The Shin Bet is the intelligence agency charged with defending Israel against terrorism, espionage, and the release of state secrets. Since the Six Day War in 1967, it had been at the forefront of Israel’s intelligence operations in the occupied territories of the West Bank and Gaza. The heads of the Shin Bet are among the select few involved in all National Security decisions and are answerable directly to Israel’s prime minister. They are the only members of the organization whose identities are known to the general public but had never been interviewed about their work until Dror Moreh’s Academy Award nominated documentary The Gatekeepers (2012). In this film six former heads of the Israeli intelligence organisation share their thoughts on the on going conflict with Palestine. Ami Ayalon (1996-2000), Avi Dichter (2000-2005), Yuval Diskin (2005-2011), Carmi Gillon (1994-1996), Yaakov Peri (1988-1984) and Avraham Shalom (1980-1986) have all held jobs that are arguably among the most important and controversial in the Middle East and who were at the heart of some of the most fateful decisions in the history of the area.
In this totally absorbing documentary we learn about the ‘belligerent occupation’ of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank and then how the Israeli’s systematically dealt with any opposition and recruited people to spy on their neighbours, families and friends. In June 1982 Israel Defence Forces invaded Southern Lebanon and again Shin Bet recruited informants and was able to control Lebanon just as it did with the West Bank. Unlawful killing and maiming of anyone who opposed the Israeli’s was prevalent, including some captured freedom fighters who had their hands tied and were no longer a treat. This happened during the 300-bus hijacking and the Israeli army was accused of premeditated murder sanctioned by Shin Bet who believe there is no such concept as an illegal order, taking their own decisions to murder people. We were told that the relationship between the agency and the government was not always good and that some of their missions were ‘questionable legal’ and some were ‘barely legal’. Incidentally the only reason the killings connected to the 300 bus incident came out were because there was a reporter present otherwise these murderous killings would never have been made public. As far as the Shin Bet leadership was concerned fighting terrorism did not involve morals and certainly did not take into consideration that one mans terrorist is another mans freedom fighter.
We were shown how the Palestinians people could only fight back with rocks against a well-armed military force. As usual, when it suits them, the Americans stood by and watched the one sided carnage. Diplomacy eventually prevailed and peace talks followed but they eventually failed and the Israeli’s continued to set up illegal settlements in Arabs lands. Hamas took up the fight on behalf of their people but with American support Israel continue to dominate the Palestinians.
In 1995 the then Prime Minister of Israel Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated by Yigal Amir an Israeli who was opposed to Rabin signing the Oslo Accord which was meant to bring peace to the Middle East. This had the affect of changing the status quo and Shin Bet faced a serious crisis and an organizational shift followed. By the year 2000 over 220000 Jews had illegal settlements on Arab lands. The agency continued to target suspected Palestinian’s and with the help of the Israeli air force would bomb houses where suspects were deemed to be. But this was an inhumane method at best because of the collateral damage when bystanders and adjoining property were also blown up.
The documentary highlights the fact that the Jewish state is cruel and merciless to its neighbours and particularly to its occupied inhabitant’s, listening to these men is both eye opening and mind blowing. There are some very explicit scenes of carnage and death so be warned. I will bring this ramble to a close by quoting Yitzham Leibowitz a critic of Israel’s illegal occupation. “A state ruling over a hostile population of 1 million foreigners will necessarily become a Shin Bet state, with all that this implies for education, freedom of speech and thought, and democracy. The corruption found in every colonial regime will affix itself to the state of Israel. The administration will have to suppress an Arab uprising on one hand, and acquire quislings and Arab traitors on the other” And as the German general and military theorist Clausewitz pointed out “you may win the battle but loose the war”