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Terror and the Surveillance State on Film

Zero Dark Thirty and the Israeli documentary The Gatekeepers are up for Academy Awards. Only one should win.

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Left to Right: Avraham Shalom, Ami Ayalon, Yaakov Peri, Yuval Diskin, Avi Dichter, Carmi Gillon, in The Gatekeepers. (Photo Avner Shahaf/Irit Harel, courtesy Sony Pictures Classics)

Moreh’s account of Israel’s counter-terrorism history begins with Israel’s victory in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, which brought a million Palestinians under occupation. Avraham Shalom, the eldest of the six former chiefs interviewed, recounts how Israeli intelligence officers learned to fight a new kind of warfare on what was now Israeli land. They learned Arabic; studied Palestinian history and culture; mapped out the casbahs of Nablus; identified family and clan structures to spot potential recruits among the people of the West Bank and Gaza.

But despite such meticulous effort, the Shin Bet would fail to predict the outbreak of the Intifada in 1987, the mass uprising in the occupied territories, just as the CIA would fail to warn of the Arab Spring revolutions decades later. And through it all—the protests, the chaos, bombings, arrests, and interrogations of hundreds and thousands of men—settlement building continued, while Israeli leaders across the political spectrum ignore the fate of the Palestinians. Improbably, it fell to Yitzhak Rabin—described by a former Shin Bet chief as a “security man to his bone”—to break the cycle of “no strategy, just tactics” by authorizing secret talks with Yasser Arafat’s Palestine Liberation Organization in Oslo.

Intelligence is no gentleman’s sport, as Moreh’s tough-minded documentary shows. The Shin Bet chiefs discuss Israel’s version of “enhanced interrogation techniques”—sleep deprivation, hooding, being stretched in painful positions, and violent shaking. The death of a Palestinian detainee because of this last technique prompts the ouster of yet another Shin Bet leader. An earlier political casualty of security excesses is Shalom, who was part of the intelligence team that tracked and kidnapped Adolf Eichmann in Argentina and brought him back to Israel to stand trial for his role in planning and carrying out the Holocaust. Shalom is forced out after two Palestinian hijackers of Bus 300 traveling from Tel Aviv to Ashkelon are captured alive but subsequently beaten to death in Israeli custody. “Forget about morality,” Shalom says, still visibly anxious about the murders almost 30 years later. His obvious distress amplifies the power of his appeal for Israelis to speak to their enemies—Hamas, Islamic Jihad, even Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad—however, whenever, and wherever they can. Intelligence professionals welcome interaction, he calmly explains. “I see you don’t eat glass. He sees I don’t drink petrol.”

Halfway through his tightly drawn narrative, Moreh, 51, focuses on perhaps the Shin Bet’s greatest intelligence failure—Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s assassination in 1995. Carmi Gillon, then the Shin Bet chief, poignantly recounts his unsuccessful attempt to persuade Rabin to wear a bulletproof vest. Although the Shin Bet disrupts a right-wing Jewish plot to blow up the Dome of the Rock—which Gillon notes would have brought down the fury of the entire Muslim world, not just of Arab Muslims, upon Israel—it cannot decouple the dangerous Jewish fanatics from the radical rabbis and cowardly politicians who make excuses for their fellow Jews.

Rabin is killed by Yigal Amir, whom Gillon calls a “punk” nonentity who never crossed the Shin Bet’s radar. Rabin’s murder changed history “big time,” Gillon admits. But the Shin Bet still keeps the West Bank quiet, working with the very Palestinians it once occupied. The Palestinian Authority’s former security chief Jibril Rajoub, for instance, spent over 15 years in Israeli jails.

These Shin Bet veterans are no spineless dreamers. So, their warnings that, as Avi Dichter says, “you can’t make peace with military means” have added emotional clout. Fateh’s leaders are soon replaced by Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and the other militant Islamists who hold sway in Gaza, threatening Fateh’s legitimacy on the West Bank. Such religious foes have proven to be a far more disciplined enemy. Quoting Clausewitz, who he jokingly insists must have been at least part Jewish, Ami Ayalon defines victory as “the creation of a better political reality.” Though intelligence has helped keep Israelis safe, it cannot make them secure. Only a political settlement can do that, the veterans agree. Relying on brutality to fight terror—which Shalom compares, shockingly, to “Nazi methods”—has made Israelis “cruel.”

Perhaps as astonishing as what the intelligence elite have said is their having sat down with a documentary filmmaker. In an interview, Moreh told me he used only 2 percent of some 50 hours of interviews he taped with the former heads of the Shin Bet. He is working on a five-hour series for Israeli TV; a book is in process. He hopes to screen the film on the West Bank, where it hasn’t yet been shown; Arabs who have attended film festivals in Europe and America have told him they were deeply moved by it, he told me, when I sat down with him recently in New York. They know such a film could never have been made in any of their own countries.

Moreh’s question about whether Israel is becoming a “Shin Bet” state has prompted some Israeli extremists to threaten him. “You should see my Facebook page,” he told me. “One blogger said I should get cancer.” But Moreh has few illusions about the Palestinians. His overhead shot of the bombing of bus Number 5 is hard to watch. He would never forget, he told me, seeing a young girl blown to pieces in a suicide bus bombing. “Those horrific images are embedded in my memory,” he said. At the same time, he argues that refusing to criticize Israeli policy is a form of betrayal. “A real friend does not encourage the Titanic’s captain to keep heading straight for the iceberg,” he said. “He doesn’t yell—full steam ahead!”


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Judith Miller’s collusion with the Bush II administration’s campaign
of lies that got us into two unnecessary wars should preclude her commenting on
the consequences of those wars in any publication that thinks of itself as

PhillipNagle says:

The article continues the fiction that Rabin would have had more success making peace than those who followed. It is ludicrous to think there would have been any difference when the arabs have never withdrawn the “right of return” and it is inconceivable that Rabin would have offered any more than Netanyahu or Barak. Foolish Bill Clinton thought he achieved peace by replacing Netanyahu with Barak, he didn’t.

gwhepner says:


Some consider
use of any enhanced interrogation technique

to be a
very grievous moral error;

fear such arguments ensure the downfall
of the meek

by those
who’ll overcome them using terror.

you can’t make peace by war, you need to gain security

to have
a chance to live and make peace when

terror, thanks to means you use defying warfare’s purity,

has been
defeated. This carcinogen

can’t be
eliminated by those who aren’t morally offensive.

terror is no abnormality,

a major
side-effect of painful therapy includes


Is this the same Judith Miller who published handouts from Dick Cheney’s office in the NY Times backing the Iraq lies? The NY Times canned her and so should we. The woman is a disgrace to journalism. Anything she writes is suspect.

The very same.

Superfluity does not vitiate.

PhillipNagle says:

It’s nice to see yevka change his complaint when the first one was shown to be rubbish. Now he quotes me as saying Clinton “replaced” Rabin with Natanyahu (even at this point this bitter loser could not refrain from name calling) which of course anyone who read (assuming they could read) would know this wasn’t the case. This yevka is not very bright.

Laila Rasheed says:


And surely thou hast sublime morals

(Surat Al-Qalam 68:4).

Ye have indeed in the Messenger of Allah an excellent exemplar

(Surat Al-Ahzab 33:21).

Now let us see how it is practiced on a female child & who began this evil practice. According to an official Fatwa issued in Saudi Arabia, the prophet Muhammad began to practice thighing his child-bride, Aisha when she was six years old until she reached nine years of age (Fatwa No. 31409). The hadith, which was quoted earlier, mentioned the prophet Muhammad started performing literal sex with Aisha ONLY when she reached the age of nine (Sahih al-Bukhari, book 62, hadith No. 89).

Muslim scholars collectively agree, a child becomes an adult, available for sexual intercourse as soon as she reaches the age of nine. Likewise, the Shari’a allows any of the faithful to marry a six-year-old child.

According to the fatwa, the prophet Muhammad could not have sex with his fiancée, Aisha when she was six due to her small size & age. However, the fatwa said that at age six, he would put his penis between her thighs and massage it gently because he did not want to harm her.

Imagine a man of fifty-one removing the clothes of a six-year-old girl and slipping his erect penis between her thighs, rubbing her until he ejaculated and his semen ran down her thighs. To this day, this is considered a benevolent act on the part of the adult male “not wanting to harm her.” What harm could be inflicted upon a young girl mentally and emotionally if not a grown man showing her his penis and stripping her of her clothes and rubbing his male organ between her legs?

Of course the twisted mind that does such an evil to a female child, would not hesitate to ejaculate on her body. And if this sexually perverted evil frame of mind committed such an act upon a child, the pedophile would not stop at ejaculating on her. His evil desire would go further and rape the child before she was a mature adult. This is exactly what Muhammad did to Aisha when she was yet a child of nine.

Before she reached puberty, he began to have sex with her.
Let us see what the fatwa said about the prophet of Islam and his child-bride, Aisha.“Praise be to Allah and peace be upon the one after whom there is no
[further] prophet. After the permanent committee for the scientific research
and fatwas (religious decrees) reviewed the question presented to the grand
Mufti Abu Abdullah Muhammad Al-Shamari, with reference number 1809 issued on
3/8/1421(Islamic calendar).

PhillipNagle says:

Oh poor yevka, I hurt his feelings.

Nola Baar says:

Judith Miller,

You must have invented the word chutzpah. Trying to appear as an expert on terrorism and torture with your record of lies about Weapons of Mass Destruction, inventing sources, etc. Busha Ve’cherpa!-

Papa493 says:

“Depiction is not endorsement,” Bigelow has said repeatedly….”

Totally beside the point. The controversy is NOT over the endorsement or condemnation of torture; rather, the controversy centers on the film’s contention that torture was instrumental in getting the info that led to bin Laden — a contention that is widely disputed.

When will the NYT can Tom Friedman for printing Obama’s handouts?

steve w, says:

Why is Judith Miller writing film reviews?j
She has zero credibility as a journalist, a critic, a commentator.

For her to criticize “Zero Dark Thirty,” is ludicrous.

steve w, says:

Widely disputed by whom? Feinstein hasnt released the report. The CIA has equivocated. Widely dispited? That’s bullshit. Read Roger Cohen in todays NYTimes. Not Judith Miller,for God

Papa493 says:

Disputed by whom? Just google the question. Here’s one example:

herbcaen says:

Im cheering for Zero Dark Thirty. The gatekeeprs is a pathetic film about ex-military men in Israel trying to cash out for their retirement. There are many movies of these genre and they have become boring. What is disappointing to me is that Iran could have gotten these men to turn probably for a modest sum of cash, and that Israel was defended by these clowns shows that Hashem is watching over us, otherwise we would have vanished a long time ago

herbcaen says:

I didnt say that Iran bought them out. I am saying that Iran could by these cash and publicity starved old men pretty easily. If I were the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, I certainly would have tried to turn them

perverse says:

This is pure character assassination. To state that Iran may ” have tried to turn them;” that 6 of the former heads of Shin Bet are guilty of treason – without a single shard of proof – is a despicable tactic.

That you state it as a speculation, meaning that you don’t stand behind your implication, shows an enormous amount of intellectual cowardice.

herbcaen says:

I didnt say that Iran turned them, I did say that Iran could turn them. I suggest that you learn to read. Perverse is a good name for you

perverse says:

,,, and your proof for this allegation???

More intellectual dishonesty

Alex Rose says:

Good journalism demands balance. Both the movie and Judith Miller’s account of it are one sided polemics.This is a request for the Tablet to make available an opportunity for a response to the article.
Alex Rose [among the founders of the NY Chapter of CAMERA]

richardwicks says:

Yes it is.

Shows you what sort of credibility “tabletmag” has, or any press in the west has to employ this prostitute.


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Terror and the Surveillance State on Film

Zero Dark Thirty and the Israeli documentary The Gatekeepers are up for Academy Awards. Only one should win.

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