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'The Gatekeepers' is an eye-opening look at Israel's past – and possibly its future

'The Gatekeepers' focuses on six of the surviving former heads of Shin Bet, the Israeli domestic counterterrorism agency, and their memories of dark days.

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About the aftermath of the Six Day War, in which more than a million Palestinians suddenly came under military rule, he says, dryly: “When the Arabs surrendered, we had no enemy. It was lucky for us. We had work.”

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His Waterloo was the 1984 Bus 300 incident, in which two Palestinians hijacked a bus from Tel Aviv to Ashkelon, were captured, interrogated, and then executed, leading to a national uproar. “With terrorists, there are no morals,” he says. “In the war against terror, forget about morality.”

Ayalon has contempt for that attitude, saying “We killed them with their hands tied.”

The terrorism described in the film is not exclusively the province of Palestinians. We also hear of the West Bank Settlers group known as the Jewish Underground, who were caught placing bombs on Palestinian buses in Jerusalem and planned to obliterate the Dome of the Rock. The light prison sentences these men received is a source of anger to the gatekeepers. Another lingering source of rage and woe is the 1995 assassination by an Orthodox Jew of Yitzhak Rabin, the only prime minister who, according to the gatekeepers, genuinely wanted Palestinian statehood.

The pessimism pervading this film is summed up by Shalom, who says, speaking of the decades of occupation: “The future is very dark.”

Moreh told me at the Sundance Film Festival this year that he is planning to turn the movie into a five-part Israeli television series and a book. Although the film is shortlisted for an Oscar for best documentary, he has not heard from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who, according to a spokesman quoted in The New York Times Jan. 27, has no plans to see the film.

But perhaps if enough Israelis see the film, the grave issues brought forward by these former Shin Bet leaders will resonate in ways that will make the future a little less dark. Grade: A- (Rated PG-13 for violent content including disturbing images.)


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