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'The Gatekeepers' Unmasks Israeli Security Apparatus

In the documentary "The Gatekeepers," six former heads of the Shin Bet reveal who is in charge of keeping Israel's security gates, giving viewers a rude awakening, writes Shlomi Eldar.
Yuval Diskin, Israel's domestic security chief, makes a public speech at a homeland security conference in Tel Aviv November 1, 2010. Diskin identified cyber technologies as an ascendant international security threat. REUTERS/Nir Elias (ISRAEL - Tags: POLITICS SCI TECH)
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The film "The Gatekeepers" was over. The credits started running down the screen in Tel Aviv’s Cinemateque to the sound of soft music, and a tense silence filled the theater. The audience was glued to their seats, a look of disbelief spread across its faces. The atmosphere was heavy and tense. Even the lights took their time to go back on, as if they wanted to leave the audience in the dark for just a little longer. When they did go on in the end, the real faces of those very people after whom this film was named — the six former heads of the Shin Bet [Israel National Security Agency] — could be seen seated in the hall. These were the men who appeared on screen for the past 95 minutes, exposing the almost human side of Israel’s political and security apparatus. They had once achieved the rank of public heroes. Now that the film was over, even they seemed stunned.

"The Gatekeepers" is a film about our story, Israel’s story, from the Six Day War until today, as told from a security perspective. Each of the film’s six protagonists — Avraham Shalom, Yaakov Peri, Carmi Gillon, Ami Ayalon, Avi Dichter and Yuval Diskin — served successively as the head of Shin Bet from 1980 to 2012. Director Dror Moreh seated them in front of a camera so that they could each describe the main events that marked their tenures. They did so with chilling simplicity, and they had lots to describe: the bus 300 affair, the First and Second Intifadas, the Jewish Underground [militant organization], suicide attacks, targeted assassinations, Rabin’s assassination, etc. And that is just a very partial list.

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