How open should a counter-terrorism agency be when talking about sanctioned violence? In the Oscar-nominated documentary, “The Gatekeepers,” six former members of the Shin Bet (Israel’s Security Agency) open up about covert activities. Their revelations are shocking, disturbing and, sadly, bleak.
The audience gleans historical perspectives through a narrative of events. In 1967, after the Six Day War, 1 million Palestinians came under Israeli control. Shin Bet operatives were sent into Palestine after becoming fluent in Arabic. They lived among the people and recruited individuals as potential informants. But as the rise of the more extreme Hamas and Islamic Jihad evolved, things got out of hand. The Shin Bet interviewees all admit (to their collective dismay) there was no strategy, just tactics.
As director Dror Moreh interviews all six of the surviving former heads of the Shin Bet, he doesn’t shy away from asking the tough questions. And, surprisingly, the men are candid about torture, drone attacks, collateral damage and the lack of morality pervasive within their ranks. But, as one admits, “We paid a horrible price for our military actions. We are completely isolated from our neighbors.” And another boldly observes, “We win every battle, but we lose the war.”
Amazingly, all six men believe the only option left for peace between Israel and Palestine is talk. They admit it’s senseless to prolong human suffering. One even cites that the nation’s army is “a brutal occupation force that is similar to the Germans’ in World War II.” That must be a two-state solution is a consensus they all share.
“The Gatekeepers” is astounding on so many levels. We witness decades of events (through archival footage) in the Middle East, chronologically, lending vast insight into the history of the conflict: the 1982 Lebanon War, the 1993 Oslo Accords, the rise of the Jewish radical right led by extremist rabbis and the 1995 assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, just for starters.
The dichotomy of having six men whose motto is “defender who shall not be seen” spilling the beans is extraordinary. They’re proud men, patriots who admit Israel has become a “police state.” The hope lies in the fact that they realize what has to be done and are sharing it with the world. Pay attention.
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