The Prime Ministers: The Pioneers Glosses Over History


Richard Trank’s The Prime Ministers: The Pioneers chronicles the first 60 years of Israel’s existence and the politicians who served as its global face, but this particular rendition of a history often told is little more than propaganda.

It’s based on a book of the same title by ambassador Yehuda Avner, who is also the doc’s premier talking head, and is sponsored by the Simon Wiesenthal Center, an L.A.–based organization named for the famous Nazi-hunter that focuses on “racism in America and the history of the Holocaust.”

But Trank directs the viewer’s attention neither toward racism in America, nor directly toward the Holocaust (though no discussion of Israel’s founding could avoid it), but rather toward a back-slapping view of American-Israeli political collaboration. He scrapbooks this together from footage of key historical moments (parades in Jerusalem after Israel’s founding, Israeli prime ministers shaking hands with American presidents), still photos highlighting the prime ministers’ personal lives and histories, and political cartoons and graffiti depicting Arab aggression toward Israelis.

But in The Prime Ministers, brown people exist only as still lifes, while Americans and Israelis live and breathe and tell stories that end with simple imaginings of the cherished Jewish dream: Israel as a peaceful homeland. There is no mention of present conflicts, nor much in the way of questions. A number of American actors provide voices for the deceased prime ministers, which results in the unique delight of listening to Sandra Bullock as tough, Ukrainian-born Golda Meir, stumbling over flattened Yiddish in her glossy California accent.