The Gatekeepers | Film | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

The Gatekeepers

The six former heads of Israel's national-security organization sit for illuminating interviews


In this compelling documentary, filmmaker Dror Moreh interviews the six surviving former heads of Shin Bet, Israel's secretive national-security organization, formed in the wake of the Six Days War. Since then, Shin Bet has served through tumultuous times — the West Bank and Gaza occupations, Palestinian unrest, bombings, two intifadas, Jewish extremists, attempted peace processes and the assassination of Prime Minister Rabin.

Any student of modern history will mark the fascinating revelations: how the Shin Bet moved from cultivating intelligence through social networks with the Palestinians to being blindsided by their own Jewish countrymen (and sympathetic politicians) to operating remotely, through high-tech weapons. While Israel comprises a unique set of circumstances, viewers can draw parallels with Shin Bet's evolving mission and numerous aspects of the U.S.'s "war on terror."

Only these six men speak — accompanied by some archival footage — so it's naturally just one select group of opinions regarding a region and conflict where there is no shortage of other voices. But viewers might be surprised at what is said; it's not the bombastic chest-thumping one might expect. These men speak frankly of using violence, but most also reflect back with fatalism, and are pessimistic about the future. "The tragedy of Israel's national-security debates," concludes one man, "is that we don't realize we face a frustrating situation, in which we win every battle, but we lose the war."

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