinating to see how these different Jews came by their somewhat minority view, and how they are treated by their fellow Israelis.

05
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5 Broken Cameras (2011)

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5 Broken Cameras tells the story of five Palestinians, each with their own camera, each telling the story of the occupation through film and photographs.  Collectively, the story the five cameras capture are Israeli soldiers breaking into homes in the middle of the night to arrest children, the Israeli Army and Police beating protesters, and Israeli settlers destroying Palestinian olive trees.  It's a grim story but one that deftly represents the Palestinian view of the Israeli occupation.

06
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Louis Theroux: The Ultra Zionists (2011)

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Louis Theroux, the under stated British television documentarian, travels to Israel and spends time with the ultra orthodox Jews to find out how they live and what they believe.  Theroux, of course - as he always does - creates some cringe worthy moments out of cultural conflict - but his outsider's perspective offers some fascinating introspection regarding the ultra orthodox community.

07
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The Gatekeepers (2012)

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A fascinating documentary that got the amazing coup of getting five former directors of Shin Bet to go on camera, and talk about their jobs, their fears, and their philosophies.  The men are each exceptionally candid, and - quite surprisingly - rather humanistic in their attitudes towards Palestinians; they are not the far right militaristic men that are expected for such a role.  They also each offer a variation of the same theme:  That often times, Israel makes its security situation worse by coming down hard on the Palestinians, making more enemies through their behavior than they are able to take off the street with any particular security operation.  (I recently wrote about this phenomenon in an article entitled, "Winning Hearts and Minds by Killing Them.")

08
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The Green Prince (2014)

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The Green Prince.
The Green Prince is the unusual story of a Hamas terrorist turned secret Israeli spy and his growing friendship with his handler in Shin Bet, the ultra-secret Israeli security agency.  It's a story of loyalty, betrayal, and ultimately, of friendship.  The real life story here is wilder and more unbelievable than any Hollywood script showing that real life can often surprise.  Intense, exciting, thoughtful, and entertaining all at once.