Battle for the Holy Land (Frontline)

On most PBS stations April 4, 2002. Michael Kirk, senior producer; David Fanning, executive producer; Dominic Allan and Stuart Tanner, producers for the BBC; Tom Roberts, executive producer for October Films; Israel Golvicht, executive producer for Golvicht Productions; Fiona Murch, editor for the BBC. Frontline is produced by WGBH, Boston.

As Israelis and Palestinians prepare for possible all-out war, FRONTLINE investigates how the combatants pursue the deadly conflict on the ground. How did a war that was once fought with stones evolve into a battle involving suicide bombings and targeted killings? Through exclusive access to Israeli commando units and Palestinian militants, FRONTLINE reveals the tactics and strategies behind the fighting and reports on the latest cycle of violence to unfold in the Holy Land.

Face to Face With a Hate That Bloodies the Mideast

By RON WERTHEIMER -- The New York Times Company, April 4, 2002

Watching "Battle for the Holy Land" may not give you a better understanding of the horror there. It surely won't give you hope. But the program, tonight's installment of the "Frontline" series on PBS, does put a human face on the intractable conflict, even if that face is seen in shadow or mostly wrapped in a scarf. Most of this documentary was shot by British film crews in December, when the confrontation between Israelis and Palestinians had not reached the current desperate state. Still, between grim scenes of confusion and death, fighters on both sides speak calmly in interviews about their determination to carry on. Neither side will consider any outcome except its own version of victory. The program takes you inside Al Aqsa Brigades, which carries out suicide bombings for Yasir Arafat's Fatah movement and calls them martyr missions. A handsome brigade leader, first glimpsed getting a haircut, vows, "The Israeli street will never know peace until the children of Palestine also enjoy peace." Inside what is described as a secret refugee camp, a Palestinian "engineer" displays the tools and supplies with which he assembles the explosive belts worn by suicide bombers. Lecturing to the camera like a junior high school chemistry teacher, he says: "To start with, let's see the raw materials. This is gunpowder." One guerrilla who is ready to wear such a belt says, "All those who live on a land that is not theirs are aggressors and tyrants, even the women and elderly." For their part, the Israelis are no less intense. The Palestinians "that we are after are ticking bombs," says one commander. "We don't stop until we get them." Modern warfare, even this gut-level conflict, has its public-relations aspects. And all the interview subjects here are clearly posturing for the viewer. If today's headlines are not enough, these bitter speeches show why the killing is likely to continue.