Vermont Public Radio comment for Thursday February 7th, 2013

VPR210 INTRO :When the Academy Awards are presented later this month, commentator and veteran ABC News foreign correspondent Barrie Dunsmore will be paying special attention to the documentary category. This morning he tells us why one particular film in this group is attracting great international interest.

TEXT:

The men who are featured in the Gatekeepers, a documentary film about the Israeli Palestinian dispute, are not soft hearted peaceniks -nor anti-Israeli foreigners. They are hard-as-nails realists who are super-Israeli patriots. They are the men who from 1980 to 2011 led Shin Bet, the Israeli agency responsible for internal security and counter-terrorism in the Palestinian territory occupied by Israel after the June 1967 War. 

The Gatekeepers is the work of Dror Moreh, an experienced Israeli filmmaker who started the project three years ago. Much to his own surprise he was ultimately able to persuade all six living Shin Bet security chiefs to speak openly and frankly of their careers. When asked how all six came to the same conclusion that Israel should resolve its conflict with the Palestinians, Moreh told Newsweek, their views evolved from Israel’s failure to finally suppress Palestinian nationalism no matter what measures it employed. In Moreh’s words, “These are people who tortured, who assassinated, who interrogated…they figured out that power can prevail only to a certain point and after that you have to be a pragmatist.”
 

I have to confess that I have not seen the film. It was screened at some film festivals last year. And it ran for a few days in New York City so that it would be eligible for this year’s Oscars. But it has been much talked about and I have been combing the Internet to find out what to expect.  

David Denby in the New Yorker says, “They are all hyper patriots who would do anything to save Israeli lives and the Jewish state. And they are convinced that Israel is on the wrong track- and the future is ‘dark’” 

Newsweek’s Jerusalem correspondent Dan Ephron quotes Ami Ayalon , who went into politics after leading Shin Bet from 1996 to 2000., ‘The tragedy is that we win every battle, but we lose the war.”  

In the Gatekeeper film trailer which is available Online, these are some of the quotes of the six men who headed Shin Bet.

“In the war on terror, forget about morality.”

“We wanted security- we got more terrorism.”

“To the enemy, I was also a terrorist.”

“You can’t make peace by military means.”

 
One of the strongest quotes in the film appears in several reviews. Avraham Shalom, the Shin Bet chief from 1980-85, is the one who dismisses morality when fighting terrorism. But later he says, “On the other hand, it’s a brutal occupation force similar to the Germans in World War II. Similar, not identical.” 

Finally, no one is complaining about being quoted out of context. As Carmi Gillon who served from 1994-96 told the Los Angeles Times,

“The message (of the film) is that the occupation is bad for the future of Israel from all aspects (and) I assure you that all six former heads (of Shin Bet) agree with the overall conclusions of the film.”

Whether or not it wins an Oscar, I am eager to see it.

 




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