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The Gatekeepers

Locking in Palestinians as Terrorists

by Dr. VACY VLAZNA

What image of Palestinians would viewers, who have a smattering, or if any, knowledge of the Palestinian struggle, gain after seeing Dror Moreh’s documentary, The Gatekeepers?

The word ‘terrorist’ and versions thereof – ‘terrorism’ ‘terror’ – occur over 40 times, and all, bar once, in reference to Palestinians implicitly justifying the raison d’etre for Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency).

The MO of the vicious Shin Bet or Shabak is covert counter-terrorism  – based on the premise that the people of Palestine have no right to defend themselves or fight for their rightful independence enshrined in international law against the brutal illegal occupier and coloniser- the rogue State of Israel.

Meanwhile, Israel, the world’s fourth largest high-tech nuclear military force bleats its right to defend itself against Palestinian rocks and piddly homemade rockets.

The Gatekeepers presents interviews with six former Shin Bet commanders with relevant archival footage. Luke Buckmaster states, “These are men who, after consuming their toast and coffee, went to work to oversee every form of state-sanctioned violence. Manhunts. Executions. Torture. Missions that led to the death of countless innocent people… It seems highly improbable — despite unusually candid-feeling interviews — that the former top brass from the Shin Bet didn’t come to the project without an agenda in mind.” (Crikey 21-8-13)

The documentary has been hailed for presenting the human face of Shin Bet.

Dror Moreh: What shocked me was how humane they were. You have a certain image of somebody like Shalom before you meet him; he has a reputation that precedes him. And suddenly, you find yourself seated in front of Shalom and you do not see this monster, or this heartless bureaucrat, or this mastermind of espionage. You see a human being, with the same doubts and tormented thoughts that you or I have. You see a person with a conscience.

You can bet that a documentary proselytising the humanity of Gestapo heads, Heinrich Himmler, Rudolph Diels and Heinrich Muller would ignite fires of Sheol to spurt from the tongues of the Zionist Lobby.

The documentary opens with footage of a sterile ‘super clean operation’ (like the Wikileaks release of the US gunship ‘collateral murder’ video in Iraq) of the targeted killing, by remote, of so-called Palestinian ‘terrorists’ [freedom fighters], accompanied by the self-congratulatory comments of Yuval Diskin, who adds that in reflective moments he thinks it is ‘ unnatural’ to have the power to take lives in an instant. Really? Such moral musings from a man who has spent 30 years in military, Shin Bet and Mossad intelligence including Israel’s 1982 bloody war on Lebanon. Apparently ‘in no time Shin Bet controlled Lebanon’.

The sensitively airbrushed Yuval waxes lyrical about his ‘exotic encounter with olive trees’ (millions of which, along with livelihoods have been destroyed by Israel) and about his interaction with the peasants as he wandered through landscapes, refugee camps (refused right of return), visiting homes, chatting in cafes (one wonders how many of his bucolic buddies Shin Bet kidnapped and tortured) and then awakes from his fond reverie to remind himself and us of the ‘Palestinian problem’.

Right on cue the next footage, presents a newsreel on the killing of two soldiers in Al Khalil (Hebron). Mystifyingly, there is no footage of any of the hundreds of Palestinian civilians murdered there, in their own city, such as young Mohammed Ziad Awad al-Salayma who, in December 2012, was shot moments after buying a cake for his 17th birthday.

The indigenous people of Al Khalil are held hostage by a handful of settler thugs protected by the Israeli military. The once vibrant  commerce of Shuhada St has been shut down and netting covers the narrow passages of the Old City to curtail the urine, faeces and rubbish that vulgar settlers throw down on passing Palestinians.

Avraham Shalom, a feared and uncompromising bully, has an acting skill range from a frisky thrill for his job security “ luckily for us terrorism increased’, to quasi-senility in  remembering his ordering the execution of the two surviving handcuffed hijackers of Bus 300. Their heads were smashed with a rock. Shalom (ironic name) admits President Shamir had given him carte blanche on life-and-death decisions- literally – and that he coordinated his actions with Shamir, Rabin and Peres who rolled over and played ignorant under public pressure. Shalom later admits that Israel has become ‘cruel’ and is ‘similar to the Germans in WWII”. He should know.

Yakov Peri another of Moreh’s charming goons, comments on the First Intifada, “A nation rose up and tried to launch a revolution,” Why?  Wait for it -  “to kick us out”…Ah, there it is- the Israeli mantra of victimhood. Not one of these men of ‘conscience’ get that Palestinians are fighting for self-determination, for freedom from savage and systematic oppression, for their lives and shrinking country.

Peri goes on to laud Shin Bet’s ‘well-oiled’, ‘well-organized, effective’ and ‘systematic’  ‘intelligence factories’. He explains how Shin Bet learnt about their territorial units ‘village by village, trail by trail’, through field trips and masses of ‘interviews’ ie interrogations about the village, the clans, number of people and its institutions. This format resembles the well-oiled, well-organized, effective and systematic Plan Dalet that mapped, for the Jewish terrorist militias, the ethnic cleansing of 531Palestinian villages in 1947-48;

“These operations can be carried out in the following manner; either by destroying villages (by setting fire to them, by blowing them up or by planting mines in their rubble)..In case of resistance, the armed forces must be wiped out and the population expelled outside the borders of the state.” Ilan Pappe, The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine p.82

Shin Bet then set up a tight web of informers and agents and one wonders what terrible coercions would make a Palestinian betray his community, friends and family. The atmosphere of terror, the sinister recruitment practices and informant systems in Stalin’s Russia and Hitler’s Germany comes to mind.

The section Our Own Flesh and Blood  deals with the rise of settler power. Peri drops a hasbara (Lie) clanger stating that “the illegal settlements were built despite of or in opposition to government decisions”. Shortly after the settler protests in 1975, Rabin allowed the establishment of  Ma’ale Adumin and settlers have been given financial incentives and tax concession by successive Israeli governments.

Since 1967 over 541,000 settlers have colonised the West Bank and there are100 outposts, forerunners to new settlements. Israel threatens to annex the settlements on stolen Palestinian land and since the onset of the present peace farce in July, the Netanyahu government announced plans for 800 illegal housing units. Extremist settler parties have unprecedented power in the present Knesset.

The rise of settler power only disturbs Israel when its own may suffer as with the assassination of Rabin and the deranged plot to blow up the Dome on the Rock. Moreh never refers to these fanatics as terrorists even though, after the massacre at Al Khalil’s Ibrahimi Mosque by Baruch Goldstein, the settler groups, Kach and Kahane Chai were designated terrorist organisations.

Moreh makes much of death of Rabin and its impact on the peace process but Tanya Reinhart told it straight; “Deception and lies have been a cornerstone in Israeli policy, brought to a new level of perfection since Oslo. While the world believed that Prime Minister Rabin promised to eventually end the occupation and dismantle the settlements, the number of Israeli settlers actually doubled during his rule.”

If you are not convinced The Gatekeepers is a propaganda exercise, listen to Carmi Gillon’s testimony on Shin Bet’s justification for the use of torture in interrogations which became more difficult during the Second Intifada because “ Anyone willing to sacrifice his life whether its for the virgins in  paradise or not has nothing to lose.” The belittlement of the sacrifice of suicide bombers for paradisal virgins confirms Israel’s denial of the Palestinian political impetus for freedom and denial of the desperation of Palestinian life under the might of Israel’s control.

In 2001, Human Rights Watch asked the Danish government to reject Gillon’s appointment as ambassador to Denmark and Amnesty International, citing the UN Convention against Torture demanded he be detained.

Years after the end of the Second Intifada,“the need to use moderate physical pressure in interrogations” continues to this day. Moderate? Impunity to inflict sleep deprivation, sitting handcuffed in a painful, degrading, exhausting position, covering heads, shaking, beatings, humiliation, threats against family, medical neglect, electrocution on adults and minors is secured by Israel’s High Court and the Office of the Prime Minister.

In February 2013, Charlotte Silver’s opinion piece in Al Jazeera,  How Israel legitimises torturing Palestinians, to death, exposes how Arafat Jaradet was tortured to death during the 7 days between his arrest and death on February 23.

“The ordeal that Arafat suffered before he died at the hands of Israel’s Shin Bet is common to many Palestinians that pass through Israel’s prisons. According to the prisoners’ rights organisation Addameer, since 1967, a total of 72 Palestinians have been killed as a result of torture and 53 due to medical neglect. Less than a month before Jaradat was killed, Ashraf Abu Dhra died while in Israeli custody in a case that Addameer argues was a direct result of medical neglect…And in the first week of February, two weeks before Arafat was killed, the High Court of Justice threw out Adalah’s petition that demanded the GSS videotape and audio record all of its interrogations in order to comply with requirements of the United Nations Convention Against Torture (CAT) to which Israel is a signatory.”

The section, Collateral Damage vividly depicts Shin Bet’s new strategy; state-sanctioned targeted killings which are outlawed under international law. In 2007, Avi Dichter, was forced to cancel a visit to the UK  because of a potential arrest warrant on suspicion of war crimes for the bombing of Hamas‘ Saleh Shehade’s home killing 15 family members including 3 children. Sharon called it ‘one of  our greatest successes.’

Ami Aylon  points out Israel also achieved greater security because cooperation was secured at monthly meetings between Shin Bet and the PLO security in spite of the dwindling Israeli desire to reach agreement on a Palestinian state. This is backed up by footage that features Fatah gangster, Mohammed Dahlan whose death squads took over Israel’s policing of Gaza and the West Bank. Concocting competition and conflict between Fatah and Hamas is a brilliant divide and rule strategy that deflects the Palestinian focus from self-determination.

In interviews, Moreh insists these Shin Bet sadists in sheep’s clothing agreed to be interviewed because of their concern for the diminishing window for a two-state solution that is propelling Israel toward a catastrophe. Ayalon is a vocal supporter the two state solution but without the  right of return; a right of all peoples. A Jew anywhere in the world  has the right to ‘return’ to Israel but Palestinians are denied their legal right to return to their own country and lands even though international law guarantees, “no territorial acquisition resulting from the threat or use of force shall be recognized as legal”.

Moreh’s urgent pragmatic push for a two state solution must include the corrupt Abbas and Moreh, in an interview on Huffpost, condemns Netanyahu calling Abbas irrelevant and a terrorist. Of course Abbas, Erekat et al are the dream team because they’ve agreed to a Palestinian state on 18% of the remaining area within the 1967 borders, illegal land swaps that will contain the settlements in a vastly expanded Israel state, no right of return, and demilitarisation. That is to say the status quo. Israel couldn’t get a better two-state deal.

Perhaps a future Palestinian leader of integrity and /or a one state outcome is the catastrophe Moreh is frantic to evade.

Moreh is honest in declaring, “I feel they came because they are really concerned about the future of the state of Israel.” (clearly there is no evidence they have any concern for Palestinians past, present or future) and Israel’s self-interest is definitely the prime agenda. Israel’s reputation is rancid internationally and it is desperately trying to sweeten it with honeytraps like The Gatekeepers that seemingly appear to criticise Israel, throw in a few moral and philosophical after-thoughts, then stamp the terrorist label onto suffering Palestinians.

Dr. Vacy Vlazna is Coordinator of Justice for Palestine Matters. She was Human Rights Advisor to the GAM team in the second round of the Acheh peace talks, Helsinki, February 2005 then withdrew on principle. Vacy was coordinator of the East Timor Justice Lobby as well as serving in East Timor with UNAMET and UNTAET from 1999-2001.