Raised To Be Heroes (Canada, 2005, Director: Jack Silberman, 53 minutes): A portrait of several “refuseniks,” Israeli soldiers who refuse to serve in the Occupied Territories, this film revealed a side of Israeli society that we rarely get to see on the nightly news. Not exactly pacifists, these men simply think that their role in the Israeli Defence Forces is to defend Israel, and that what they’re being asked to do has nothing to do with that role. In fact, many of them say they are being asked to commit war crimes against civilians on a regular basis, and so they have decided to face the consequences of disobeying their orders. For many of them, it involves long stretches in military prisons, but as one reserve officer said, he felt his 21 days in military prison did more to serve his country than all his years of obeying his superiors.
The film skilfully weaved bits of Israel’s history into the narrative so we got a bit of context for the men’s protests, and although it’s dangerous to simplify the political situation in the Middle East, for these men, their decision reflects their real conviction that Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza are morally wrong. Unfortunately, the director was ill and couldn’t attend the screening, so while there was a short Q&A, I think it could have been more interesting had the director been in attendance. The film did bring up important issues surrounding the (potential) conflicts between duty and morality.