It might be nice to see Jacob Perry and Carmi Gillon sitting at the Academy Awards ceremony on Sunday, their suits dark and their faces aglow.
Perry and Gillon, along with four other former heads of the Shin Bet security service, are the heroes of Dror Moreh’s film "The Gatekeepers,” which is in the running for an Oscar for Best Documentary.
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But on Sunday's ceremony they will not be there, and in fact they are not heroes. It isn’t any great heroism to settle accounts with your employer after you have finished working for him and then to run with that for an Oscar.
“The Gatekeepers” is not going to entertain the world’s moviegoers and it won’t tell viewers in Israel anything new. It was chosen by the Gentiles in order to take a stab at the Jews, and the Jews don’t know what to do with it. Is it for us or against us? On the one hand, it shows an acute reckoning of conscience. One the other hand, where was that reckoning of conscience when it could have done some good?
The film is Oscar-nominated because of excellent editing, fine cinematography and wonderful animation. From the director’s perspective, this is important; from our perspective, what they say in it is more important.
The heads of the Shin Bet say in the film that our politicians are leading us astray. Really? Is that what the security big shots are saying about their superiors? Amazing! Positively earthshaking!
No way. The politicians are silent and the press is tiptoeing around. On Army Radio, Razi Barkai will examine every jot and tittle of the Ya’alon outline for “equality of the burden” as compared to the Lapid outline, but he will not make any fuss about a few Shin Bet heads who say the government is leading us into the abyss. Abyss? Big deal. There is no one to ask and even if there were, we wouldn't get any answers. When do they stop keeping silent? When speech is no longer of any value.
It is not easy to watch a film that shoves reality in your face. In the category of horror films, if there were such a category, “The Gatekeepers” would be a worthy candidate.
This is a scary film in which six old men talk serenely about the ease with which killing happens. They scorn the prime ministers who made impotence a world view.
In this film I am an extra but, heck, it is about my life. When it comes to his own life a person tends to be less amused and more cautious. He is alarmed to see the swiftness with which he could become a corpse. It is scary. Not because he suddenly feels sorry for his enemies; on the contrary, he is glad someone is doing for him what he himself would never do. But all of a sudden he tenses. The power they and their deputies have disturbs him. He is afraid of the secrecy in which the power wraps itself, he doesn’t know if they will use it against him and he is leery of those who keep silent when it is necessary to speak.
In “The Gatekeepers” they break the silence. This is an opportunity to observe security people up close. Ordinary people, they could be anyone. Avraham Shalom could have been the proprietor of a small movie house in the south and Avi Dichter the manager of a supermarket in Ra’anana. You look at them and you know it takes a massive share of self-persuasion for you to entrust them with your life and liberty.
That amount of conviction has existed for 65 years of indoctrination – they built it splendidly. It has educated us to believe that their motives are pure even if their deeds are dirty.
They ask: Is your conscience bothering you? In return, we don’t ask and if we do we know what answers we will get. At first you don’t believe the answers and then you don’t believe the people who give them and finally you don’t believe anything. You don’t believe that the prosecutor, the judge, the hangman and the commission of inquiry can all come in one package.
Hang on a minute, you say to me, where are you running to? What about the judge who examines, the lawyer who advises, the family that knows and the prison wardens who guard? What about our democracy? So I don’t believe them either.
Let’s see them give me a good reason to believe them, aside from the fact that I have no choice.
I don’t believe Shin Bet heads from the past or the Mossad heads of today. I don’t believe the committee, I don’t believe the judge and I don’t believe the press that reports on them.
“For the sake of the land of Israel it is permissible to lie,” said Yitzhak Shamir. His land of Israel is not my land of Israel. Twenty-nine years ago, top Shin Bet man Yossi Ginossar lied to the Zorea committee for the sake of the land of Israel. Why should a senior Shin Bet man not lie for its sake today?
There are bodies you want to believe without checking them each time anew. The security services are one such body. They have so many dark corners that you are prepared to concede the details and want to believe in the whole. And then along comes something that cracks it all for good. The trust in security is no longer what it used to be, way before “The Gatekeepers” ever hit theaters.
If “The Gatekeepers” wins the Oscar the prime minister isn’t going to phone and the culture minister isn’t going to look for a podium to leap onto in order to take the credit. The prime minister has already declared that this is a movie he isn’t going to see. What you don’t see doesn’t exist, and if it doesn't exist, everything is good and life is honey. When you are in nursery school this is adorable. When you are in the government this is abysmal.