THE GATEKEEPERS: THE REVIEW

Big thanks to Salty Kernel, , for attending this one. To be perfectly honest, it did not appeal to me in the slightest, but after reading Andrew’s review and gawking at his pop score for THE GATEKEEPERS it now joins a long list of films I must see. It is going to be a heavy viewing, no doubt, as it deals with the former heads of Shin Bet, an Israeli Security Agency shrouded in vaults of secrecy but enough of me trying to explain it – get on in for some Brusentsev insight. The Gatekeepers is releasing in Australia on September 5th in good art house cinemas – it runs for 101mins, as far as IMDB is concerned, and 95mins as far as Madman is concerned – I see another conspiracy here – or maybe some redaction? It has not been rated yet but has an M Rating all over it. 

 

The Gatekeepers, The Gatekeepers Review, The Gatekeepers Movie, Dror Moreh, Ami Ayalon, Avraham Shalom, Avi Dichter, Yuval Diskin, Carmi Gillon, Yaakov Peri, Andrew Brusentsev
THE GATEKEEPERS: THE SALTY POPCORN REVIEW

 

“The Gatekeepers” is a documentary by Dror Moreh (who also directed the proceedings). The premise of the documentary is quite simple. It consists of interviews (a Q&A) between six retired heads of Shin Bet. It is a journey into Israel’s past – the services triumphs, failings, and its journey into what all of them worry is a darker and darker future. Rather than being a propaganda puff piece the interviewees responses to questions challenge the hardliners on both sides of the conflict. Their attitude especially to Israel’s Occupation of Gaza and the West Bank is sometimes startling.

Shin Bet was established in 1949 under legendary Israeli figure David Ben Gurion. He tasked it with providing Israel with internal security. The group is highly secretive indeed its activities and membership are closely guarded state secrets. The only members that have a public face are the heads of the organisation. Whilst it concentrated on external threats eventuating inside Israel from the war of 1967 (when Israel established control of both Gaza and the West Bank) its biggest mandates have been counter terrorism operations in the Occupied Territories.

 

The Gatekeepers, The Gatekeepers Review, The Gatekeepers Movie, Dror Moreh, Ami Ayalon, Avraham Shalom, Avi Dichter, Yuval Diskin, Carmi Gillon, Yaakov Peri, Andrew Brusentsev
THE GATEKEEPERS: THE SALTY POPCORN REVIEW

 

The movie begins with a warp speed tour of Israeli history from 1948 to 1967. We are given a glimpse into the tragedies and triumphs of the conflict from a very secretive and unusual perspective. When we reach ’67 the pace slows down and the interviews take on a more conversational tone. We are given a particular insight into men who are only answerable to the Prime Minister of Israel and are outside the formal chain of command of anyone else. Rather than being seen as an advantage we quickly learn from the heads that this secrecy and free reign sometimes brings nasty consequences. The heads are frank in their assessment should any operation go sour, even ones which Shin Bet has advised against, and they are usually quickly made scapegoats. Politicians are not to be trusted is the moral of the story. There opinions change according to the voters. For me the most astonishing thing about this documentary is how candid and critical these men tasked with Israel’s security are of politicians. Many in fact provide devastating assessments of former leaders, cabinets and government decisions especially surrounding the issue of the Occupied Territories. All are unanimous in their support for Shin Bet and it’s tactics (which include targeted assassination’s and torture) but claim that Israel’s current political trajectory will lead to further brutalities and an unwinnable situation.

 

The Gatekeepers, The Gatekeepers Review, The Gatekeepers Movie, Dror Moreh, Ami Ayalon, Avraham Shalom, Avi Dichter, Yuval Diskin, Carmi Gillon, Yaakov Peri, Andrew Brusentsev
THE GATEKEEPERS: THE SALTY POPCORN REVIEW

 

In fact Yaakov Peri said of his time in Shin Bet (he headed the organisation from 1988 to 1994) that after retiring from his post he has become increasingly a leftist. For him he believes that walking away from the Oslo Accords (which both sides assisted in putting to death) as well as reactions to the Intifada has increasingly seen Israel adopt measures against the Palestinians which he is still haunted by. He is no bleeding heart, his approach would be ruthlessness with the truly guilty, but to the average Palestinian he would adopt a more measured approach. All of these men believe in holding out the olive branch, but let’s face it we are not talking about doves or bleeding heart peaceniks. These men are professional intelligence operatives – ruthless, unsentimental and pragmatic when it is called for, but they believe that much of this ruthlessness directed at the wrong targets drives the Palestinian population into the arms of groups with truly frightening agendas.

In fact, a few of them point out that the hardest moments that are faced by Shin Bet is the growing realisation that not only are their “terrorists” on the outside of Israel, the ever growing religious right wing in their own country (who have assassinated a Prime Minister) are also needing to be watched and monitored, some even openly call for harsh measures against this group as well.

 

The Gatekeepers, The Gatekeepers Review, The Gatekeepers Movie, Dror Moreh, Ami Ayalon, Avraham Shalom, Avi Dichter, Yuval Diskin, Carmi Gillon, Yaakov Peri, Andrew Brusentsev
THE GATEKEEPERS: THE SALTY POPCORN REVIEW

 

The perfect template for this kind of man is Avraham Shalom. He is a steadfast defender of targeted assassination of suspected terrorists as well as an eloquent critic of his political masters. His final withering comment comes with the knowledge of a man that has seen too much. He believes that the only solution is talking, talking to everyone, even those who he deems as worthy of the harshest measures. Without that he summarises the future is very dark. Shalom laments the cruelty and intransigence that he sees as the legacies of more than four decades of occupation. He likens Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians with the Germans in WWII treatment of the population of occupied countries. A withering criticism coming from a Jew.

Moreh as interviewer is superb, he moves from talking to questioning to inquisitor effortlessly. The pacing and rhythm of the film is hypnotic. As a film it works brilliantly, the interviews are intercut with archival footage of public events as well as recreations of some of Shin Bet’s more shadowy operations.

The documentary is superbly crafted and relies solely on the craftsmanship of Moreh and the responses of his subject. It is amazing to see where the journey takes the viewers. Perhaps as we search for peace in this part of the World the counsel of these old hawks should be heeded. Best summed up by Carmi Gillon, another head. “What happens if for Israel, we win every battle, but still manage to lose the war”

This is a must see documentary for anyone interested in the Conflict, History or the Region.

 

5 Pops