Punctuating—in more ways than one—his legacy with a major question mark, Ariel Sharon presided over the forced evacuation of Israeli settlers from Gaza and the West Bank in 2005. Having encouraged such settlements throughout his long military and political career, the increasing instability and bloodshed they caused presented Sharon with an extremely tough call. For the settlers, it was the ultimate betrayal, and even those who agreed with the move acknowledged that it was fraught. Unsettled, Adam Hootnick’s burningly smart documentary, delves into this national crisis, which was a relative blip on the international media’s radar. Though it was quickly done and left no body count, Hootnick deftly illustrates how the evacuation cut to the heart of the question of Israeli identity: Limning a spectrum of Israeli youth—settlers, soldiers, activists—he records the supremely emotional showdown that resulted when soldiers forced fellow Jews from their homes. “Are you a real Jew or a robot Jew?” one young settler demands of a soldier; “If you don’t cry, you’re not a Jew!” an older woman admonishes. Hootnick, who has chosen to focus solely on the inter-Israeli situation and not delve into the Arab/Palestinian side of this complicated equation, has an eye for character and detail, weaving warmth and intelligence into the events; free of voice-over, they are chronicled with bracingly intimate, on-the-fly interviews and juddering, on-the-scene footage. The reasoned arguments of these motivated, eloquent young people and the passionate but substantive confrontations in the streets are strangely heartwarming; it’s a level of engagement that has proven sadly elusive for most conflicted countries, including this one.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on May 6, 2008