Latest Opinion piece by Dr. Ron Weiser AM. Immediate Past President of the Zionist Federation of Australia, Honorary Life President of the Zionist Council of New South Wales and Committee Member of the Board of Governors of the Jewish Agency (The Sochnut)
In an unprecedented move, all of the living heads of the Shin Bet, the Shabak, (Israel’s internal security service responsible for Israel, Gaza and the West Bank) appeared on the record, candid and forthright.
All of them are strong Zionists, all of them are patriots and all of them have served Israel and the Jewish People in ways we can only imagine.
A couple of them in particular are deep thinkers on matters wider than only those directly connected to their brief.
I do not share the concerns some have raised with me about these men describing their jobs and their missions to the point that they have – it is no secret what they have been doing and ex heads of the CIA et al speak in a similar, albeit more muted, vein.
There is also no evidence that they have been misquoted or edited unfairly.
Those Shabak leaders who have spoken after seeing the movie have made clear that their target audience are Israelis, Israelis who serve in the army and who know the context, so that any gaps can be filled in by the Israeli viewers themselves.
The movie itself is engrossing and fascinating.
But it is not really just a movie about the actions of the Shin Bet and here is where it moves into another dimension entirely.
The director has made clear that it is a movie that also wants to make a political point, to paint a certain political picture, to put pressure on the Israeli leadership and to lay blame.
The director’s interview with the ABC in Australia is a good example of how the movie is being used or misused for that purpose outside of Israel. Here:
We are introduced to some themes.
Israel lacks political will.
The Israeli leadership is at fault – tactics without strategy.
Israel should return to the 67 lines – a point by the way that none of the Shabak heads themselves actually advocate.
The Palestinians want to talk, we do not.
The “settlers” have taken Israel over and large sections of the Israeli population were responsible for Rabin’s assassination.
The ubiquitous “they” are running everything – “they” are fundamentalist; “they” only listen to G-d (inferring Israel is somewhat less of a democracy than Australia); “they” control Israeli Justice which is unequal; “they” have paralysed Israeli actions and any other conspiracy theories one may wish to throw into the pot.
The question that needs to be asked is, if this is true, how come the Israeli Government – a so called “right wing” government led by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and supposedly controlled by “they” – withdrew from Gaza in 2005?
How come it was “right wing” Prime Minister Netanyahu – under the control of “they” – who became the first Prime Minister in the history of Israel to bring down a 10 month settlement freeze on any new construction even within the existing consensus settlement blocks in 2009/2010?
A freeze that he strongly enforced.
How come this current “right wing” Netanyahu Government has recommitted itself to a 2 State for 2 People solution?
And with no such commitment from the Palestinians by the way.
Why has this current Government released prisoners with blood on their hands to bring the Palestinians back to the table, despite the fact that it was the Palestinians who walked away from then Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in 2008 and never returned?
“They” are either the most incompetent people of all time, or perhaps, just perhaps, “they” are not nearly as numerous or influential as the director would like us to believe.
Context and proportion.
That is the concern with this movie outside of Israel.
The ex heads of the Shin Bet have every right to voice their opinions on the political leadership of course, they also know them more intimately than we could possibly ever do.
The interpretation of the movie particularly outside of Israel, will depend in large part on the starting point of the viewer.
If the viewer is positive about Israel, the movie whilst possibly even making some feel uncomfortable at times, will be an example of Israel’s robust democracy and struggle for survival against terrorism whilst maintaining one’s moral compass.
If the viewer starts from a negative perspective, the movie will reinforce all of the negative perceptions about Israel that they began with – and will add a few more.
The question to be asked is whether after seeing the movie one will feel more positively disposed or more negatively disposed to the State of Israel and her situation?
Alan Dershowitz was not always a person who was considered a champion defender of Israel. He was a human rights campaigner who went around the world criticising Israel for her behaviour and focussing on “the settlements”.
Until one day.
Almost more interesting than his book The Case for Israel, is an essay he penned explaining why he wrote the book.
In summary he had always given his criticism against a background assumption that his audience understood his basic support for Israel and her morality. Therefore he spent most of his speaking and writing time on the criticisms.
Then the penny dropped.
His audiences only heard the criticisms and had forgotten or never knew his overwhelmingly positive and supportive stance.
So he determined to do 2 things – to speak in context from then on, with proper weight and balance and time to the much greater positives versus the much lesser negatives; and to write the book.
The Gatekeepers needs to be looked at in context and with some understanding of the Shabak heads’ basic positions.
The movie represents a segment of the story but without including much of the positive assumptions.
A couple of years ago I had the pleasure of being invited to Israel to participate in a think tank dealing with scenarios – future confrontations, peace, 2 State Solution, settlements and so on.
There were about 30 of us in the room over a 2 day period, one of them was Ami Ayalon.
Ami could possibly be regarded as the most “left wing” of the Shabak heads.
Nothing is black and white – Ayalon is a decorated navy seal, ex head of the Navy, ex head of the Shin Bet and the co author of the Ayalon Nusseibeh Peace Plan.
What surprised some of those gathered in the room was that this so called “leftie”, like the majority of his ilk, supported keeping the settlement blocks and the vast majority of the settlers; was not so trusting of the Palestinian desire to end hostilities as thought; and postulated that it was only worthwhile making a deal on the 2 State for 2 People solution if it also meant a Saudi Embassy in Jerusalem – i.e. a total end of conflict.
If The Gatekeepers adds to the understanding that there is a consensus in Israel; that Israel desires peace and is not the obstacle to it; and that Israel has in the past and is willing into the future to pay the required price – then fine.
If not, then there is either something missing in the film or in the audience perception thereof.
The film by itself lacks context and balance to an outside audience and the Shabak heads rely on the viewer to complete their story.
Naturally enough, different audiences will do so in different ways.