Dear Father is not much of a film – calling it a documentary is somewhat of an insult to those who treat documentary filmmaking as an art form. It is more like a badly edited episode of 60 Minutes with talking head after talking head interrupted sparingly by some stock footage of Palestinians in grief and enraged. The entire purpose of the film could have been summed up in a single interview, but the filmmaker, David Benchetrit, apparently felt that if a half dozen individuals tell the same story, the effect will be greater for the audience. A number of Israeli soldiers, one a studly former pilot, talk to the camera and explain with all sincerity how they felt the duties they performed on behalf of the Israeli military were unethical and inhumane. I have no doubt that all these men suffer from a diseased conscience from some of the acts they performed in the context of the ongoing war Israel has had to endure with its neighbors, however the film presents no counter point to their stories whatsoever, and allows each of their tales of horror and barbarity to pass without a single verifying source. They each have similar stories, mainly dealing with the “Israeli Vietnam”, our incursion into Lebanon in 1982. At some point these soldiers began to believe that the Israeli system was corrupt and wrong, making it right to refuse to serve. One soldier says, “There are orders one must refuse to obey.” Naturally, they were charged with treason and jailed, but they remain steadfast asserting that they have their humanity in tact.
The film is named after a slogan used as propaganda to recruit soldiers although I’m not sure how that works (considering service is mandatory) – perhaps the nuances are lost in translation. Ironically, this film feels like a propaganda piece itself, although a compelling one at that due its controversial content. We hear, this time from Israeli soldiers themselves, how the ongoing war is immoral, how Israel’s tactics are comparable to that of the Nazis. Thrown in are slaps against Tzahal by recounting some friendly fire deaths and strikes against Arabs where innocent people were killed. At one point a man interviewed says that he is not a pacifist, but the war in Israel is simply not justified. There are comparisons to Nuremberg. A solider states, “it’s not my war.” As you can tell, I don’t even know what to do with a so-called documentary like this. It is without substance being that it seeks only to say one thing, say it as many times as possible until the camera battery died or the film ran out, and fails to provide anyone who has anything to say in support of the government’s position.
I don’t know enough about war or the reasons for war or the rules of war to make an educated comment about what is moral, or justified, or unacceptable when you are fighting your enemy – and make no mistake, Israel only fights its enemies and there are plenty of them to fight. What I can be sure of is that if all Israel’s soldiers had the ethical makeup and moral fortitude of these gentlemen, Israel and by extension the Jewish nation would be in serious, serious trouble.