A new documentary film is showcasing previously unaired admissions of brutal behavior by Israeli soldiers during the 1967 war.
TEL AVIV — A young Israeli soldier, fresh from the front, bluntly recounts the orders from above. “They never said, ‘Leave no one alive,’ but they said, ‘Show no mercy,’ ” he explains. “The brigade commander said to kill as many as possible.”
Another recalls encountering Arabs on rooftops. “They’re civilians — should I kill them or not?” he asks himself. “I didn’t even think about it. Just kill! Kill everyone you see.” And a third makes it personal: “All of us — Avinoam, Zvika, Yitzhaki — we’re not murderers. In the war, we all became murderers.”
The wrenching, taped testimony is not from last summer’s bloody battle in the Gaza Strip but from the 1967 war, when Israel started out fighting Egypt, Jordan and Syria for its very survival and ended up seizing the West Bank, Gaza, the Sinai Peninsula and parts of the Golan Heights. As the International Criminal Court considers a war crimes investigation in the recent conflict, a new documentary film is showcasing previously unaired admissions of brutal behavior by an earlier generation.
The film, “Censored Voices,” premiered at the Sundance Film Festival on Saturday, the latest in a series of movies by leftist Israeli filmmakers who have won awards abroad by presenting harsh looks at their own society. Based on interviews that the military heavily edited at the time, it includes accounts of Israelis summarily executing prisoners and evacuating Arab villages in a manner that one fighter likened to the Nazis’ treatment of European Jews.
In the film, Mr. Leviatan talks of being emotionally broken by seeing the humiliation of Egyptian soldiers after the fighting, when they “came with canteens filled with urine” and, upon being given water, “threw up on our feet and kissed us.” He is one of the Israeli soldiers whose views have changed with time.
“I was convinced that the peace is coming, and maybe after the Six-Day War I was hoping that it’s going to happen,” he said in the interview. “I was very naïve. I participated in another five wars as a commanding officer. The fact is that during the years, I lost my belief in the possibility of getting any solution in the area.”
Irit Pazner Garshowitz contributed reporting.
A version of this article appears in print on January 26, 2015, on page A4 of the New York edition with the headline: Disillusioned by War, Israeli Soldiers Muted in 1967 Are Given Fuller Voice . Order Reprints| Today’s Paper|Subscribe