Thursday, March 14, 2013

The Gatekeepers

The Shin Bet, is the subject of Dror Moreh’s Oscar nominated documentary, The Gatekeepers. The movie currently playing at Film Forum is composed of interviews with six former directors of the Israel intelligence agency and is the perfect complement to an earlier film shown at Film Forum about the administration of justice in the occupied territories, The Law in These Parts. Both films deal with the aftermath of the Six Day War in ’67, a truly Pyrrhic victory in which many of the problems affecting Israel today embryonically emerged. The fact that both films have received the cooperation from their subjects is no excuse for any of the abuses documented. However one can’t but note that it’s a testament to the paradox of a society that is both free and curiously unfree at the same time. From the initial interview with Yuval Diskin where the former director (from 2005-11) talks about the binary nature of the Israeli government (“yes"or “no" are preferred to shades of grey), the film intersperses interchanges with former Shin Bet directors with the iconography of the sighted target. The choice is significant to the extent that the hits are both recognizable yet removed. “One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter” is what one commander comments and these drone shots, reminiscent of video games and absent of any moral compass capture the hopeless cycle of terrorism and counterterrorism bred by occupation. “Victory is seeing you suffer,” a Palestinian psychiatrist remarks when confronted with the litany of Israeli dominance. The Gatekeepers confirms Shin Bet’s role in the creation of a rigged cell phone which killed the Hamas terrorist Yahya Ayyash. The uncovering of the plot to bomb the Dome of the Rock by the right wing Jewish Underground is a success which spared Israel and the Mideast from Armageddon. However, the successes are always bought with a price and there are some outright failures. The assassination of Yitzhak Rabin of is one of the most serious that the film documents.  “We win every battle but lose the war,” is the way one of Moreh’s interviewees sums it up.

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