A documentary by Dror Moreh. In Hebrew with English subtitles. Rated PG. Opens Friday, March 1, at the Fifth Avenue Cinemas
The thing about gates is that they can hold people in just as they keep others out. Basic to all “security” work, this cruel dichotomy seems very much on the minds of the half-dozen Israeli intelligence chiefs interviewed for The Gatekeepers by veteran filmmaker Dror Moreh, who previously profiled controversial leader Ariel Sharon.
The director has a strong off-camera presence, pressing tough questions on agents devoted to the avoidance of clear answers. When the concentrated 95 minutes of this Oscar-nominated documentary have passed, you realize that there was some investment in truth from all six, who ran the secret Shin Bet, Israel’s internal security service, since 1980.
Even the oldest, and most seemingly reactionary, of them, the Cheshire Cat–grinned Avraham Shalom, appears dismayed by the way fear-mongering has become institutionalized in a state that—unlike Shin Bet—has never acknowledged Israel’s role as an occupying entity.
Certainly, there is much prevaricating and score-settling on view (Shalom is particularly loathed by those who come later). Although undeniably self-serving, their uniform insistence that no major Israeli politician has been willing to sacrifice anything on behalf of the Palestinians rings true. Even Yitzhak Rabin, who championed the Oslo Accord and was assassinated for his trouble in 1995, was “a security man in his bones”, according to one of several shaven-headed interlocutors here.
They are notably disgusted by the rise of the right, which has been fuelled equally by religious fundamentalists and land-grabbing corporatists, the Benjamin Netanyahu crowd winking while wing nuts rev up their ceaseless death dance with Hamas and various crazies on the other side. Bolstered by gripping surveillance footage and some slightly overwrought reenactments, The Gatekeepers offers a chilling view of what happens when shades of grey become too dark even for men paid to live in the shadows.