A reaction to The Gatekeepers from Lynne Segal (IJV SG)


April 14, 2013 by IJV

Last night I went to see the amazing film “The Gatekeepers”, by Dror Moreh. I
would rate it as one of the most powerful documentaries I’ve ever seen. This is
astonishing when it consists of only one thing throughout, extended interviews
with all six the recent ex-Heads of Security (the Shin Bet), one after the other.
They were not chosen because of their views, they are all there. Accompanying
events referred to by the interviewees, there is chilling background newsreel of
the extraordinary brutality consistently meted out to Palestinian communities
over the last sixty years, as well as the effects of suicide bombings, alongside
the continual rounding up and frequent torture of Palestinians of all ages. But
what is truly amazing about the film, almost unbelievable, is that all of these ex-
security chiefs agree on one thing: Israel is not at all safer from what they did
to ‘defend’ it over all these decades, and what is more, they blame Israel’s own
policies for this, for the refusal – apart from the assassinated Yitzhak Rabin –
to even try to talk seriously with Palestinian leaders with the genuine goal of
ending the conflict and making peace.

Interestingly, I’ve been told by one of my Israeli friends that it has been playing to packed audiences when it was shown there a few months ago, and it was hard even to get tickets. What on earth do they make of it, and what are they going to do about it? This is her response to the film:

‘What got me was not the “shock” of revelation … I already knew about the film. What
shocked me was that what these men represent is so horribly typical, such a reflection of our reality here. You can see it in the expressions on their faces. They all talk “cool”, with a little smile … even now, looking back, even being brave enough to speak out, into the camera: they still cannot say that there was another possibility for the man of action: not to quash violently, but to stop everything and say: hey, this is enough, now we will talk and talk until there’s an end of it. They know it – they say this themselves – that any amount of walloping and showing who’s the strong guy here is not going to end the damage. Yet, they don’t face the camera in shame and fear and dismay. Very tellingly, towards the end, one of the men says/sighs: “well, I guess you cannot do this job without coming out a bit of a leftist”. Here’s when Dror Moreh should have stopped everything and asked him: what does it mean for you, “being a leftist”? These men live in a split world. That’s what enabled them to do a job that “had to be done”, and that’s what enables them now that they’re out of the job to find themselves on the other, “left” side, of the equation.’

These security men also agree that it is not only the Palestinians who suffer so appallingly from Israel’s policies. Israel itself is being morally destroyed by the conflict. This is a stunning, unsettling film, do go and see it. And here is an interview with the director on line:

3 thoughts on “A reaction to The Gatekeepers from Lynne Segal (IJV SG)

  1. IJV says:

    The Gatekeepers is currently showing at a number of cinemas as part of the Palestine Film Festival. A special screening at the Barbican on Tuesday 16th April will be followed by a screen talk with journalists Daphna Baram and Dimi Reider. Click here for details of what promises to be an insightful and thought-provoking discussion.

  2. Brian Robinson says:

    Fairly lengthy review at openDemocracy of the film by Mark Taylor is a senior researcher at Fafo Institute for Applied International Studies in Oslo and founding member of the Center for American Progress’ Just Jobs Network. He publishes and advises on the law and economics of violence and conflict. It’s dated 21 January 2013

    [T]heir main message is that there is no Israeli political leadership willing or able to deliver Israel’s part in Palestinian self-determination, the inevitable key to any solution to the conflict. The Gatekeepers attempts to explain why. It self-consciously positions these Shin Bet veterans as the latest evidence of the corrupting effects of occupation on Israeli society and politics. Those effects have been ringing alarm bells in Israel for years and they constitute the principle message of the film …

    Avraham Shalom (career Shin Bet man, head of the agency from 1980 to 1986, pardoned by his political masters for ordering the extra-judicial execution of two Palestinian bus hijackers in 1983) tells Moreh that Israel’s military has become “a brutal occupation force” and that Israel is treating the Palestinians in a manner similar to how the Germans treated the Dutch, Poles and others they occupied in World War II. For many viewers the comparison will shock, and that is the point. It has to be said that throwing the ‘Nazi’ label around is not an uncommon tactic of Israeli political rhetoric, albeit an extreme one … Moreh portrays a Shin Bet intelligence system so comprehensive, so intrusive and so long-lasting that by the time we reached the Shalom comparison to German occupation I was already reminded of a more recent Germany, an authoritarian one founded on Stasi secret service control (constant surveillance, pervasive use of informants, hundreds of thousands of arrests, targeted killing, etc) … [As Shalom says] “we have become cruel, to ourselves as well, but mainly to the occupied population, using the excuse of the war on terror” …

    [W]hat The Gatekeepers does exceptionally well is drive home the interrelationship between these two dynamics – repression and its corrupting effects on the Israeli body politic. Israelis do not like to air their dirty security laundry in front of an international public. The fact that successive Shin Bet top guns all agreed to be interviewed (some for the first time; others are known to be more media friendly, to put it politely) speaks volumes about how alarmed they are about the trajectory of Israeli democracy. Israel is in real trouble, the film says, take their word for it.

    [T]he film places Netanyahu and his supporters in the settler movement – or rather the settler movement and their supporters amongst Israel’s political elite – at the centre of its analysis of why Israel finds itself incapable of repairing its politics and making a deal with Palestinians.

    [T]o his credit, Moreh does not let the argument rest there. Instead, he places the Shin Bet men alongside a quote from Professor Yeshayahu Leibowitz from 1968, one year after the beginning of the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip:

    “A state ruling over a hostile population of one million people will necessarily become a Shin Bet state, with all that this implies for education, freedom of speech and thought and democracy. The corruption found in any colonial regime will affix itself to the State of Israel. The administration will have to suppress an uprising on the one hand and acquire Quislings, or Arab traitors, on the other.”


  3. Jane Jackman says:

    I very much want to see this film but can’t get to the Barbican. Is it available to buy yet?


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