A Hollywood Screenwriter Experiences the Real Gaza War
Dan Gordon is writing a book and movie based on what Hamas did to Israel that he believes Americans don't understand
A version of this story first appeared in the Oct. 10 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
Screenwriter Dan Gordon has written high-octane action thrillers for the big screen including The Hurricane (about boxer Rubin Carter), Wyatt Earp and Passenger 57, but those pale in comparison to the real-life experiences he has had over the past 40 years as a member of the Israeli Defense Forces serving in six different wars.
Gordon, 67, a U.S.-Israeli dual citizen, is still a member of the Israeli army reserves. He returned to the Middle East earlier this year as a volunteer to serve during the recent conflict in Gaza as a military spokesperson although his unit wasn't called up.
On Saturday, Gordon will share his war stories and views on the Gaza conflict during Yom Kippur services at the Temple of the Arts in Beverly Hills. He will tell the congregation that what he saw was quite different from the confused media coverage of the war that American's have heard through the media.
While serving in Israel, Gordon wrote a series of blogs about what he saw and experienced.
Gordon is not confused. He is convinced Hamas has been planning this war for years, while building more than 40 tunnels from Gaza under the border into Israel to launch terrorist attacks.
"This is their Pearl Harbor," says Gordon. "This was Hamas's offensive, planned for five years, and the proof of that is literally written in concrete and steel."
The concrete and steel, says Gordon, was diverted from building materials supplied to rebuild Gaza by the U.S., the Europeans and even the Israelis.
If he were to compare what he saw to a movie, Gordon says it would be Night of the Living Dead: "What I've not seen in a movie is this notion that the ground can literally open up in front of you and like zombies rising out of the grave in one second [enemy soldiers] are next to your home, on the street where you live, in you little suburban neighborhood. This really opened up a new chapter in the annals of terrorist armies that was terrifying, especially when you know the targets were civilians."
Gordon plans to tell the story of what Hamas did in a new book he is writing called Day of the Dead, which he also plans to do as a movie. He is already in negotiations with Relativity Media about taking it to the big screen.
"It's like a Tom Clancy, Vincent Flynn espionage special-ops thriller," says Gordon, "and it will be a major book and movie."
Gordon's own story would make quite a movie as well. He left his home in Bell Gardens, Calif., when he was 16 and went to Israel, where he attended high school on a kibbutz. He served in the Israeli military, and saw his first real battles during the 1973 Yom Kippur war.
For a time (1978-80) he served as a sniper. Since 2006 — beginning with the Second Lebanon War — he has served as a military spokesperson as a soldier and as a civilian.
He returned to the U.S. to attend college and then came back later to work in Hollywood where his credits also include the movies The Assignment and Murder in the First as well as TV series, most notably Highway to Heaven.
He has written stage adaptations of the movies Rain Man and Terms of Endearment and last year did a stage version of Murder in the First.
He also founded a film school in Arizona in the name of his son Zacki Gordon, who died in a traffic accident in 1998 at age 22. His involvement with that school ended last year and now he is working to help create a new film program at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia. He has also taught at the USC Film School.
Gordon insists Hamas is not well understood in the Western world. He says it is not there to create a Palestinian state, but rather — like the Islamic Republic, or ISIS — seeks to establish a worldwide caliphate.
"Hamas doesn't just view Tel Aviv as occupied territory," says Gordon. "Hamas views Spain as occupied territory. Taking out Israel is simply the first necessary step on the road to a caliphate. Hamas makes no bones about that."
He insists that they really are very much like ISIS: "They terrorize their own people and maintain their rule accordingly all the while proclaiming they wear the mantle of victimhood."
While in Israel this summer, Gordon was based along the Gaza border and accompanied soldiers on patrol. He watched as Israelis destroyed all the tunnels they could find, most of which were more than 100 feet under the earth, complete with cells to hold hostages they planned to ransom or use as leverage with Israel.
"I was under rocket attack a minimum of eight times a day," says Gordon. "I went on a ride-along patrol with a number of combat units and was subjected to the same dangers they were. Fifty yards from where I stood four soldiers were killed by a mortar round. Like all the civilians along the border I was constantly threatened by terrorist attacks."
While he abhors all war, Gordon says he understands when soldiers are killed because they know they are taking a risk. "The horror here," says Gordon, "is that 95 percent of the rockets and mortars and terrorist attacks were never aimed at military installations. They were exclusively aimed at civilians."
He says the first part of his book will re-create the war in Gaza and what Hamas was doing. Then it will become more of an espionage thriller.
"It's fact and fiction," says Gordon. "The things I describe may not all have happened, yet, but they are more than plausible."