“There is a time and place for every human being where you get up in the morning and look in the mirror. If the mirror tells a story that you don’t like, you have two choices; you can tell yourself that what you see is not the truth and that there’s something wrong with the mirror and you can live in denial. Or you can do the toughest thing and that’s seeing and understanding the reality in the mirror.” Writer, producer, director Dror Moreh is speaking about his new film The Gatekeepers. “From there it’s what you choose to do that will determine whether you’re strong enough to change your beliefs. This requires action and there are consequences. I think that anyone who looks at my film will be forced to ask that question.”
Having the six living heads of the Shin Bet, Israel’s secret service tasked with overseeing Israel’s war on terror, both Palestinian and Jewish, speak on-camera for the first time ever is nothing short of an unprecedented film feat.
None regret speaking with him, he says assuredly. “I found out that they are very worried guys. They’re frustrated and concerned about the direction that Israel is heading towards. The lack of leadership in the current government has left many asking this question. Like many things in life, it’s timing and I got them at the right time.”
In speaking to his thoughts on President Obama’s support of Israel, he says, “Obama recently said that he doesn’t know what Prime Minister Netanyahu is doing. Many agree that he is a very dangerous person to the security of Israel.” Moreh adds, “From my point of view, Obama is the biggest friend of Israel. The time has come that someone in the White House put Israel in the right place. Others have been too soft on Israel in the past.” Adding that he feels that Obama made mistakes in the beginning, especially in regards to the Middle East, he says that he’s since learned a lot. “The best person in the world to lead now is Obama. He’s a person who prefers to talk than to use force. I’m looking at this from my side of the map which is the Israel side and I think that it was a tragedy that when Obama was elected, so was Netanyahu.”
Recently nominated for Best Documentary for the 85th Academy Awards as well as much success on the film festival circuit, his work has already garnered much attention, both positive as well as negative. “The extreme right wing in Israel has already started speaking out negatively. They’re not protesting, but they’re trying to speak badly of the film. It won’t work,” he says of the not-surprising controversy surrounding the film. “On a positive note,” he adds, “I spoke with some settlers in Jerusalem who’ve seen the film and they said to me that they’re going to really think about what they learned. This is what I intended from the beginning, I wanted to influence people.”
The Gatekeepers, the anonymous soldiers that Moreh says understand the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians better than anyone, include Avraham Shalom who headed the Shin Bet from 1980 -1986. Shalom began his military career before the State of Israel was founded and in 1959-1960 he was a part of the team of Mossad and Shin Bet operatives that tracked and kidnapped an Argentine citizen, Ricardo Klement, better known as Adolf Eichmann, a German Nazi known as one of the major organizers of the Holocaust and the murders of six million Jews. Shalom’s efforts helped bring him to justice.
Yaacov Peri was the head from 1988-1994, a time when coping with the Intifada, an unprecedented mass uprising in the Occupied Territories was a main focus. He was known for instituting the conceptual changes necessary to deal with the then new political reality in the Middle East.
Carmi Gillon who headed the organization from 1994-1996, had a brief tenure that was marked by his failure to protect Prime Minister Rabin from being shot by an assassin. He was able to shift the Shin Bet’s focus to Jewish terrorism, especially from the right. His failure in regards to Rabin was followed by a huge success in January of 2006 when the Shin Bet assassinated the Palestinian terrorist known as The Engineer, Yahya Ayyash, who had masterminded some of the bloodiest attacks on civilians in Israel.
Ami Ayalon followed from 1996-2000 and came directly from the military where he was a decorated officer and beloved war hero. He eventually became the head of the Navy with the rank of Major General in 1992. His main goal as leader of the Shin Bet was to increase security around the country’s leadership.
Avi Dichter headed from 2000-2005 and was known for his controversial policy of targeted assassinations that were modeled largely after the successful assassination of The Engineer. He was known for expanding the role of intelligence gathering and preemptive attacks as well as initiating the Separation Wall.
Yuval Diskin came next from 2005-2011. He worked to create an integrated counter-terrorism doctrine to thwart terrorist attacks, particularly the suicide bombers referred to as “ticking time bombs.” He’s known as the person that perfected the doctrine of “targeted assassination.” He’s since drawn attention for his criticisms of the current government’s policies towards the Palestinians.
When asked if he watches “Homeland” Moreh exclaims a very definitive yes. “Homeland came from Israel, of course I watch!” And his thoughts on the film “Zero Dark Thirty” validate the film’s success. “It’s timely in the face of the war in the 21st century. It’s a different kind of war,” he says. “It’s a war of intelligence, not a war of armies.”
Asked what he feels is the answer to terrorism, he replies, “I’m writing something now that is about exactly that.”
The Gatekeepers opens in New York and Los Angeles on February 1st.