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The Gatekeepers Speak
The Gatekeepers - Sony Pictures Home Entertainment - 101 minutes - 2012

by Zach Scheinerman


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When Dror Moreh's film "The Gatekeepers" first came to public notice it received a lot of attention for being the first time that the six surviving heads of the Shin Bet were interviewed about their work. This turned out not to be entirely correct: it was the first time that the six men were interviewed on camera, which made for quite a different experience. The body of the film consists of these men telling their stories with occasional animations to provide illustration of the narrative.

The film's segments revolve around a particular operation, such as defeating Jewish militant organizations or particular scandals within the Shin Bet. It goes without saying that we only hear one perspective in regards to historical events, but as Moreh would say, the whole point of the film is to hear the interviewees' thoughts on their work.

Critics of "The Gatekeepers" say that it endorses a left-wing political message. I think that it does, as one of the interviewees famously says, "when you leave this job, you become a bit of a leftist." The heads of the Shin Bet do their work fighting terror in the trenches for years on end, and their life experiences inform how they see the current situation. They criticize the politicians who ask them to do very difficult things with no long-term strategy in mind for seeking peace with Israel's enemies.

There isn't anything wrong with sharing their points of view, but one wonders about Moreh's goal: Was it to listen to what they had to say or to encourage them to say what he wants to hear? The latter appeared to be the case when Moreh read on camera an anti-occupation passage to one of his interviewees and asked him, "What do you think about that?" Of course the interviewee is going to agree, he is hardly going to say that military occupation is a good thing, which is exactly what he did. Perhaps it has to do with the editing of the film, but the message comes out jumbled. On one hand it is clear that Moreh wanted his audience to hear what the heads of the Shin Bet felt when they criticized the politicians' decision to keep the West Bank occupied, but, on the other hand, they also tell stories of interacting with terrorists whose ideology is "Victory is to see you suffer." The answer to the question of how one is supposed to defeat such an ideology is left
unanswered.

Ultimately I found the film disappointing, not in terms of production values, but in terms of the information conveyed. I expected to learn more about the war on terror being waged on both sides of the ocean; for special insights that can only come from people who have lived it, but "The Gatekeepers" had little in the way of new information. Much of the commentary sounded like sour grapes from former officials whose advice was not always accepted by the political echelon. Some complaints also beg the question why they did not use their positions to change the nature of their operations, such as taking steps to minimize hardships on the Palestinians. The interviewees said that fighting terrorists while trying to hold onto your soul is difficult, that the government of Israel should be doing things differently, and that they don't know how this situation will ever be resolved. They have a point, but the ongoing war being waged against Israel ensures that their successors will continue to have difficult jobs to ensure the security of the people they are sworn to protect.


Sources: Zach Scheinerman is the Publicity Director for the American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise.

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