Regular followers of this blog may be aware of my ongoing interests, not only in the Jewish Question as it expresses itself both culturally and politically in recent films, but also in the obscurely nostalgic as well as my apolitical fondness for VHS refuse of the awesome eighties and tacky nineties. These readers will understand and forgive my indulgence of curiosity in a moment of impaired judgment when I discovered a cheap 1991 video era relic titled Sinai Guerillas. Just take a look at the art on the box. What VHS trash aficionado could pass over something as righteous as this? That too-cool yenta commando with her machine gun, shades, exposed cleavage, and bullet belt, ready to mow down a horde of evil, cartoonishly stereotyped Arab primitives, like some hyper-Zionist variation on the work of Andy Sidaris, Fred Olen Ray, or Cirio H. Santiago! How could this promising cover adornment not herald some rare and boobs-and-blood-filled VCR viewing experience? Unfortunately, not since Sybil Danning beckoned siren-like from the similar cover of the abominable Panther Squad have I been so completely and mercilessly let down by a deceptive and damnable VHS box.
Imagine my disappointment when Sinai Guerillas turned out to be not some unfairly neglected exploitation gem of the early nineties but a retitled and English-dubbed repackaging of the utterly tame and quaintly corny 1960 Israeli adventure movie Blazing Sand! Concerning a perilous mission to rescue a wounded Israeli stranded in Arab territory, the story plays much like a Middle Eastern western, with tiresome scenes of the Jewish posse riding their horses and camels across a desert peopled not by savage Indians, but by Jew-despising Arabs. Emphasizing the parallel with the western, one of the characters even dresses like a Jewish cowboy!
The genre connection is, furthermore, more than superficial. Just as the western in its heyday celebrated a rugged confidence in American mastery and expansiveness, so Sinai Guerillas extols the Zionist claim to a twentieth century “frontier” in Greater Israel. The story takes the characters into what is supposed to be Jordan – which, however, is never mentioned by that political designation. After all, this “whole place used to belong to us. Now we have to come here illegally,” one of the Jews says indignantly. The artificially imposed lines on maps “are a hindrance to the cultural development of a rising young nation,” the viewer is told. Apart from constituting a mild cinematic curiosity as a pop-cultural artifact of Zionist chauvinism, the film does offer some regional scenery, but very little else. Even the awkward attempt at sex appeal, with actress Daliah Lavi performing a robotic fifties-style exotic dance routine to entertain a dying comrade in his final moments of life, is enough to put a chill into those blazing sands.