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Israel's Oscar bid discomforts Netanyahu government
Published Thursday 21/02/2013 (updated) 27/02/2013 17:46
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Israeli director Dror Moreh sits for a portrait in Tel Aviv, Feb.14.
(Reuters/Nir Elias)

JERUSALEM (Reuters) -- An Oscar-nominated Israeli documentary has brought little joy to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government, the focus of the film's criticism of Israel's policy toward the Palestinians.

Featuring searingly confessional interviews with six former chiefs of the shadowy security service Shin Bet, "The Gatekeepers" portrays the 46-year-old West Bank occupation and Jewish ultranationalism as threats to Israel's survival.

Its run for Sunday's Academy Awards comes at an awkward time for the conservative Netanyahu. He narrowly won an election last month that favored centrist rivals who, echoing world powers, demand he revive long-stalled Palestinian statehood talks.

Usually quick to congratulate Israelis who succeed abroad, Netanyahu has kept mum on "The Gatekeepers", which an aide said he had not seen. Reaction from other officials has been frosty.

Vice Prime Minister Moshe Yaalon said the Shin Bet veterans' interviews, in which they discuss episodes such as the agency-ordered killing of two captured Gazan bus hijackers and a plot by Jewish extremists to blow up a major Muslim shrine in Jerusalem, had been edited "to serve the Palestinian narrative".

"What was presented there was presented in a really one-sided manner, and therefore the film is slanted," Yaalon, a member of Netanyahu's Likud party and a former military chief, told Israel's Army Radio.

Asked about the film during last month's World Economic Forum in Davos, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, the lone centrist in Netanyahu's outgoing coalition, offered tepid praise for its "testament to the fact that in Israel you can talk more freely, perhaps, than in any other place".

Spanning divides

Also among the five contenders for the best documentary Oscar is "Five Broken Cameras", a sympathetic account of the Palestinian struggle against land seizures involved in the erection of Israel's West Bank barrier.

"Five Broken Cameras" was partly funded by an Israeli government-run cultural trust and involved an Israeli filmmaker, but its Palestinian director, Emad Burnat, has shunned suggestions that it augurs reconciliation between the sides.

While mostly well-received by Israeli audiences and film critics, "The Gatekeepers" broke little new ground politically. Four of the ex-Shin Bet chiefs had jointly aired similar public criticism against former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in 2003.

But interest has been piqued by the film's slick archive footage and digital reenactments, its international accolades and the fact its interviewees span current ideological divides.

One of them, Avi Dichter, is Israel's civil defense minister and a member of Likud and Netanyahu's inner security cabinet. Another, Yaakov Peri, is a lawmaker in Yesh Atid, the centrist party that was runner-up to Likud in the Jan. 22 ballot.

"When you leave the service (Shin Bet), you become a bit of a leftist," Peri says in the film.

A third interviewee, Ami Ayalon, who once ran for the leadership of the center-left Labor party, tells director Dror Moreh that Israelis suffer a strategic shortsightedness that could imperil their survival as a democracy.

"We win every battle, but lose the war," Ayalon says.

Moreh told Reuters this month that US President Barack Obama should intervene in the conflict in his second term, comparing Palestinians and Israelis to kindergarten children.

"They need a grown-up to tell them, 'Enough! Israel, Palestine, this is what you need to do, do it.'"

Dichter, who said this week he had not yet seen the film, said it was "skewed, improper and tendentious" to criticize a serving prime minister, telling Israel's Channel Two television:

"The prime minister sets policy that is good for the State of Israel, not policy that is good for the Oscars."
1 ) Zainab / UK
21/02/2013 16:23
..."The Gatekeepers" portrays the 46-year-old West Bank occupation and Jewish ultranationalism as threats to Israel's survival" - The Netanyahu government are uncomfortable with this film, because the truth is coming out about the tactics employed by Israel. The Prime Minister of Israel may set policies that are "good for Israel", but he also knows how just powerful the American film industry is. To have both a Palestinian & an Israeli film at the Oscars together shows a huge shift in attitude.

2 ) Dorgham / USA
21/02/2013 16:37
Again, watch out for how other channels use their words. You guys call the film Palestinian, in this article it is called Israeli. Make up your mind, and do your job right :). Write up your own stories.

3 ) Mel / USA
21/02/2013 16:50
Zionist terrorist Nutty is just a raging "slanted",sociopathic,egoistic blind-leading-the-blind!Who'd expect any decent reaction from any brutal Zionist politician,SON&DAUGHTER of Irgun,Stern,Likud,Shas,Hagnah Carmeli terrorists? But the GREATER tragedy is that these producers,film-makers,DESERVE so much more than STATUES from Hollywood!No statue can compensate for nearly 100yrs of INCREASING Israeli brutality&Palestinian suffering&persecution.Just END THE ISRAELI OCCUPATION,Mr.NOBEL POTUS!

4 ) Colin Wright / USA
21/02/2013 21:03
"What was presented there was presented in a really one-sided manner, and therefore the film is slanted," Probably what Nazi veterans of World War Two said. 'Zere vere all zees vicious Poles und things, und they just wouldn't stop der terrorism!' Maybe they too should call for 'balance.' Sounds about equally nauseating.

5 ) shirleyS / Australia
21/02/2013 23:47
this film reminds one of dance with bashir about shabra and shatilla but does little to change Isreal US policy they have their own agendas and Isreal is well aware that a little self oonfession goes along wat=y to winning back Isreal is trying this is strategic to push pals into useless talks and put blame back on palestinians Isreal may well have been abler to censor this film as security or national interes one womders why not especially with current involvement in gov

6 ) Amira / Canada
22/02/2013 00:53
Another doumentary nominated for and Oscar also exposes israeli barbaric occupation. Here are the trailer and the photos. "For anyone who retains an interest in the human contours of the situation, however, the movie is necessary, if difficult, viewing"

The Gatekeepers documentary photos and trailers here:

7 ) gabi / australia
22/02/2013 00:55
I thought it was a Palestinian film.

8 ) Tal / us (ny)
24/02/2013 09:42
2 documentaries; one directed by a palestinian using simple but yet most telling means, the other by an israeli who was able to engage testemonials from top israeli commandors of the most vital defense body;both prespective reach one definite conclusion - the israeli occupation is a CRIME, endangers both sides(one should also observe the regressive process of the israeli collective), and has to be stoped by all means.any justice seeker should be thrilled by the naked honesty of gate keepers
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