Open Up at Tropic
Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades
We’ve all heard about the Mossad, Israel’s not-so-secret Secret Service. But have you ever heard of Shin Bet?
Short for Sherut haBitachon haKlali, this is Israel’s internal security service. It is one of that country’s three intelligence organizations (alongside Mossad and Aman, the military intelligence).
Shin Bet’s motto is “Magen VeLo Year’e,” Hebrew for “Defender that shall not be seen.” It is sometimes called “The Unseen Shield.”
That’s why we’re surprised to see a documentary about Shin Bet, one that features six former heads of this secretive organization -- Ami Ayalon, Avraham Shalom, Yaakov Peri, Carmi Gillon, Avi Dichter, and Yuval Diskin. (Diskin was still serving as head of Shin Bet at the time.)
Founded in 1948 during the Arab-Israeli War, Shin Bet was originally headed by Isser Harel, who went on to oversee the Mossad. He is known as the Father of Israeli Intelligence.
Sherut haBitachon haKlali’s task is to provide state security. This includes rooting out terrorist activities; overseeing intelligence from the West Bank and Gaza Strip; protection of senior officials, buildings and infrastructure, airlines, and embassies; as well as counterespionage. Spy stuff.
Directed by Dror Moreh, “The Gatekeepers” was nominated for Best Documentary in the 85th Academy Awards. Three years in the making, the challenge to Moreh was getting these secretive Gatekeepers to agree to appear on camera and discuss their work.
Ami Ayalon, now serving as a Minister without Portfolio in the Security Cabinet, was the first to step forward. He helped Moreh contact the other surviving leaders of Shin Bet.
Following a chronological order, the film is divided into seven segments: Six Day War, the controversial 300 bus incident, the Oslo Accords, the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin, negotiations with Palestine during the Second Intifada, the assassination of Yahya Ayyash, and reflections on the ethics of Shin Bet.
The film recounts how each of the group came to reconsider these hardline tactics and “advocate a conciliatory approach toward their enemies based on a two-state solution.”
As Yaakov Peri says, ““These moments end up etched deep inside you, and when you retire, you become a bit of a leftist.”