ARTYFACTS: The Gatekeepers: Israel and the wisdom of old men

Monday, April 15, 2013

The Gatekeepers: Israel and the wisdom of old men

Talking heads are much disparaged in media circles but sometimes they go straight to the point. These are the testimonies of Shin Bet men who have killed, tortured and affected the lives of millions of people through their intelligence and security roles in Israel. Yet, their words are full of insights, remorse and wisdom.
You’re taken through a whistle-stop history of Israel from the Six Day War onwards but from the depths of the Shin Bet intelligence world, not the surface phenomena of political spin. Oslo, the first and subsequent Intifadas, settlements, right wing Jewish terrorism, Rabin's assassination, to the era of anonymous assassinations from the sky.
Scathing of Israeli Prime Ministers, who took no real interest in the Palestinians, they had to learn fluent Arabic and speak to the perceived enemy. They saw, with their own eyes, the plight of the refugees. They saw what was in their hearts and in their retirement had become remorseful and arguably more objective and clear-headed.
Tactics, no strategy
The great problem was ‘tactics, no strategy’. Successive Israeli governments have tackled terrorism through tactics, without looking for a strategic solution. Rabin was assassinated, by internal, far-right terrorists, the settlement problem grew unopposed, Hebron became a nightmare and the whole occupation now threatens the very existence of the Israeli state.
The most interesting part of the film comes when Shin Bet had to turn away from the old external enemy to fight the enemy within – the far right group based in Hebron but with links to the Knesset. This group of religious extremists set out to bomb and murder 250 Palestinians in a bus attack in Jerusalem, thinking it would bring on Armageddon, the final conflict, but were tracked and arrested, only to be released a short time later. Israel, it implied, is in the hands of these people, as the settlements continue unopposed. But the true turning point was the assassination of Rabin by Yigal Amir, an act that changed Israel and one which we still live with today -  a swing to the religious right.
Words of wisdom
The final words are damning. “We’ve won every battle but have lost the war….we are a colonial and occupying force… just like the Germans…. we’ve become cruel….” These hard-nosed Bin Shet chiefs are no angels but they’ve gathered a certain amount of wisdom through what they’ve done, and sometimes regretted. That wisdom is captured in this film. Great work.


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