Susan Granger’s review of “The Gatekeepers” (Sony Pictures Classics)
Oscar-nominated as Best Documentary, Dror Moreh’s astonishing glimpse inside Shin Bet, the agency that took over Israel’s internal security service, offers an illuminating, insider’s view of the Arab-Israeli conflict since the Six-Day War in 1967, when one million Palestinians came under Israeli control in the West Bank, Gaza and the old city of Jerusalem.
As six eloquent, introspective former heads of Shin Bet explain the situation, utilizing archival footage, their feelings of hopelessness and helplessness are
pervasive. These are tough intelligence operatives who have never before publicly discussed their beliefs. Indeed, during their leadership years, they staunchly maintained their anonymity, even to their fellow citizens; in Hebrew, the name Shin Bet translates as the “defender that shall not be seen.”
Their controversial revelations encompass opinions and perceptions about terrorism and its effects, along with the cultivation of informers who spoke flawless Arabic, the uses of interrogation and torture, targeted assassinations, and the inability of their countrymen to compromise.
“In the war against terror, there is no morality,” observes Avraham Shalom, who ran Shin Bet from 1980-86.
Israeli cinematographer-turned-filmmaker Dror Moreh (“Sharon”) credits documentarian Errol Morris’s “The Fog of War” as inspiration for his candid, challenging interviews, uncovering ‘truth,’ as interpreted by each of these influential men. Each spymaster came to power during a different era, working under a variety of Prime Ministers, making diverse historical decisions.
Provocatively, the Israeli Army’s occupation of Palestinian territory is compared with Nazi Germany during World War II and Africa’s apartheid. Back in 2003, four of these Gatekeepers – Ami Ayalon, Carmi Gillon, Yaakov Peri and Avraham Shalom – warned of “catastrophe” unless an enlightened two-state solution to the Palestinian issue was implemented.
“The tragedy of Israel’s 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,” Ami Ayalon concludes.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “The Gatekeepers” is an unprecedented and deeply unsettling 9, offering little hope for a lasting peace in that war-torn region.