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March 21, 2013 - Image 59

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2013-03-21

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arts & entertainment

Powerful Pragmatists

Shin Bet 'gatekeepers' revisit Israeli history
in an Oscar-nominated documentary coming to the Maple Theater.

"The heads of the Shin
Bet are not center,
are not left and are
not right. They are
pragmatists. They use
power; they understand
what it means to use
power; they understand
very, very thoroughly
the limitation of [what]
power can [get] you;
and they are very, very


The Gatekeepers features interviews with all surviving former heads of Shin Bet, the Israeli security agency. They are: top row,

- Filmmaker Dror Moreh

Avraham Shalom, Ami Ayalon, Yaakov Peri; bottom row, Yuval Diskin, Avi Dichter, Carmi Gillon.

Michael Fox
Special to the Jewish News


sraeli filmmaker Dror Moreh
embarked on The Gatekeepers with the
intention of stirring things up.
He has everyone's attention now, with his
film playing to sellout audiences at home
and opening across the U.S. with the buzz
of an Academy Award nomination for Best
Documentary Feature (the film lost last
month to Searching for Sugar Man, the film
about Detroit musician Sixto Rodriguez).
The Gatekeepers unflinchingly exam-
ines the Israeli-Palestinian situation and
the rise and impact of right-wing Jewish
violence through the recollections and
insights of six former chiefs of the Shin
Bet, Israel's secret service.
"The heads of the Shin Bet are not cen-
ter, are not left and are not right:' Moreh
declared in an interview at a downtown
San Francisco hotel earlier this year.
"They are pragmatists. They use power;
they understand what it means to use
power; they understand very, very thor-
oughly the limitation of [what] power can
[get] you; and they are very, very worried:'
Moreh, whose credits include campaign
commercials for former Prime Minister
Ariel Sharon as well as the 2008 documen-

tary Sharon, acknowledged that he had
been looking for a way to influence Israelis
on the center-right. He realized that impec-
cable, respected establishment figures
expressing their doubts and concerns would
be heard without the usual resistance.
"If there is someone who understands
the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, if there is
someone in the Israeli society who knows
firsthand — and not only knows but was
inside those rooms with the prime min-
ister when those decisions [were] made
through all the years — you better listen:'
Through black-and-white aerial surveil-
lance footage, the documentary immedi-
ately thrusts us into a moral thicket: to kill
a suspected terrorist remotely by missile or
bomb, or not.
In what becomes its recurring theme,
The Gatekeepers gradually exposes the pit-
falls of focusing on tactics at the expense
of strategies. Even if successful in the short
term, it's not a plan for the future.
"This is the motor that goes throughout
my film:' Moreh asserted. "Regrettably, to the
heads of the Shin Bet, most of the prime min-
isters of Israel were tacticians — very good
tacticians, but tacticians who looked 2 meters
in front of their eyes — besides Rabin, and
maybe Sharon as well, and Begin:'
Moreh, who does not dream small, read-

ily admits that he always wanted an inter-
national audience for The Gatekeeepers.
"I wish that Barack Obama would watch
the film:' he says with a smile before
quickly turning serious. "I think that he
would understand a lot about the lack of
leadership in Israel, what the history of the
[Israeli-Palestinian] conflict is and what
those security guys are telling him.
"I wish we had someone like him in
Israel. He's the most powerful person on
Earth now, and he treats power with sanc-
tity, almost like something that is sacred to
him. He doesn't rush to adventures:'
The handsome, gregarious filmmaker,
who was born in Jerusalem and lives in
Jaffa, thinks The Gatekeepers is relevant
to a country that is also more focused on
tactics than strategies.
"The problems that America is deal-
ing with now are the same problems that
the film deals with: How much physical
pressure should you [apply] while tortur-
ing people? How much can an occupation
succeed? Is targeted assassination a good
technique or not a good technique? Will it
lead where we want it to lead?"
The most chilling portion of The
Gatekeepers for many American Jews will
be the section on the Jewish underground
before and after the assassination of

Yitzhak Rabin by a right-wing settler.
Moreh, whose father is an Orthodox Jew
and whose sister is a moderate who lives in
a settlement — and who both changed their
votes from Benjamin Netanyahu after seeing
The Gatekeepers — found that he could only
get so far talking with ultra-religious settlers.
At a certain point, you reach a wall, and
that wall is God',' he relates. '"God ordered that
the land of Israel should not be divided, and
everybody that gives [away] a piece of Israel is
a traitor and should be treated as [one]: The
settlements are the biggest obstacle to peace:'
Coming from a man who exudes enthu-
siasm and energy, his perspective is deeply
"I'm very pessimistic. The main
problem is the lack of leadership. I'm
totally for what Abba Eban said once: 'The
Palestinians have never missed an oppor-
tunity to miss an opportunity' But this is
true, also, for the Israelis:' ❑

For an opinion piece on The Gatekeepers,
see page 44.

The Gatekeepers is scheduled
to open on Friday, March 22, at
the Maple Theater in Bloomfield
Township. (248) 855-9091; www.
themapletheater.com .

March 21 • 2013


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