Sunday, February 24, 2013

The Gatekeepers

A documentary about Shin Bet! Yay! Wait, who?

Shin Bet is something like the Israeli FBI which is the sort of comparison that invites recognition without noting scale. Shin Bet is something like the Israeli FBI, if America were outnumbered 100-to-1 by people wanting to destroy it.

Yeah, that's more like it.

On the one hand, this is a fascinating look at people who have one of the hardest jobs in the world: maintaining the safety of a free state surrounded by enemies. This look is provided by a half-dozen former Shin Bet heads, talking about various incidents in Israeli history and how they were handled, for better or for worse.




You'll see people saying that this is a "balanced" movie because people on both sides felt it was biased in favor of the other side.


There's no moral equivalency here. Let's take an example: the Bus 300 affair, where terrorists hijack a bus full of people, and are soon captured by Shin Bet and the army. The terrorists that survived were beaten to near death by the army, and then finished off by Shin Bet, with the head guy thinking "No live terrorists on trial."

You can argue that the law should protect those in its custody, and therefore the beating and deaths of these terrorists was wrong. But it's a minor crime compared to killing 41 innocent people, which is what was at stake.

There's another incident where Shin Bet stops an internal Jewish terrorist group, plotting to blow the dome off the Temple Mount mosque. But it's Shin Bet that stops them. The terrorists get off light—but they also don't plot more terrorist activities, putting them way ahead of most of the Muslim terrorists who (e.g.) get out of Gitmo.

Even if you consider them equivalent, I note again they were caught by Shin Bet. When was the last time a Palestinian group caught a Palestinian terrorist group? Ever?

I kept telling myself, "Blake, these are the former heads of Shin Bet. They probably understand the situation a little better than you." Yet it seemed like they were drawing equivalencies that are unconscionable.

Creative editing aside, I began to think of Colonel David Hackworth. "Hack" was a great colonel who died around the time of the second Iraq war. He was against it. Not on the basis of Saddam not being a bad guy who didn't need to be taken out, but on the basis of not wanting to see WMDs used on our troops.

And then I thought back to all the opinions I'd ever heard him give, and they were universally on the side of "We shouldn't do this because our troops will get killed." And this was not the pacifist's abstraction. It occurred to me that this is a guy who'd seen his boys killed over decades—from the time he was a boy (he joined the last days of WWII when he was 14). That has to take a toll.

Similarly, these guys running Shin Bet have had to do things nobody should have to do. Of course they want things to change!

I just can't buy the premise that the Israelis are anything like equally responsible for the situation, as long as their enemies embrace terrorism.

So, while we liked the movie quite a bit, it also made us very suspicious. It was exactly the sort of thing you'd expect to see from the safety of Encino, if that makes sense.


  1. Hey Blake,
    Your movie going is quite impressive. I was trying to find your "Cloud Atlas" review and it seems to be missing. Have you seen it? If not, why not and is it too late??? Curious as to what your take would be.

  2. Pret? Not ringing a bell...

    I have not seen "Cloud Atlas". The Wachowskis lost me somewhere in between the first and second "Matrix" movies.

    There is a small chance I will yet see it as it is still playing a couple of shows at the 2nd run.

  3. 2nd try on this, hopefully the first one won't suddenly make an appearance....

    Sorry you don't know me. I generally follow along behind the twittter and in this case found you through KJ Adan (Who also doesn't know me). Anonymous was the only way I could post, lacking any other options in the drop down list.

    I am enjoying your movie reviews and was just wondering about your take on "Cloud Atlas" which I recently saw. I get what you mean about "Matrix" but I have a high tolerance and will see anything science fiction-esque.

    I will now slip back into the webs.....

  4. No problem! I love anonymous lurkers as much as the next guy, just didn't want snub you.

    I'm actually pretty with you as far as sci-fi-ish things go, though that's tempered a bit in recent years. As a youngling, there was so little of it, somehow the fact that 99% was crud (pushing Sturgeon's Law) didn't dissuade me.

    Now there's a ton of it, and it's all pretty much better, but I think I'm pickier about it.


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