The Gatekeepers: Inside the Shin Bet of Israel

The Sundance Film Festival has a great reputation for breaking important new films.Some are so good that they actually make it to mainstream movie houses! Films in North America by and large are escapist fare, mind candy part of the pacification process we undergo on a regular basis. Huxley called them “feelies”—no need to think! Nevertheless, Michael Moore, a modern parabolist in the Catholic sacramental tradition, has shown that truth-telling can often appear in different media and penetrate the smog of distraction. Fahrenheit 9/11 profoundly shook the Bush administration much like Picasso’s Guernica kept Franco’s fascists awake at midnight.

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One of the stunning films doing banner business in Israel is the Gatekeepers, a shockingly candid portrait of Israel’s secret police,the Shin Bet, a virtual combo of the FBI and the CIA.This exposé has migrated from small art houses to big screens in Israel. Hopefully, it might do the same in North America, the population of which is blissfully unaware of the brutal lengths Israel has gone to suppress a Palestinian state.

While it is true that Israel in all global surveys has become a pariah state, there are vibrant democratic impulses bubbling up there. One of the truly great organizations is B’Tselem, a wonderful human rights group which is indefatigable monitoring the ongoing occupation.

On January 28 B’Tselem a report saying Israeli forces have been “extensively and systematically” violating their own rules of engagement when suppressing protests in the West Bank, in many cases leading to Palestinian deaths. According to B’Tselem, since 2005 at least 48 Palestinians have been killed by live ammunition fired at people throwing stones. Six more were killed by rubber-coated bullets fired at dangerously close range, and two were killed by tear-gas canisters directly fired at protesters.

Which brings us to the documentary showing at Sundance.

What is extraordinary is that filmmaker Dror Moreh assembled sic former directors of  the Shin Bet and allowed them to express their serious misgivings about the ruthless extent of Israeli oppression. Bear in mind, these are not peace  activists or crusading journalists or even those soldiers from Breaking the Silence, who have refused to serve in the Occupied Terrirories.These are men who have served the state and who are expressing qualms of conscience over the “dirty work” they performed.All of them have little time for an occupation corroding the Israeli soul and less time for the encroaching settlements which are making a Palestinian state virtually impossible.

Director Mrek in an interview on Democracy Now expressed his hope that President Obama now would do the right thing and tell Israel to shape up or he will turn off the tap.The tap presently runs at $3 billion a year  and $115 billion since the state was formed.

More tomorrow.

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