Dror Moreh's Oscar nominated documentary "The Gatekeepers" (2012) opens with an real targeted assassination somewhere in the streets of Israel. The bleak footage of a man being blown up inside a van is the handiwork of Israel’s counter-terrorism agency, Shin Bet. The name of the countries, "Israel and Palestine" continues to elicit questions that defy easy answers. It's been 65 years, since the state of Israel was founded, and there were countless films on this complex issue. But, "The Gatekeepers" offers a galvanizing perspective as six former heads of Israel’s Shin Bet counter-terrorism agency confess to misdeeds, miscalculations and to the blood on their hands -- both guilty and innocent.
Shin Bet is Israel's internal security agency and primary anti-terrorism unit. It was formed to find a solution between Israel and Palestine, but gradually turned towards brute force and oppression. Director Moreh has interviewed six men (separately) who have directed Shin Bet: Avraham Shalom, Yaakov Peri, Carmi Gillion, Ami Ayalon, Avi Dichter and Yuval Diskin. They are speaking out publicly for the first time and they discuss about, what went wrong, the fateful decisions that backfired, the ruthless strategies that brought more bloodshed and violence.
Avraham Shalom was in charge (of Shin Bet) from 1980-1986. He is said to be a Holocaust survivor and he belonged to the team of guys, who captured Adolf Eichmann and brought him to trial. As a vexed observer of Palestinian-Israel conflict he utters these words, "Israeli Defense Force is a brutal occupation force similar to the Germans in World War II.” He and Avi Dichter (2000-06) claim that their government and its leaders had little understanding of the pain and anger of the one million Palestinians whose came under Israeli control following the "Six-Day War." The language barrier and mutual mistrust set of a vicious cycle of attacks. The descriptions from the former heads of Shin Bet are validated here by black-and-white archival footage of Israeli soldiers moving through Arab refugee camps.
Moreh's interview take us through years of lasting debacles and brief hope: the PLO, the 1982 Lebanon War, the 1993 Oslo I Accords brokered by President Clinton, the resulting rise of a violent Jewish religious group that tried to bomb the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem and that ultimately led to the 1995 assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. From 1995, the peace process is undermined and both parties have out of anger and hatred accepted the attitude of "Victory For Us Is To See You Suffer."
Moreh showcases how intelligence agencies can be blindsided by events and he also repeatedly presses his subjects on some more explanation. Regarding the execution of two unarmed hijackers in the 1984 “Bus 300 Affair”, Shalom (1980-86) says "I don't remember," initially. When Moreh presses him, by saying “You killed a terrorist whose hands were tied — how is that moral?" The response was: “With terrorists, there are no morals.” In the part called "Collateral Damage", we see the former heads discussing about targeted assassinations, the bombings of terror suspects and the tragic yet inevitable civilian deaths. At that point, it becomes increasingly clear that each of the six men has a desperate need to explain their actions, if not atone or condone for them.
Throughout the documentary, Moreh aptly uses the extraordinary archival footages, enhanced photographs and computer simulations. The separate ultimately blends into a sustained chorus of condemning the uselessness of violence as a political imperative and the corruption and cruelty of Israel since the late ’60s. The security chief, Ami Ayalon (1996-2000) says, “We win every battle but lose the war,” -- a chilling reminder that the lasting peace surely will remain elusive until the leaders transform themselves from avid hawks into lovers of peace.
The Gatekeepers -- IMDb