A Film about the Israeli War of Independence Still Worth Watching

April 15 2021

Released in 1955, Hill 24 Doesn’t Answer tells the story of four soldiers of very different backgrounds in the nascent IDF whose squad participates in an assault on the titular hill in 1948. Stuart Schoffman, who first saw the movie when he was seven, and recently re-watched it, believes it has withstood the test of time in a way better-known films like Exodus have not:

Widely forgotten today, Hill 24 was the first Israeli feature film, with a big budget of $400,000. The dialogue is in English with dollops of Hebrew. Directed by British filmmaker Thorold Dickinson, it’s an engaging neorealist melodrama, neatly packed into 101 minutes, with a stirring score by Paul Ben-Haim performed by the IDF Symphony Orchestra and a memorable cameo by Shoshana Damari, the great Yemenite Israeli chanteuse, as a Druze ululating in Arabic.

In 2003, the director Martin Scorsese told a British interviewer that “Hill 24 Doesn’t Answer is a unique film,” comparing Dickinson’s “rich sense of place” in action sequences to that of Alfred Hitchcock. “Dickinson is never afraid to push the emotion in a scene, and that’s rare in British film-making.”

In the back of the army truck that carries them to their destiny, the members of the squad share their backstories, starting with Jim Finnegan (Edward Mulhare, who later starred in The Ghost & Mrs. Muir on TV). As a British policeman serving in Haifa, he had been assigned to capture Holocaust refugees, illegal immigrants to British Mandatory Palestine. In the process, he fell in love with Miriam Miszrahi (Haya Harareet, later the love interest in Ben-Hur), a Jew, who was a supporter of the Zionist underground.

Inevitably, Finnegan, an incurable Irish romantic, switches sides, quits the police, and volunteers for the Haganah. . . . Finnegan quite naturally identifies with the downtrodden Jews, and the maverick British director identifies with Finnegan.

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Read more at Jewish Review of Books

More about: Film, Israeli history, Israeli War of Independence, Philo-Semitism

UN Peacekeepers in Lebanon Risk Their Lives, but Still May Do More Harm Than Good

Jan. 27 2023

Last month an Irish member of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) was killed by Hizballah guerrillas who opened fire on his vehicle. To David Schenker, it is likely the peacekeeper was “assassinated” to send “a clear message of Hizballah’s growing hostility toward UNIFIL.” The peacekeeping force has had a presence in south Lebanon since 1978, serving first to maintain calm between Israel and the PLO, and later between Israel and Hizballah. But, Schenker explains, it seems to be accomplishing little in that regard:

In its biannual reports to the Security Council, UNIFIL openly concedes its failure to interdict weapons destined for Hizballah. While the contingent acknowledges allegations of “arms transfers to non-state actors” in Lebanon, i.e., Hizballah, UNIFIL says it’s “not in a position to substantiate” them. Given how ubiquitous UN peacekeepers are in the Hizballah heartland, this perennial failure to observe—let alone appropriate—even a single weapons delivery is a fair measure of the utter failure of UNIFIL’s mission. Regardless, Washington continues to pour hundreds of millions of dollars into this failed enterprise, and its local partner, the Lebanese Armed Forces.

Since 2006, UNIFIL patrols have periodically been subjected to Hizballah roadside bombs in what quickly proved to be a successful effort to discourage the organization proactively from executing its charge. In recent years, though, UN peacekeepers have increasingly been targeted by the terror organization that runs Lebanon, and which tightly controls the region that UNIFIL was set up to secure. The latest UN reports tell a harrowing story of a spike in the pattern of harassment and assaults on the force. . . .

Four decades on, UNIFIL’s mission has clearly become untenable. Not only is the organization ineffective, its deployment serves as a key driver of the economy in south Lebanon, employing and sustaining Hizballah’s supporters and constituents. At $500 million a year—$125 million of which is paid by Washington—the deployment is also expensive. Already, the force is in harm’s way, and during the inevitable next war between Israel and Hizballah, this 10,000-strong contingent will provide the militia with an impressive human shield.

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Read more at Tablet

More about: Hizballah, Lebanon, Peacekeepers, U.S. Foreign policy