Review #36 The Gatekeepers


Droh Moreh’s The Gatekeepers is a powerful film about the Shin Bet, Israel’s internal intelligence agency.  Moreh aims to give some perspective on one of the most controversial political situations in modern times, and interviews the six ex-heads of the agency who analyse their decisions doing one of the hardest jobs in the world.

The men are brutally, if not shockingly honest. Their time periods span from the beginning of the sixties, where we can see how the focus of the agency was to attack, but how this mentality gradually changed over time when facing war, kidnappings, bombings and assassinations.

They are level-headed, and speak with heavy hearts. They take responsibility for their actions, and acknowledged that not always the right decisions were made. The eldest interviewee, Avraham Shalom, contrasts greatly with some of the slightly younger ex-chiefs, who says it was imperative he took morality out of his decisions when dealing with terrorists. All six are obviously incredibly tough, but on reflection, ask some of the questions that would have compromised their roles in the security services. When ordering a missile strike, to what extent do they take into account collateral damage, innocent lives that might be lost?

All show tremendous bravery and honesty, at times speaking out against their own country’s policies. The most ground-changing event for all men was the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1995, whose actions were seen as a cure to the Israel-Palestine conflict, and causing Carmi Gillan to resign as head of Shin Bet.

As the film goes on, the more recent chiefs become more cynical about not just their work, but about the nature of espionage and their view of their country. One declares ‘one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter’, an old expression but maybe one which is representing change in the way Shin Bet operate.

Moreh’s masterpiece is interspersed with images of bombings, their aftermaths and truly emotive scenes from Rabin’s funeral. The Gatekeepers is a powerful, complex and surprising movie, and vital viewing for anyone who wishes to explore history, politics, security, and the question of morality.

Five stars.

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