Prof. Phyllis CheslerThe writer, a Shillman-Ginsburg Fellow at the Middle East Forum and recipient of the 2013 National Jewish Book Award, is the author of sixteen books, including Women and Madness, Woman's Inhumanity to Woman, and The New Anti-Semitism. She has written four studies about honor killing, Her latest books are An American Bride in Kabul, (Palgrave Macmillan) and Living History: On The Front Lines for Israel and the Jews.Professor Chesler may be reached at her website www.phyllis-chesler.com
This article was sent to the Jewish Press as well as Arutz Sheva.
The crowd at the Lincoln Plaza Cinema on the upper west side is mainly Jewish and liberal—ultra-liberal. They behave as if they are superior to all “oustjuden,” the illiterate, superstitious, unwashed Eastern European Jews--and therefore, in their sleek leather boots and fashionable coats they are, surely, finally, safe. At least, safer. After millennia of persecution, here are Jews who are not self-hating, not even opportunist, just Jews who feel secure as long as they feel superior to other Jews.
The “outsjuden today are the Zionists, the “settlers,” the “right wing.”
Psychologically, this means that they deserve to survive. They are the “good” Jews. Assimilated, exquisitely moral, the first to find imperfections in their co-religionists.
The line swells, people smile, conversations erupt.
“I am surprised those Zionists are not outside protesting,” says one woman.
“They’ll be here for the later showing, believe me” says another.
A man chimes in: “You have no idea how fanatic they can be. I know.”
His listeners nod approvingly.
And still, these safe-and-liberal Jews push and shove and behave like Jews do on a line, at the Jewish Film Festival or at the Central Bus Station in Tel Aviv. This I find funny and slightly endearing.
The film, “The Gatekeepers” directed by Dror Moreh, will cause Israel great harm, great damage. Even if each of the six former heads of the Shin Bet had the right to say what he said; even if the filmmaker had the right to direct just such a film—with messianic hopes of his own that his film will jump-start the Oslo Accords and influence the destiny of the Israelis and the Palestinians; even if more than half of what each former Shin Bet director has to say is true, either technically or factually or philosophically or metaphorically—the filmmaker has an agenda; he is following a lethal narrative script against the Jewish state.
For example, we mainly see Israeli soldiers in full battle gear, rounding up their unarmed, barefoot, blindfolded and handcuffed Arab cousins. Or, we see Israelis commanding targeted assassination drone attacks from safe distances with horrendous collateral damage. We do not see Palestinian terrorists knifing Israeli infants to death or stoning young Israeli boys to death in a cave, or blowing Israeli civilians and tourists up on buses.
Yes, we do see the bloody, heartless carnage of some bus bombings but we do not see the handlers sending their targeted “marks” off to do the bloody deed and thereby ascend to Paradise. Yes, we do see some quick shots of a Palestinian suicide video and of marching, face-masked Jihadists, but no one is ever tied to a particular attack upon Israeli civilians.
Only the Israelis are tied, over and over again, to a handful of specific (and alleged) military and “terrorist” attacks of their own.
Even if the scenes of the right-wing anti-Rabin protests and the alleged “settler” plot to blow up the Al Aqsa mosque are real, as in they really took place—the filmmaker does not manipulate the emotions of his audience by showing us, from within, the Palestinians building their bombs, indoctrinating the next generations, vowing to annihilate Israel and the Jews, torturing dissenters and “collaborators.”
We see Palestinians mainly as pitiful victims.
We do not see Gilad Shalit in captivity. We have no fictionalized recreation of Kobi Mandel being stoned to death in a cave or of Israeli mothers and infants being murdered while they sleep. We have no footage of the rockets landing in southern Israel and the terrified children with only seconds to get to a bomb shelter—now traumatized for life. We do not see how 24 Israeli soldiers were massacred, one by one, in Jenin, as they went in on foot in order to avoid international censure for daring to dismantle the bomb-making apparatuses in Jenin.
Yes, we see some scenes of fiery Palestinian rock throwing and some of the awful bus bombings of both the first and second Intifadas. But, Mr. Moreh is no moreh.
He does not talk to the Shin Bet’s counterpart heads of Fatah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the Palestinian Authority, or Hezb’ollah, etc. He has his six retired Israeli directors tell us that the Palestinians are ready for peace, that in private meetings they have said so, and that the Israeli government is blind, stubborn, refuses to listen—to the peaceful Palestinians and to their Shin Bet commanders. Can this be true? Can anyone believe it?
Even if it were, Dror Moreh focuses only on Israel’s failed perfection, questionable morality. His focus is tight and narrow. If Israel is not “perfect” then it does not deserve to survive is the unspoken morality here. He has Shin Bet directors describing Israel’s actions as “cruel,” German-like, the government as “winning the battles but losing the war,” and as worse, much worse. This filmmaker still fervently believes in the Oslo Accords. He does not seem to understand how much Arafat was offered and what he refused, that instead, he launched the Second Intifada.
Moreh does not tell us—not even once—that the Palestinians, (really, the Arabs who were once Egyptians, Syrians, and Jordanians and who historically never thought of themselves as “Palestinians”), kept refusing to become a state, insisting all the while that their goal was to exterminate the Jewish entity in the otherwise entirely judenrein Arab Middle East.
Almost in passing, Moreh does give us this one chilling admission. A Palestinian counterpart to one of the Shin Bet heads is quoted as having said: “To us, victory means you suffering.” And after fifty years when the suffering has balanced out—when your F-16s are equal to our suicide killers then…..” the speaker goes no further.
Moreh only used a very small percentage of the time he spent with Shalom, Diskin, Peri, Gillon, and two other Shin Bet directors. Some directors feel, (this is their words), that they were hung out to dry, stopped from doing their job (by the politicians), blamed, not thanked--but even this is hard to be conclusive about because we don't know what else they said and what the context was for the quotes Moreh chose to use/
The film is well made, tense, dramatic, with faked (“Pallywood” style) recreations and real black and white footage. Of course, the film reviews are adoring and filled with admiration. The film has been nominated for an Academy award. What courage Moreh has demonstrated! But not really: He represents a very trendy point of view, both on the upper west side and in Tel Aviv. This is the kind of film the French (who sheltered Arafat in so many ways) sponsored. This film confirms the European view that Israel is evil, wrong, engages in ethnic cleansing and apartheid.
And yet, an Israeli filmmaker could make such a film and Shin Bet directors could talk to him, perhaps saying things they should not have said. No one is in jail. No one has been assassinated.
I am waiting for a Palestinian filmmaker to make a comparable film, one that exposes the Muslim-on-Muslim violence, corruption and culture of torture; one that exposes the Muslim-on-Christian violence that has sent Arab Christians running to Jewish Israel for cover; one that exposes the handler’s ruthless manipulation of a psychologically vulnerable suicide killer-to-be; one that exposes the Arab League decision not to allow a single Palestinian to become a citizen in any Arab country but instead, to rot in villas, palaces, and “refugee camps,” infernal, eternal fodder against the Jewish presence in the Middle East.
People were relatively quiet as they filed out of the movie theatre. It was as if they had just had a religious experience; their every prejudice confirmed somehow elevated them. To the extent to which this film is accurate I salute it. To the extent to which it is false, defamatory, biased, exaggerated—I consider it suicidal and traitorous.
Afterword: I have just read the excellent piece by Rick Richman in the New York Sun which was just posted online. In his review of this film, Richman points out that four of these same former Shin Bet directors were the men who had previously gone on record castigating Sharon’s “settlement” policy. Sharon caved and pulled out of Gaza in 2006, which resulted in Hamastan right next door. The interviews were done in 2003,according to information in Commentary..