The Gatekeepers

Rating: Provides startling insight into the quest of Israel and Palestine to find peace.


The GatekeepersDror Moreh’s documentary, The Gatekeepers, deserved its Oscar nomination this past year. Though Searching for Sugar Man won the top prize in this category, it is hard to understand how this searing political mosaic could have been denied.

In a not so subtle manner, Director Moreh shines a spotlight on the unending Israeli/Palestinian conflict. By gaining candid interviews with the six retired former heads of Israel’s Shin Bet, he allows them to tell their remarkable stories in a fashion that pulls no punches concerning lost hope and disappointing dreams.

You need to remember all six gentlemen: Ami Ayalon, Avi Dichter, Yuval Diskin, Carmi Gillon, Yaakov Peri and Avraham Shalom. While none have forgotten the lingering PLO threat to drive Israel into the sea, they force all supporters of Israel to confront uncomfortable truths. As the leaders of the Israeli security agency, they called upon their country and supporters to remember Prime Minister Rabin’s willingness to take necessary chances in the name of long-term regional survival.

On the surface, these guys are remarkably candid concerning their principal goal of eliminating suspected terrorists. When a question was asked if they worried about the morality of their occasional actions, one responded that morality plays no role when you are dealing with terrorists. In other words, they don’t have any, so you don’t either.

However, what is so stunning about the film is the obvious regret shared by our retired “Gang of Six”. For example, they alone could be intuitive enough to articulate that one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter. Simply put, this struggle cannot be determined by military force.

This film is a provocative reminder that when backing Israel politically, nothing is gained when everything is approved. These Shin Bet gurus point out the unfortunate tragedy that followed Israel’s victory in the Six Day War in 1967. More to the point, the observation was made that Israel’s occupation of the West Bank is chillingly reminiscent of Germany’s occupation of France, Holland and Czechoslovakia during World War II. One cannot ignore the significance of that point when it is made by a former Jewish head of Shin Bet.

Finally, all the guys felt that there was a failure of political will in Israel following the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1995. While the Palestinians under Arafat were struggling to make sense out of cooperating with Rabin’s Israel, the manic opposition in Israel clearly played a role in Rabin’s death. Any student of history can see the end result, which includes Israeli settlements in the occupied territory more than doubling.

This is a film that needs to be seen, and the six Shin Bet men need to be heard. They are thoughtful and passionately honest, and they know that the Israelis and Palestinians cannot solve their ongoing conflict without sitting down and talking. You may not like your adversary, but that is no excuse to avoid a conversation.