'Gatekeepers' hinges on questions of morality, security
The Oscar-nominated “The Gatekeepers” is the rare film that does not mince words.
A compelling documentary, it offers startlingly honest insight into the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from some of those who called the shots.
Director Dror Moreh interviews a half-dozen heads of Shin Bet, Israel's ultra-secret intelligence agency charged with defending Israel against terrorism, espionage and the release of state secrets. Though we have no American equivalent, the Shin Bet is akin to a blend of the CIA, Homeland Security and the Secret Service.
These six men have never been interviewed about their work — so this is a coup for Moreh. Each speaks candidly about overseeing Israel's war on terror, acknowledging mistakes.
They dissect key decisions and reflect on the overall effectiveness and morality of their actions. These men have ordered bombings and staged assassinations. While none has become a peacenik, each exhibits a sense of guilt. The result is riveting.
The striking take-away is that each came to reconsider their hard-line stances. Most are now in favor of a more-conciliatory position toward the Palestinians, even pondering a two-state solution.
The first lesson offered is the complicated nature of tracking and taking down terrorists.
“Politicians prefer binary options: do it or don't do it,” says Yuval Diskin, head of Shin Bet from 2005-2011. “As a commander, I find myself in situations that are different shades of gray.”
If they decide to strike, civilians could be killed. But if they don't, they leave their country vulnerable to peril. The godlike power to kill is not taken lightly.
“At night, later in the day, while shaving or on vacation, we all have our moments, “ Diskin continues. “You said OK, I made a decision and X number of people were killed. They were definitely about to launch a big attack. No one near them was hurt. Yet you still say ‘there's something unnatural about it.' What's unnatural is the power you have to take lives in an instant.”
Not only is the information conveyed fascinating, but the film is seamlessly made. Moreh juxtaposes 60 Minutes-style interviews with war footage and re-created events. The transitions between intellectual discussion and brutal carnage are fluid and artful. While he presents key events in a chronology, it feels more organically illuminating than a history lesson.
Avraham Shalom, an avuncular-looking man in checked shirt and suspenders, remarks about tackling anti-terrorism as the Shin Bet head in the mid-1980s “without exactly knowing what it was, because terrorism hadn't developed.”
“I loved the idea (of a Palestinian state) so I went to the territories with people who dealt with the Palestinians,” said Shalom. “We didn't know what we wanted to achieve. We received no direction about our objectives. When you don't get direction for politicians, you're just like a rabbit, searching.”
These six men did what they deemed was in Israel's best interest — though they later question the morality of their decisions. But there are glimmers of hope.
“The Gatekeepers” is an exemplary, provocative work. It offers a blunt look at the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from a perspective not previously covered on film, as seen through the eyes of a rare few in the control center.
Claudia Puig is a film critic for USA Today.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- DEC grad to release horror movie filmed at Monessen library
- ‘Let It Snow’s’ big-name cast filming all over Western Pennsylvania
- Documentary depicts Aliquippa man’s romantic quest, life with Asperger’s
- Review: New ‘Cinderella’ excels with old-fashioned charm
- Review: A teenage girl’s nightmare realized in ‘It Follows’
- First trailer for Pittsburgh-shot ‘Southpaw’ hits the Internet