Customer Reviews: The Gatekeepers
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on February 24, 2013
Insights from six former heads of Shin Bet, supplemented with rare footage of targeted assassinations and disturbing historical events. Encourages reasoned analysis of the effect and morality of the use of violence for security purposes. Highly relevant to citizens of any country grappling with the use of drones, targeted assassination, occupation, or torture. Don't be turned off by fact that it is a documentary--movie is riveting.
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on February 28, 2013
I am neither a Jew nor a Muslim and to me it seems so hard if these people will ever achieve peace since when it comes to politics, geographically they certainly are not in a peaceful zone. As an outsider, I appreciate a sincere and well presented documentary which allows me to educate myself and this director has surly done his work by presenting facts and interviewing few people who have been in charge of defending Israel... but what is important, are those legislators who unfortunately have a mind of their own but controlled by few... Bravo.
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on July 22, 2013
Its good to see this doco out on DVD, as it only received a limited release in the cinemas. I was finally able to rent it on DVD last night.

My impressions: firstly, anyone wanting either a pro- or anti-Palestinian/Israel diatribe should steer clear, as this film avoids the sort of grand narratives you see in the usual propaganda pieces on this topic. Instead the film consists of interviews with the heads of the Shin Bet interspersed with video footage of key incidents in Shin Bet history. Most of the responses given by the interviewees consist of short, pithy observations that leave a lot unsaid, and even though some of the Shin Bet men give better interviews than the others it is clear that all of them are still somewhat cagey about saying anything at all.

For example, the interviewer spends several minutes pressing one of the men on a particular incident where two Palestinian prisoners were killed - apparently murdered - after being captured by the Shin Bet. Quite dramatically, one of the interviewees tacitly admits that he is the man that gave the order for the Palestinian prisoners to be killed. However, it took some googling for me to work out what all of this was about - apparently it was something called the "Bus 300 affair" according to Wikipedia. Israelis would probably know all of this instinctively, American audiences not so much.

This film has taken quite a few cheap shots in the media - for instance, it is true that one of the Shin Bet heads compares modern Israel to 1940s Germany, but he quickly qualifies this response by saying that this comparison was not aimed at Germany's treatment of Jews but rather Germany's occupation of Belgium, France and Czechoslovakia. So the accusation that the film compares Israel's treatment of the Palestinians to the holocaust is untrue and unjustified.

On the whole, however, it is clear that the men have all come to similar conclusions following their time in the Shin Bet and the film in this respect does have a political message. One of the interviewees says that it is impossible to spend a lot of time in the Palestinian territories and not come out of it "a bit of a leftist". It seems clear that the current detente in the Palestinian territories can only continue for as long as the Palestinians can hope that there is still a prospect of there ever being a negotiated peace. It is also easy to see the frustration and impatience that the men have for the Jewish settlers who have made the situation between Israel and the Palestinians much more intractable.

I think this is a very good documentary, but fair warning to people not overly familiar with the Palestinian-Israeli confilict: a lot of this might go over your head.
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"The Gatekeepers" (2012 release from ISrael; 95 min.) brings an unparalleled look into Israel's Shin Bet, the internal security agency tasked with protecting Israel from terrorists and other outside dangers. Incredibly, writer-director Dror Moreh was able not only to meet with and talk to 6 former heads of Shen Bet (covering 1980 to 2011, they are Ami Ayalon, Avi Dichter, Yuval Diskin, Carmi Gillon, Yaakov Peri, and Avraham Shalom), but Moreh then convinced them to talk on record, and on camera!

While the documentary does not strictly play pout chronologically, the early segments do focus more on the 'early' days following the Six Day War. Comments one of them: "we didn't get any direction from the politicians, we had to figure out for ourselves what to do". That gets solved when the era of terrorism becomes more pronounced. Shin Bet surveys, infiltrates and uses any means possible to get information on potential plots and strikes, and none of the former heads apoligizes for it ("there is no morakity when dealing with a terrorist", comments one). Shin Bet scores many victories yet suffers one of is lowest moments ever in 1995 with the assassination of Prime Minister Rabin by someone whom Shin Bet never had even an inklin about. The most interesting, and likely controversial, part of the documentary focuses on the Israeli-Palestine conflict. Despite the use of information-gathering methods that some might question, all six former heads make clear their disgust with the politicians on all sides, and they seem perplexed that there still is no resolution for this conflict. When asked if Israel should continue talks with all sides, including Hamas (a terrorist organization), they all are clear: YES!

This movie raises many pointed questions about the security threats that Isreal faces on a day-to-day basis, and is nothing short of a MUST-SEE for anyone interested in the Israeli-Palestine conflict. The screeing I saw this at this past weekend here in Cincinnati was PACKED. This movie was up for a Best Documentary Oscar earlier this year, and with good reason (even if it lost the Oscar to "Searching for Sugar Man"). Bottom line: "The Gatekeepers" is HIGHLY, HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!
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on March 10, 2013
This is a thoughtful, provoking, exhausting, most interesting, heart clenching, and merciless search for a truth and a way of understanding contemporary politics: Politics as a result of history, political actions as "tactical but not strategical"; how close it all came to a solution once in Oslo, and hope started to sparkle, but out of the mob emerged the one fanatic who ended it all with the assassination of Rabin. I need to buy this DVD; I feel like I need to watch the movie again and again, so loaded it is with information.
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on April 18, 2013
The film offers interviews with the last six heads of Shin Bet, Israel's secretive state security service. Despite being largely sympathetic to the men, their interviews were laced together very well to show inconsistencies in their responses. As is common in interviews with governmental officials, politicians are not shown in a very favorable light. However, the film makes it clear that Shin Bet was not blameless in the things that happened.

I think this is a documentary that would benefit many Americans, if not others, as it gives a very different perspective on Israel's history than can be found anywhere else. As an American who is very interested in understanding the state of affairs in the Middle East, and who is just starting to see the "darker side" of Israel, I found this documentary very useful and interesting.

The biggest reason this is not rated five stars is that it was hard to remember which of the men corresponded with which years as directors of the Shin Bet.

Note: for those interested in similar films, Waltz With Bashir is another very good documentary that shows a perspective not often seen in the American media.
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on November 19, 2014
Must admit I did not realize the Israelis had a group as radical for their interests as Hamas is for the Palestinians. I now have a better picture of how difficult it has been, is, and will be when moderates on both sides are flanked by these groups. Oslo and the Rabin assassination is now 19 years ago. I was still then too consumed with my career to be following situations like this in any depth and had forgotten he had been taken out by a radical Israeli. The Shin Bet all seemed to agree communication and understanding is the only way out of their dilemma. They also recognize that radical Jews blowing up the Temple Mount will bring the whole thing down on them all. The beliefs of these radical Jews are as bad as the "Twelvers" in Iran!
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on June 18, 2014
This is one of the most fascinating documentaries I have seen in the past few years, although it will probably anger a few people, particularly those who are vehemently pro-Israel. The documentary interviews all the living former and current leaders of Shin Bet, Israel's internal security organization. For people who don't know, Shin Bet is to Mossad as FBI is to CIA. Anyway, all the leaders come to the same conclusion to the central theme of the documentary: Israel is handling the Palenstinian issues totally incorrectly. It is a stunning confession that is made even more stunning by the concensus among all of them. I am not trying to advocate one side or the other here. It depends what day you ask me, because both sides have legitimate beefs with each other. All I am saying here is check out what the guys who are some of the most qualified to talk on the situation say. It is amazing.
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on July 30, 2013
Those with a deep and abiding interest in the problems of the Middle East will find much food for thought in "The Gatekeepers," an Oscar-nominated documentary about the Israeli intelligence agency known as Shin Bet. And those who are but casual observers of that part of the world may learn a thing or two as well.

The selling point of the movie is that for the first time ever it managed to get a number of the past leaders of Shin Bet to comment on their experiences with the organization. Directed by Dror Moreh, the movie begins with the Six Day War in 1967, goes through the various periods of turmoil and attempts at peacemaking that have gone on there through the decades since (including the assassination of Rabin), and ends in the present day when technological advancements have made surgical drone strikes the preferred weapon of choice in the seemingly never-ending battle against terror. As such, the movie provides a fascinating and surprisingly cohesive history of life in that geopolitical hotspot over the past half-century, all without any voiceover narration, using only the extemporaneous words and comments of the men who played such a major part in that history.

In moments of intense self-reflection, the men offer surprisingly candid comments regarding what they've had to do in their role as protectors of the nation. They re not afraid to delve into the grayer areas of the issues, for instance expressing regret over the "collateral damage" of innocents often caught in the crossfire of war, admitting to the mistreatment of prisoners, and agonizing over the dehumanization that results from sectarian prejudice and fighting. A number of them ponder the distinct differences in motive and approach between the politicians setting the policies and the people assigned to carry them out. Above all, to a one, the men reserve their harshest criticism for themselves, Shin Bet and their own country, often expressing sympathy for the Palestinians for what they've had to endure under Israeli occupation and questioning much of what Shin Bet and they themselves have done over the years, the mistakes they`ve made. Most agree that the most important thing Israel can do is to keep talking to its enemies. As such, I can't imagine this film went over too well with the hardliners in that country. As one of the men says, the farther one gets from one's time as leader of Shin Bet, the more "leftist" one becomes.

I don't know if that's true, but it makes for a fascinating theory. And there are many more unexpectedly eye-opening and paradigm-shifting moments to be found in "The Gatekeepers."
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on April 17, 2014
I'd give it more of a 3.5 out of 5, but all in all I found the documentary to be very informative and interesting. The brutal honesty of the subjects is refreshing. The interviews offer a unique perspective on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the process of peace post Oslo/Rabin/Intifada II.
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