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Six Israeli secret service chiefs and one inescapable conclusion

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 3/5/2013 (1566 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

In a way, the Oscar-nominated documentary The Gatekeepers functions as a history of Israel since the Six Day War of 1967 as seen through the eyes of six men with impressive, common credentials.

Each was a head of the Israeli secret service Shin Bet. Avraham Shalom, Yaakov Peri, Carmi Gillon, Ami Ayalon, Avi Dichter and Yuval Diskin are all smart, tough guys of varying political stripes driven to a common conclusion about their country's five-decade battle with its Arab neighbours... and with itself.

Ami Ayalon (top, and bottom, centre, in army days) in The Gatekeepers.


Ami Ayalon (top, and bottom, centre, in army days) in The Gatekeepers.

Surprisingly, there is sparse attempt at whitewash here. Shin Bet's failures are acknowledged, including the "lynching" of two Palestinian terrorists in 1984 after they had been captured taking hostages on a hijacked bus. That so-called Bus 300 incident happened on Shalom's watch, and though he initially claims to not remember the details, the so-called Shin Bet "bully" acknowledges -- at director Dror Moreh's insistent questioning -- his own part in the affair. He grudgingly says it might not have been as damaging (it ended his Shin Bet tenure) if not for the presence of the press.

"In the war against terrorism, forget about morality," Shalom says.

The threat from within Israel represents another failure -- the assassination of Nobel Peace Prize winner prime minister Yitzak Rabin, murdered by a right-wing Israeli opposed to Rabin's part in the Oslo Accord.

Successes in Israel's seemingly eternal war on terror are acknowledged too, but Moreh draws a distinction between tactics and strategy.

"We win every battle, but we lose the war," says Ami Ayalon, director of Shin Bet from 1996-2000.

Moreh employs some impressive visual tricks that give a three-dimensional perspective to historical events.

But his more impressive trick is to illuminate a consensus between these six men with regards to Israel's political policy towards the Palestinians.

To a man, the six insist that dialogue with their Palestinian neighbours is the only possible solution to this seemingly insoluble impasse.

If you don't consider this film an achievement, try to imagine an American documentary with CIA directors openly discussing successes, failures and the lack of vision of American policymakers.

Other voices:

It offers startlingly honest insight into the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from some of those who called the shots.

-- Claudia Puig, USA Today


Ultimately the movie feels evasive, and its flashy, digitally animated re-creations of military surveillance footage unpleasantly evoke the Call of Duty video games.

-- Ben Sachs, Chicago Reader


Dror Moreh's Oscar-nominated documentary is riveting, haunting and depressing in equal measure, offering a sobering assessment of the Israel-Palestine conflict from a unique perspective.

-- Matthew Turner, ViewLondon

Read more by Randall King.


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Updated on Friday, May 3, 2013 at 10:29 AM CDT: adds fact box

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