This week I went to see the documentary The Gatekeepers. It’s about Israel’s secret service, the Shin Bet, and features candid interviews with six former agency leaders. Visually there’s some cool stuff with computer-animated photographs from actual events that make it look like live video. But this film is almost entirely spent with just these guys in front of the camera answering questions. It’s no frills but completely engrossing and deeply disturbing in its unflinching focus, honesty, and revelations.
Politically and historically this is interesting subject matter. More than that, it’s reassuring to see these men, who once held positions of extreme power to capture, torture, and execute terrorists, grapple with the gravity of these decisions years later. Situations that at the time were black and white, in memories, are now frustrating shades of gray. Operations that were considered successful are now as painful and senseless as the failures. It also reinforces the idea that peace in this region is hopelessly complicated, confusing, and no matter how close resolution has been in the past, a satisfactory end goal is utterly elusive. Seems the intent is also a subtle attempt at giving America the opportunity to learn from a country that’s been involved in the war on terror for much longer – and wake up people there is no silver lining.
Three things are made very clear in this documentary:
- When you go to war without a clearly defined end goal, it probably won’t end.
- In conflict, talking is better than not talking.
- People’s convictions can change – for better, and just as easily, for worse.
At a much higher level it’s impossible to see this documentary and not notice how it’s also saying something about basic disagreements that exist between people. The three ideas above are true in any relationship. We’ve heard all this stuff before and history has provided countless painful examples. Yet why do we forget and repeatedly react in haste, and make the same mistakes?