By John Pryor
Recent Israeli elections have awakened new discussions about the future of Israeli-Palestinian relations. With this in mind, an audience gathered at the Frontline Club on 18 March for a screening of Academy Award-nominated The Gatekeepers. This powerful film provides a unique insight into the aftermath of the Six Day War and the occupation from the point of view of six former heads of the Shin Bet.
Assembling the six men was a long process for director Dror Moreh, who said the key was finding a ‘gate opener’ to facilitate his approach to the others. This man was Ami Ayalon who agreed to participate after subjecting Moreh to something resembling an interrogation. Moreh emerged from the interviews with a documentary which tackles critical questions about the occupation, reveals the thought processes behind the application of force and assesses the place of morals within the fight against terrorism.
Asked about the reaction to the film from the Israeli government, Moreh said:
“The centre right and the centre left endorses the film completely. . . . When you look to the far right they totally shame and ban the film and they try to say that this is the most anti-Israeli film. . . . The far left is the same phenomenon, you know: ‘You gave those war criminals the opportunity to speak.’”
The perceived impact of the film on the actions of Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu pleased Moreh:
“The fact that it forced him not to go with the far right, as he wished, but he has to be more central now, and he suffers from that . . . for me, I like that.”
Moreh explained that it was clear that the diverse reactions to the film in the public arena illustrated its profound impact:
“At almost every screening that I was in in America, and it was a diversity of screenings . . . it moved people immensely.
“There were a lot of angry Jews [coming] to the movie . . . but I think that the movie poses a huge paradox for them. . . . After the screening in Jerusalem, three settlers came to me and they said to me: ‘We are going to think very very thoroughly about where we live, why we live there and if the fact that we live there poses a threat to the existence of the state of Israel.’”
The discussion then addressed what motivated the six men to participate, Moreh said;
“They understand where they live and understand what can be achieved and what cannot be achieved. And I think when they look at their lives’ work, basically trying to maintain the security of Israel, they are really really worried. . . . They think we are almost beyond the point of no return, that a two state solution will soon be only a dream. . . . My point of view is that we are passed that point.”
Finally Moreh talked the audience through some of the intricacies of the film making process, he described how important it was for him to keep the film a secret from the media prior to its release in the USA and spoke about where he got the military material which featured heavily in the film:
“There was [a lot of] CGI – this is a completely different method because it is a secret service. . . . Part of the visual solution for me to create that movie was to create the language you saw which is CGI, creating a visual language which is based on real documents, real photos.”
There will be a longer version of the film realised in a five-part series. To find out more information visit the documentary website.