“The Gatekeepers,” a documentary film by Dror Moreh, complicates the deceptively simple task of fighting terrorism and violence in the Middle East. The film highlights exclusive interviews with six former heads of Shin Bet, the Israeli secret service. Images of war and bloodshed are interspersed with interviews, during which each man speaks at length about counterterrorism efforts and Palestinian relations, and questions the ethics of his actions.
The film is at once an alarming portrait of the history of violence in Israel and a rare look at the moral questions associated with security jobs, such as torture and the killing of innocents. But as intriguing as his premise is, Moreh bites off more than he can chew. He is so anxious to get to the ethical and political dilemmas Shin Bet faces that he skims over the basic factual information. The film would baffle someone who knows little about Israeli history.
Despite the missing pieces in this film, Moreh not only tackles a seemingly impossible subject, but also speaks to universal themes of human emotion and suffering that transcend the politics of the Middle East.
During one of the most haunting parts of the film, Avraham Shalom, the head of Shin Bet from 1981 to 1986, says, “We believe we are fighting terrorists, but they think that we are the terrorists.” In moments like this, the stark black and white contrast between the protectors and the terrorists, the film truly flourishes. ■