His warts, however, were undeniably ugly. He led a paramilitary offensive in Deir Yassin that killed over 100 Palestinians, including women and children. During his tenure, Jewish settlements in Palestinian territories were accelerated. By far, his biggest sin is when as prime minister, he ordered an invasion of Lebanon and allowed Israeli troops to sit passively as Lebanese Christian Phalangists committed atrocities in the Palestinian refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila — perhaps one of the worst atrocities in the second half of the twentieth century.
To Gruber’s credit, he does not shy away from Begin’s faults. Could the film have spent more time on the Deir Yassin and the Sabra and Shatila massacres? Certainly. Do these horrors blot out Begin’s peace deal, Nobel Prize, acceptance of refugees from Ethiopia and Vietnam? More than likely. Any attempt at balance is a complicated maze for any biographer or documentarian, much less one like Gruber dealing with Israeli history as a whole as well. If anything, Upheaval: The Journey of Menachem Begin may be a starting point for viewers to seek out other documentaries dealing with these massacres, like the brilliant Waltz with Bashir.
“…does not solve Begin’s paradoxes, but it does a very good job presenting them.”
Menachem Begin was called a freedom fighter by his admirers and a fascist by his detractors. Segments of the Israeli population loved him while other Israelis openly protested the atrocities he oversaw. Begin’s commitment to Israel is compelling. He was steadfast in his belief that Israel and the Jewish people should never again have to bend their knee. He even refused German reparation money because acceptance of such was insulting to the memory of the millions killed by the Nazis.
In this way, the film leaves the viewer with much to ponder. The same man who was so uncompromising in establishing a strong Israel was willing to sit down with Egypt’s Sadat and give up the Sinai Peninsula. Upheaval: The Journey of Menachem Begin does not solve Begin’s paradoxes, but it does a very good job presenting them.
"…leaves the viewer with much to ponder."