Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The Gatekeepers: Israel "Winning the Battles, Losing the War"

When we were in Jordan last month (Aug 2013) we spoke to a Palestinian who lives and works there. He had gone to an Israeli university before moving to Jordan. He remarked that if they did not have enemies, they would tear themselves apart. His comment reverberated after watching Dror Moreh's documentary The Gatekeepers.

The film centres on revealing and candid interviews with six former heads of the Shin Bet, Israel’s secret service: Ami Ayalon, Avi Dichter, Yuval Diskin, Carmi Gillon, Yaakov Peri, Avraham Shalom.

It divided into 7 segments, as outlined on Wikipedia:
  • No Strategy, Just Tactics – covering the emerging role of the Shin Bet from the Six-Day War and the occupation of the Palestinian territories
  • Forget About Morality – about the Bus 300 affair
  • One Man’s Terrorist Is Another Man’s Freedom Fighter – about the peace process following the Oslo Accords
  • Our Own Flesh and Blood – about Jewish terrorism, including the Jewish Underground and the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin
  • Victory Is to See You Suffer – about negotiations with the Palestinians during the Second Intifada
  • Collateral Damage – about the assassination of Yahya Ayyash and other prominent Hamas militants
  • The Old Man at the End of the Corridor – consisting of reflections on the activities of the Shin Bet and their ethical and strategic impact on the State of Israel

These are the men who had responsibility for targeted assassinations of the enemies of Israel, prisoner interrogations, the lives and deaths of their Prime Ministers. They would weigh the possible loss of "innocent" lives, the so-called collateral damage. They were dedicated to doing what it takes to protect the State of Israel. It is a job they did with passion and commitment. Several of the interviewees see religious parties and the political parties of the right opposed to a real settlement with the Palestinians as key obstacles to securing last peace and security.

Some of the quotable quotes;

Carmi Gillon:
"For Israel, it's too much of luxury not to speak with our enemies. When we refuse to talk, we make a mistake."
"We are making the lives of millions unbearable, into prolonged human suffering, ... it kills me..."

Avi Dichter:
"You can't make peace using military means".

Ami Ayalon:
“We’re winning all the battles ...and we’re losing the war.”
"You can't make peace using military means".

Yuval Diskin:
"What's unnatural is the power you have to take three people, terrorists, and take their lives in an instant..."

Avraham Shalom:
“we have become cruel, to ourselves as well, but mainly to the occupied population, using the excuse of the war on terror.”

Yaakov Peri: “when you leave the service, you become, a bit of a leftist.”

This is a must-see documentary for all who are interested in understanding the Middle East and the continuing quest for a negotiated peace.

The talking heads are never boring. They are effectively complemented by archival footage and computer animations by Mac Guff. It was nominated for the 2012 Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature.

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