“The Gatekeepers” Redux

Gaza, Israel, Palestinians, Middle East conflict

(photo: c2.staticflickr.com)

Fred Kaplan’s important Slate article this week about Israeli leaders’ apparent inability to think strategically about its worsening situation—at home and in the world—included a reference to the superb documentary of 2013, The Gatekeepers, originally reviewed here 3-18-13. That review is, alas, increasingly relevant, and here it is.

Saw the amazing documentary, The Gatekeepers, yesterday. It reviews the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict through the eyes and words of all six surviving directors of Shin Bet, the Israeli security agency. Old footage of the Six-Day War in 1968—after which Israel annexed the West Bank, the Golan Heights, and Gaza—and subsequent events—the bus bombings, the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin, the intifadas, pinpoint bombings of Palestinian targets, meetings brokered by President Clinton—all roll on hopelessly toward the present stalemate.

To a man, these former spy chiefs, who have studied the Israeli security situation closer than anyone else, believe the hardline strategy has been a mistake, that fighting when Israel should have been working for peace has made the country less safe, not more. Continued saber-rattling takes its toll on every one of them, and their childhood dreams of a peaceful Israel have turned into a nightmare for everyone, Israeli and Palestinian alike. As one said, “one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.” This line from the New York Times review is especially apt. “It is hard to imagine a movie about the Middle East that could be more timely, more painfully urgent, more challenging to conventional wisdom on all sides of the conflict.”