Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The Gatekeepers.

I don't like writing about Jewish related issues. Not because I don't have any opinions on the matter, rather, it's when a discussion does start on some relevant issue it rapidly degenerates into accusations of philo or antisemitism.  The other problem is that the discussions tend to draw in all the crypto-Nazi's and their opposites, the rabid Zionists. Both sides tends to assume that if your not kissing their arse then you must obviously must want to slash their throats. It really isn't a subject that lends itself to objectivity.

For the record I'm Eusemitic, i.e., I'm neither philo or antisemitic. Jews are not the villains that so many paint them nor are they the saints that Zionist element of the Cathedral would like you to think. Not belonging to any one camp seems to make me a traitor to both. Still, I like to think that I'm fair and try to be as objective as possible.

Objectivity, when it comes to Jewish issues, tends to be a rare thing and that's why the movie, The Gatekeepers,  is simply extraordinary.  Directed by Israeli Dror Moreh and done in the style of Errol Morris's Fog of War,  the film deals with the recollections and reflections of six former leaders of the Shin Bet, Israel's equivalent of MI5.  From a cinematographic point of view,  the film is nothing special but it power lays in the considered testimony of its six subjects.

The first thing that struck me was the "top notch" quality of the men who were speaking. Unlike the blathering goyim politicians and their technocrats, these were men who were clearly intelligent, humane and patriotic to their country.  By humane, I mean these men all seemed to want to wage war as "cleanly" as possible. Not that there was some sort of saintly concern for the Palestinians, rather, they all seem to recognise that the use of violence brings its own associated evils and thus should be minimised. The Vietnam war, a close analogue, caused huge damage to the Vietnamese but deeply wounded (and transformed negatively) American society as well.

All the speakers have blood on their hands, in the sense that all have organised the execution of terrorists but what's also apparent is that their actions seem more motivated by a desire to protect Israel rather than a hatred of the Palestinians. In fact, the overall impression I got from watching the movie was that the leaders of the Shin Bet were rather understanding of the Palestinian plight. As one of them wry observed, "One man's freedom fighter was another man's terrorist."  What really amazed me was the comment of Avraham Shalom, perhaps the most hawk like and morally "flexible" of them all, who compared the conduct of the state of Israel in the occupied territories to that of the Germans in the Second World War. I kid you not.

Their view is one from the "trenches". Despite their different perspectives and personal histories--they don't even like each other-- the speakers seem to realise that the occupation is having a blow-back affect on the state of Israel and want a deal to be cut with the Palestinians. It's not because they feel some moral duty towards the Palestinians, rather, they see the ongoing occupation as a corrupting influence on the Israeli state, eating it away from the inside. They are all disillusioned with their political masters whom they feel have no real desire to reach a compromise despite all their public pronouncements. I certainly got the impression that their willingness to speak on film came from a desire to have their side of the story heard and a collective feeling that the Israeli state has gone in the wrong direction. All of them feel that if the course doesn't change then the future will be bleak.

The film has had very little publicity here in Australia and is being shown in the smaller cinemas only. I'm not sure what its publicity is like in the rest of the Anglosphere.  If you have the opportunity I urge you to see it. Not for the cinematic experience but for the compelling testimonies presented. Outstanding. Note, the film needs to be understood not only as a Israeli-Palestinian thing, but seen in the wider context in terms of the limits of military power and of the corrupting nature of war.

Here is an interview with Droh Moreh about the movie. The really interesting part starts at the 3:00 minute mark.

Regular posters to my blog no know my commenting policy. I will delete at will any comments that misconstrue my position or are idiotic in any way.


Anonymous said...

SHABAK (ie "Shin Bet") is the equivalent of MI5, not MI6 - FYI.

The Social Pathologist said...


You're quite correct.
I've amended it.

jack said...

About 32 years ago I suggested that we create a Zionist State in the U. S. desert southwest. Plenty of land, no Palestinians.

The Social Pathologist said...


You know, it wouldn't of been such a bad idea and the world would have been a lot simpler.

ah....lost opportunities.

When I look at the original partition of Israel and Palestine it almost looks as if it were designed to ensure conflict. You got to love the U.N.

Jason said...

I know you admire Mr. Reed’s work doctor, but I do think he is being rather sloppy in the moral equivalence he’s drawing between Israel and other regimes like the Palestinians in the links you provided. Certainly the Israeli military has not always been flawless, but in general there has been a real effort on their part – indeed, an often extraordinary heroic effort considering the restraints and challenges they face, such as groups like Hezbollah intentionally putting civilians in hospitals and the like – to avoid civilian casualties (Consider for instance their efforts a few years ago in Ramallah, where they often went door-to-door to find terrorists – you’re not going to find many regimes that match that sort of scrupulosity; indeed probably not any).
It’s easy to understand why so many – such as the Shin Bet figure you mentioned – would like to just pull out of the West Bank because of the moral corruption that occurs. Unfortunately, as bad as the occupation is, the alternative would be worse, I think: a Hamas-like state in Samaria and Judea that would just randomly fire missiles at Jerusalem the way Gaza fires missiles at and around the Negev now (and as Hezbollah fires missiles into northern Israel). If Israel knew that the West Bank could be under the control of a relatively liberal, peaceful government, they would pull out tomorrow – that is what the broad majority of Israel want, excepting the rather vocal ultra-religious and ultra-Zionist minority. Alas, such a government isn’t anywhere close to existing (there probably won’t be the conditions for a generation), so Israel is making the admittedly Hobson’s choice of tolerating the Occupation, a decision that I can certainly respect.
Not trying to be provactive here, by the way, but just giving my two cents.

The Social Pathologist said...

Jason, no problems at all. Your comments are well considered.

Firstly, I agree that the Israelis have certainly been more discriminate in the application of violence compared to Hamas.

Secondly, you and I get our information from the occupied territories through second hand sources. The media, both pro and anti-Israeli, selectively filter the information that is presented to us. Therefor our perception of the events may be at odds with reality and therefore both of our opinions may be worthless.

Thirdly, the guys from Shin Bet, on the other hand, have possibly the best "on the ground" view of the reality of the conflict. They have seen the intelligence, lived amongst the Arabs, interrogated the subjects and analysed the psychology. They have the best situational picture of all of us. (Remember, the Israeli Cabinet get their information of the situation from them. They have a better understanding of Hamas and its intentions and capabilities than you or I do.

Which is why I find it extraordinary that these same men are now arguing for a negotiation with them. Normally, in such a group of disparate men you would expect differences of opinion, but what we get here is a uniformity of opinion despite the variances in political disposition of each of them. The underlying reality of the situation must be staring them in the face. Israel may have to make a Hobson's choice if it wants to survive.

GK Chesterton said...

Fair enough. While I'm fine with the US shutting off funding the whole region including Israel my sympathies lie with the only civilized state in the region other than Turkey and 1950's Lebanon.

I haven't seen the film but the directors comments about the West Bank (Abbas) don't make sense when viewed strategically. The Israelis while emotionally attached to the Gaza Strip have essentially given it up as they did Sinai.

The West Bank on the other hand is around Jerusalem. One would imagine them giving that up on the day they give up being Jews. That is, pretty much never if history is to be believed. The Muslim attachment to Jerusalem should be seen as morally equivalent to Israeli attachment to Sinai.

Of course the Muslims are good at that. See for example the Hagia Sophia which I'd happily see back in Christian hands.

Anonymous said...

Supporters of the Palestinian state refuse to acknowlege that there has never been an independent Arab state of Palestine. Before Israel's birth, it was occupied by Great Britain. The last time Muslims ruled the place was the Ottoman Empire, and they were so brutal to their fellow Muslims that they welcomed the "infedel" British takeover after World War I. The area has been occupied by someone else for ages. The Palestinians don't have a strong case and their barbaric behavior bears that out.

Tom said...

Even viewing Israel in the best possible (and likely unrealistic) light, it's clear to that you cannot continuously contain/suppress a population that would do monstrous things without becoming monstrous oneself.

I have no doubt that many/most of the Israelis do take measures to minimize casualties, which helps lessen the speed of corruption, but humans are humans, and there is no way to suppress an entire people without it corrupting the soul, no matter how justified that suppression might be.

It's no surprise to me that all five members would prefer to see a pull-out. Seeing the psychic cost to the countrymen you love must be horrifying.

The danger of a Palestinian West Bank might well seem trivial compared to the danger to the Israel soul.