The Gatekeepers

Six former heads of Shin Bet, the Israeli internal security agency, discuss their takes on the Israeli-Palestinian situation. Along the way, they offer, among other things, justifications of torture and targeted assassinations that are about as stone-cold as you would expect from a security professional. So when one of the older ones, who was apparently part of the team that brought Eichmann to justice, compares the Israeli occupation of the West Bank to the Nazi occupation of (Christian) Poland, you sit up and take notice. In fact, these men are remarkably similar in their belief that peace with the Palestinians is possible — it is only a matter of Israeli will.

(The movie doesn’t say, but it appears from the Wikipedia page on the film that the Israeli filmmaker interviewed every head of Shin Bet since 1986 — in other words, he doesn’t appear to have cherry-picked.)

The interviews are juxtaposed with vignettes on the history of Israel since 1967. The horrors of the Intifada are not minimized — in fact, you get some scenes of bombed buses that are more graphic that what is usually seen on American TV. The movie spends some time with a lesser-known plot by Jewish terrorists to blow up the Dome of the Rock, which was foiled by Shin Bet.

You come away from this history with the sense that the biggest tragedy to befall Israel in the last 30 years was the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin, who genuinely wanted peace. Prior to the assassination, the movie provides footage of increasingly ugly demonstrations against the Oslo Peace Process and Rabin personally. A prominent leader of those demonstrations, never mentioned by name but obvious in the footage, was Benjamin Netanyahu.

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