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February 12, 2013 2:27 am

The Gatekeepers: Peddling Two-State Propaganda All the Way to the Oscars

avatar by Gidon Ben-zvi

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'The Gatekeepers' screenshot.

The Gatekeepers is a highly acclaimed Israeli documentary that tells the story of the Shin Bet from the perspective of six former heads of Israel’s secretive internal security service. Directed by Dror Moreh, the film has been nominated for Best Documentary Feature at the 85th Academy Awards.

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I recently went to see The Gatekeepers, which is currently playing at the Jerusalem Cinemateque. Unfortunately, I came away from the screening of this much-hyped exposé into the inner workings of the Israeli intelligence agency with little new insights and a splitting headache.

Indeed, Mr. Moreh’s cinematic offering did little more than reflect and reinforce a tired belief among many on the Israeli left that the nation’s original sin was its lightening fast victory over Egypt, Jordan and Syria in the Six-Day-War that took place between June 5 and June 10, 1967. Displaying a film maker’s gift for the dramatic, The Gatekeepers director portrays a country corrupted by victory; a people forced by circumstances to become brutal occupiers. One former head of the Shin Bet, Avraham Shalom, went so far as to compare the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) to Hitler’s Wehrmacht (German army during World War II).

While no one can deny the bravery, brilliance and patriotism of good men who have given the better parts of their lives to the service of country, one can and should take a cold hard look at how they were manipulated by a film maker with an agenda.

In a recent interview, Dror Moreh said: “I’m wondering, when [Israeli Prime Minister] Benjamin Netanyahu says ‘two-state solution,’ with whom does he want to speak? Does he want to speak with Hamas?  With Iran?   [Former Prime Minister Yitzhak] Rabin said there’s a small window of opportunity [for peace.] It is closing…the day that [former Prime Minister Ariel] Sharon got the second stroke was the worst day in Israel’s history after the assassination of Rabin” in 1995.”

Mr. Moreh’s documentary is nothing of the kind. Rather, it’s a propaganda piece extolling the indisputable virtues of a two-state solution. Not only is peace possible between Israel and the Palestinians, so goes the narrative, The Gatekeepers director has even gone through the trouble of inventing an arch enemy to peace in our time: “Never ever in the history of this country has there been  such a good and understanding leadership on the Palestinian side, and Israel does everything in its power to avoid conversation.” (Italics added)

How can a documentary be objective if only one point of view is shown? No, dear reader, the talented Mr. Moreh did not present the historical subject matter in a factual and informative manner. Instead, he used actual news clips and interviews accompanied by narration to convey the look and feel of a thoroughly researched documentary. Underneath the façade, however, lies little more than a few unexamined tropes that contribute nothing to a frank and honest discussion about the ultimate fate of lands conquered by Israel in a war of survival 45 years ago.

While The Gatekeepers director is entitled to his personal crisis of confidence regarding where Israel goes from here, it is intellectually dishonest for the film to be presented as a cold, dispassionate analysis of Israel’s war on terror.

Despite its problematic methodology, one shouldn’t be surprised that The Gatekeepers has achieved mainstream success, first in Israel and then abroad. After all, the worldwide mainstream media shows a consistent liberal bias – and liberals are opposed to Israel, which they view as the power in the region.

The Gatekeepers fails to live up to the hype that it is a film that documents – primarily for the purposes of instruction or maintaining a historical record – the successes and failures of the Shin Bet.

Still, one can’t deny the superficial appeal of a ‘mockumentary’ that includes exceedingly rare interviews with six former heads of Israel’s internal secret service agency.

As such, I’d like to nominate The Gatekeepers, if it’s not too late in the awards season to do so, for a prize at the 33rd Annual Golden Raspberry Awards. The Razzys are known for creating special categories to suit special films.

And the Razzy for ‘Worst Migraine-Inducing Misuse of Archival Footage’ goes to…

The Gatekeepers!”

Has a nice ring to it, no?

This article was originally published by The Jewish Thinker.

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  • G. Fränkl

    Oh, the effete libtard snobs of New York (and Israel perhaps in 1 instance) came out of the woodwork en masse to cry “Gewalt!” I liked this blog.

  • Ariel

    גועל נפש. מתנחל שמגן על הכיבוש.

    • Gidon Ben-Zvi

      Hi Ariel. First of all, I’m not a “settler”. I live within the Green Line. Secondly, while I appreciate your well thought out opinion, I’d like to ask you what is so disgusting about it: 1) That I accuse The Gatekeepers of not being a proper documentary or 2) That I must be a settler? Sadly, when it comes to Israel, history, facts and basic common sense all tend to become victims of hyperpoliticization. My piece wasn’t pro-settlement or anti-occupation: it was for honest, well-researched, unbiased documentary film making, wherever that may lead. I thank you for reading and responding to my essay.

  • Haim Peer

    I would much rather be paddling a Two-State “Propaganda” then be paddling the WAR Propaganda.
    I get it, Propaganda is when “they” dont think the way you do!

    • Gidon Ben-Zvi

      Hi Mary. The definition of propaganda is: Noun
      Information, esp. of a biased or misleading nature, used to promote or publicize a particular political cause or point of view.

      The dissemination of such information as a political strategy.

      Even if a a supposed “documentary” was made that happened to echo my own political beliefs, I would still believe it misleading to label it a “documentary”.

      Opinions, as hard as we might wish it not to be so, are NOT facts. The director of The Gatekeepers sought to promote a certain political agenda, which is fine in and of itself but it’s false advertising to refer to such a film as a documentary.

      Thank you for reading and replying to my piece.

  • Mary

    Never read such a biased review of a documentary honored by listing for an Academy award. Why such ad hominem attacks like “director is entitled to his personal crisis” or “intellectually dishonest”? Shame on allgemeiner for publishing such a “review” lacking careful thinking.

    • Gidon Ben-Zvi

      Hi Mary. My critique of the director was purely of a professional nature. And, respectfully, it is intellectually dishonest to pass off one’s opinion as unbiased fact. At no point in the piece did it “get personal”. Finally, you level the same type of ad hominem attack that you accuse me of; your contention seems to be that the points I raise are invalid since they are based on a lack of careful thinking. I look forward to your careful, well thought out reply. Thank you.

      • Mary

        I’d like to ask the author respectfully why he can’t agree that both remarks cited in my post from his article are ad hominem: “director is entitled to his personal crisis” and “intellectually dishonest”? I look forward to your honest reply.

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