By Samuel Burke, CNN
Six former heads of the Shin Bet, Israel’s secretive internal security service, have spoken out as a group for the first time and are making stunning revelations.
The men who were responsible for keeping Israel safe from terrorists now say they are afraid for Israel’s future as a democratic and Jewish state.
Israeli film director Dror Moreh managed to get them all to sit down for his new documentary: “The Gatekeepers.” It is the story of Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian Territories, as told by the people at the crossroads of some of the most crucial moments in the security history of the country.
“If there is someone who understands the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it’s those guys,” the director told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour.
Against the backdrop of the currently frozen peace process, all six argue – to varying degrees – that the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land is bad for the state of Israel.
The oldest amongst the former chiefs, Avraham Shalom, says Israel lost touch with how to coexist with the Palestinians as far back as the aftermath of the Six Day War of 1967, with the occupation of Gaza and the West Bank, when the country started doubling down on terrorism.
“We forgot about the Palestinian issue,” Shalom says in the film.
A major impediment to a meaningful strategy, they say, are the Jewish extremists inside Israel – people like the Jewish Israeli who assassinated Prime Minister Yitzak Rabin, or the 1980 plot to blow up the Dome of the Rock Islamic shrine in Jerusalem.
A central theme of the documentary is the idea that Israel has incredible tactics, but lacks long-term strategy. That is to say, the security apparatus is able to pacify terrorists, but if operations do not support a move toward a peace settlement, then they are meaningless.
Moreh said he was shocked to hear Avraham Shalom, Austrian-born and a refugee of the Nazis, compare the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian Territories to Germany’s occupation of Europe.
“Bear in mind that Avraham Shalom was born in Vienna,” Moreh said. “And at the Kristallnacht he was forced by his mother to go to school and was beaten almost to death by his classmates… He said ‘I experienced firsthand what it means to be under a racist regime.’”
Moreh knew that he had to include that part of the interview in the film. “I said to myself I have to keep it, because he understands what he speaks.”
“Only Jews can say those kind of words,” he told Amanpour. “And only they can have the justification to speak as they spoke in the film.”
The filmmaker said that this is “the most pro-Israel film” he could have created. “When you see the Titanic heading toward the iceberg, what would you do?”
A spokesperson for current Israel Prime Minister said Benjamin Netanyahu had not seen “The Gatekeepers,” and had no plans to do so.
“I think the fact that the PM of Israel is not willing to watch a film with six former heads of shin bet speaking and conveying a message to the Israeli public – to him and to the world. I think it just speaks about his personality,” Moreh said.
Critics accuse Moreh of cherry picking to advance a political agenda that falls on the left-wing of the Israeli political spectrum.
“They are all pragmatists,” Moreh told Amanpour about the subjects. “These are the six heads of the secret service of Israel saying in one and clear voice enough of the occupation – you cannot argue with that.”
Moreh said that none of the former chiefs has come to him with any problems with the final product and all of them told him they stand behind the film.