A documentary featuring interviews with all surviving former heads of Shin Bet, the Israeli security agency whose activities and membership are closely held state secrets.A documentary featuring interviews with all surviving former heads of Shin Bet, the Israeli security agency whose activities and membership are closely held state secrets.A documentary featuring interviews with all surviving former heads of Shin Bet, the Israeli security agency whose activities and membership are closely held state secrets.
Moreh asks tough questions and does not let his subjects off the hook, but there is no need to. The men are forthcoming in their candid assessment of the role they played in the Shin Bet operations which included the recruitment and use of informers, the targeting and drone attacks on suspected terrorists (sound familiar?), use of brutal torture techniques, and controlling the threat of Jewish extremists, a threat that became reality when a right-wing opponent of the Oslo peace agreements shot and killed the architect of those agreements, Nobel Peace prize winner Prime Minister Yitzak Rabin.
Two horrific events are dramatized: the assassination of Palestinian terrorist Yahya Ayyash by planting an explosive device in his cell phone, and the skull bashing of two Palestinian terrorists involved in a bus hijacking after they had been subdued and captured, an action that led to the resignations by the Prime Minister and the then head of the Shin Bet. To their credit, however, the security agency called off dropping a bomb on a house filled with Hamas leaders because of the possibility of widespread collateral damage. The men were hardliners to begin with, but each, who has had to deal with the problem first-hand, has come to see the futility of an occupation that seems to lead only to an endless cycle of brutality on both sides.
They insist that continuing to talk with the Palestinians is the only option left and that anything else is a dead end street. Though they favor a two-state solution, they recognize that the opposition to dismantling the settlements might cause a civil war. If you are wondering how the six could have reached the same conclusions, Ami Ayalon tells us that "The six of us reached our opinions from different personal backgrounds and different political outlooks, but we've all reached the same conclusion. Many Israelis and American Jews want to deny it, but this is our professional opinion. We're at the edge of an abyss, and if Israeli-Palestinian peace doesn't progress, it's the end of Zionism." Though these men are patriots who believed they were doing the right thing for their country and still believe that a great number of Jewish lives were saved by their actions, they also acknowledge their struggle with the moral dimensions of the job, the thin line between taking a life and saving a life. Shalom's comments are telling, "We have become cruel to ourselves but mainly to the occupation," he says. "We paid a horrible price for our military successes. We are isolated completely from our neighbors, we cannot go anywhere. We are a thorn in the side of the region." According to Ayalon, "The tragedy of Israel's public security debate is that we don't realize that we face a frustrating situation, in which "we win every battle, but we lose the war." The Gatekeepers shows a side of the Israel-Palestinian conflict that we have not seen before and, considering the ultra-secret nature of the counter-terrorist organization, it is remarkable that Moreh was even able to conduct the interviews. Yet the impact of the film has yet to make much of a difference. In his speech prepared for delivery at the Oscars in event the film won the award for Best Documentary, Moreh said, "We pray that it (the film) will echo in the corridors of power in Washington, Berlin, Paris, London, and especially in Jerusalem and Ramallah." To this date, the only echo heard is the sound of doors being closed.
- Mar 11, 2013