With the atrocities seemingly never ending in Israel and Palestine, it does seem like a remarkably timely documentary with The Human Factor to arrive, as this documentary from director Dror Moreh takes us back to the early 1990s to explore the Israeli-Arab peace process but from a unique viewpoint, that of the American mediators who were fully involved with the discussions, meetings and huge historical moments that took place in the search for some semblance of peace.
A lot of information in The Human Factor was new to me, it’s an incredibly intricate situation but it would be untrue to say I comprehend the depths of every side and every angle, I just don’t have the personal experience to have a rounded viewpoint. However, I will say it was an educational insight and I felt an important one. You get an important, early insight via a comment regarding the differences between the Americans and the Middle East. They say that when the States talk about the future, they’re looking straight-ahead to what’s next but in the Middle East it means something different, it means (allegedly) ‘how do we solve what’s happen now, and then move forward onto what’s in the future’- Meaning that even if you’re expecting to have things in common, do you understand people on the ground level in the first place? This early pondering gives you a great idea of the wider issues that will develop.
The Human Factor endeavours to break down what happened back in the early stages of these specific talks in the early 90s. We genuinely see how close they were to a tangible deal, from all sides including Israel, Palestine and Syria that makes for compelling viewing. Moreh’s documentary lets the key negotiators of that era tell their side of what happened, there’s no holding back though with honestly and insight. It feels like we’re literally inside the White House as we’re offered a blow-by-blow account of the reality and stories we’d never previously learned about, as these American diplomats and negotiators, along with Bill Clinton, tried to deliver peace with Israeli PM Yitzhak Rabin, and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.
The truth is, if you don’t know much about the problems that have plagued that area of the world, then this will give you a better understand of the depth of the issue, how the leaders feel every minor detail or action could affect the people they were representing. I, for one, was compelled by the information. The evidently informed and intelligent negotiators come across as genuine people, each with their own viewpoints on what happened, what might have become and how it affected their personal lives as well. Each of this people gave everything to try and make it happen, and people still suffer from doubts and regrets today – despite doing the best they could at that time.
But much like a fictional thriller, just when things were moving forwards and the peace agreement was so nearly signed, it wasn’t because tragedy struck and Rabin was assassinated, almost bang on the precipice of change. This is high stakes thriller stuff but, desperately sadly, it’s also a bleak reality.
Unless you’re already engulfed by the situation for political or religious beliefs, it’s tough to have a specific opinion on the events in The Human Factor, but I did find the true recollections, which are accompanied by rare and unique photography from the actual meetings, utterly fascinating. This level of insight is useful to try and get a better understanding of the mindset of the leaders in charge, and this seems like a moment where almost everyone was eager to develop those relationships. Of course, the result (as you’ll see if you don’t know) is as intricate as it’s been for many years.
What’s particularly sad, whatever you believe, is how many people continue to die in vain, in a system we may not fully comprehend. The reality is that fellow human beings suffer, and that’s something surely no-one can really want. Can we do better as human beings? Yes, we can. But will we see any hopeful ray of light out of the death and rubble? It’s horrifically difficult to tell, even some 30 years after being so close to actually signing a deal. Sure, we don’t know if it would have changed everything, but it could have theoretically shifted everything and who know where we could be now, instead? This is captivating work.