I recently watched the documentary The Gatekeepers by Dror Moreh (2012), which gathers six former heads of the Shin Bet, Israel’s domestic secret service agency in a sort of reconstitution of Israel’s military operations in the West Bank and Gaza since 1967. Remarkably enough, the six of them are extremely critical of the policies they had to implement as they evidently constitute punctual tactics rather than long term strategies. The interesting twisting moment in this regard since to be Yitzhak Rabin’s assassination in 1995 when it became clear that an important part of Israelis were not open to any form of compromise vis a vis the Zionist colonialist dream.
However satisfactory and probably helpful it is to listen to those six gentlemen who embodied one of the most powerful position in the realms of Israeli military operations from 1980 to 2011 (only one director is missing in the film within this period), it is actually tragic to observe that such opinions from them come after their retirement or worse, that they do not have any impact on the government’s policy when they were in office. From here, what seems to be a hopeful message of mind evolution can be interpreted, in the contrary, as a tragic perpetuation of an unacceptable situation regardless of the protagonists’ opinion on it.
Interpreting the problem based on opinions, polls, compromises, efforts etc. as it is usually considered (especially in Europe where people keeps considering this conflict in a very strict symmetry) might therefore be the wrong way to look at things. Similarly, getting indignation from videos or news of IDF soldiers punching a Western activist or a Palestinian kid being beaten up by some Israeli bullies in East Jerusalem and other various unjust punctual events is simply not enough as this same indignation did not nothing to change the status quo of the last forty-five years. What we need to understand and act upon is the system that makes those events possible if not encouraged.
The film The Gatekeepers, however useful it might be, fails to address this problem. Images from the West Bank and Gaza are too much sourced by television and drones to understand what is the essence of the problem even if it less “spectacular” than the targeted assassinations in Gaza. The problem is the administrative and policed organization of a people’s daily life by another materialized by a territorial occupation and control. Everything that does not primarily questions this situation is only a decoy not to address it. The United States are currently experiencing a similar situation when they wonder if it is ethical to drone assassinate a US Citizen abroad who “represents a threat to the country’s security”, some other people wonder about what we politely call “collateral damages”. The only question that matters here is how is possible that a country can conduct long distance humanless targeted attacks in another country on people who do not receive any form of trial?
There is no doubt that the authors of those crimes, whichever their rank are, from the highest members of a government to the people who “press buttons” are guilty and responsible for them; however the people who keep asking the wrong questions that do not fundamentally challenges the status-quo – and that is the case of the vast majority of liberal media in the Western world – can certainly be attributed a part of responsibility as well. That is not to say that D.Moreh’s film should be necessarily considered as such as it constitutes an important testimony of Israel’s internal contradictions, but rather that we cannot be satisfied of this kind of repentance without the actual application of justice that is the only way to “make the political situation better” (quote from the movie) for all.