Brandon Sullivan 🎥 against a backdrop of the ongoing war between Hamas and Israel shares his thoughts on a 2012 film directed by Dror Moreh.


Frequent contributor to TPQ Frankie asked in a comment:

Am I the only Quiller (not the death toll) that thinks fair play to Hamas for embarrassing Mossad....

I'll leave aside my own thoughts on this, and apologise for pedantry in advance, but the main agency that will be embarrassed by the astonishing attacks carried out by Hamas will be Shin Bet, who are responsible for preventing such attacks, a task they took over from Mossad in recent decades.

I only know this because of an excellent documentary and accompanying book which I watched and read back in 2012. Having watched the news avidly this weekend, and feeling fairly gloomy at the inevitable Israeli onslaught against some of the most defenceless people in the world, I re-watched the documentary to review it. It remains a riveting and vital piece of work.

Interestingly, I think the first time I contacted AM at TPQ was when I saw this film. Someone had written some graffiti on the cinema celebrating the Sabra and Shatila massacre. I took a photo, sent it in, and it was published.

The film consists of archival footage and interviews with all of the surviving heads of Shin Bet. Sometimes, cutting-edge technology is used to present a photo as a 3D landscape. The effects are hugely effective.

It's worth taking a moment to discuss the surviving heads of Shin Bet before getting to the themes discussed in the documentary. Their names and years of their leadership are noted below.

Avraham Shalom (1981–1986)

Yaakov Peri (1988–1994)

Carmi Gillon (1995–1996)

Ami Ayalon (1996–2000)

Avi Dichter (2000–2005)

Yuval Diskin (2005–2011)

Diskin, a man who looked the part (along with Ayalon in particular) discussed how he felt after "targeted operations" to kill "terrorists." Like all of the leaders, with the exception of Shalom, he was reflective, and thoughtful, and seemed to carry a burden of responsibility. But, all that said, Diskin still gave the orders to kill, many times. Diskin was 11 when the Six-Day War broke out and was heavily influenced (some might say radicalised) by a book called If Israel Lost The War. . Diskin noted that even when he carried out a "sterile" operation with no "collateral damage" he still felt uneasy about the power that he could wield. About the Israeli campaigns against their enemies, Diskin simply states that they had "no strategy, just tactics." This thought is supported by Ayalon who notes at the end of the film that Israel "wins every battle but loses the war."

Avi Dichter uses an anecdote to discuss the misunderstanding between Israelis and Palestinians. Israel needed to know how many people were under its control in the occupied territories and, so, it sent soldiers, including Dichter to count them. They learned how to say "we have come to count you" but hadn't learned to accent the word so it would be properly understood by the Palestinians between the doors they banged on. When asked by frightened civilians what the heavily armed young men wanted with them, they were informed, albeit inaccurately, that "we are here to castrate you" rather than "we are here to count you." As with all of the other leaders, Dichter appears open and willing to embrace his former enemies and committed to a political settlement. It's therefore disappointing, and confusing, to see that he is currently a minister in Bibi Netanyahu's government.

The avuncular Yaakov Peri discussed the "identifier technique" when, as a young soldier, he could occupy a village or town, herd all the military-aged men into the middle and then use an informer, hidden behind a mask and in a vehicle, to point out who had "trained in Syria" or was otherwise involved in "terrorism." Many Quillers will recognise this methodology from British colonial methods, including in the North, when, among others, Jean McConville was alleged to have been an "identifier." Peri was one of the Shin Bet leaders deeply affected by the murder of Yitzhak Rabin and dismayed at the subsequent failure of the Oslo peace accords.

Carmi Gillon handed in his resignation over the murder of Rabin, but it was rejected. Under his tenure, physical brutality – involving the physical shaking of detainees – increased and was codified as legal. One small man died under interrogation. As Gillon put it "died of shaken baby syndrome."

The two most interesting men to me were Ari Ayalon and Avraham Shalom. I'll discuss Shalom in the context of an incident, which became known as the "Bus 300 affair."

The Bus 300 Affair

On the 12th April 1984, four men, including at least two teenagers (Jamal Mahmoud Qabalan, Muhammad Baraka, Majdi Abu Jumaa, and Subhi Abu Jumaa), who were reportedly not members of any paramilitary group, hijacked a number 300 bus. The New York Times wrote that:

Some of the bus passengers described three of the hijackers as young. One hostage gave the ages as 16, 19 and 20 and remarked, 'They behaved very nicely, this I must say.' The leader was described as older and harder.

The report went on:

Hostages and officials said the hijackers wanted to cross into Egypt and release the passengers there in exchange for the release of 500 Palestinians held in Israeli prisons.

The army fired at the wheels of the bus, which sped to a halt. There was a standoff, in which one of the hijackers was killed, but two were brought off the bus unharmed. The army stormed the bus after identifying that the hijackers were "amateurs."

The condition of the two men brought off the bus is important. Here are photos of them:


Reports came out that all four hijackers had been killed in the assault to free the hostages. It was a lie. What had happened, according to Avraham Shalom was that "the army pounced on them … broke their bones … it was a lynching." Shalom arrived on the scene and asked what was going on. He was told that the two captured men had been badly beaten by the army. Shalom, the head of Shin Bet, a man with the highest political contacts in Israel, says in the documentary that he said "Hit them again and finish them." His men did as they were told, as Shalom put it they "smashed their heads in with a rock." Other reports state that it was an iron bar as well as rocks. Inquiries and a trial followed. Some were convicted. Shalom was ambivalent. Whilst he was steadfastly in support of a two-state solution for the conflict, he bluntly stated that he "didn't want to see terrorists in court." Other former heads of Shin Bet describe how people feared Shalom, and that he was a "bully." Nevertheless, he had to resign over his arbitrary death sentence.

Ari Ayalon, discussing the pardons of all those convicted of beating two defenceless teenagers to death, said that "the Prime Minister and the cabinet" failed.

Shin Bet and the Politics of Occupation

A total lack of trust in politicians, except for Rabin, is a constant theme amongst the leaders of Shin Bet, along with the need for a political settlement. Ayalon was dismayed at the illegal settlements, noting that the settlers were beginning to believe themselves as "the masters" and fearing their political and paramilitary power. Ayalon believes these fears were justified, citing the murder of Rabin as evidence.

Diskin is read a quote from an Israeli public intellectual, Yeshayahu Leibowitz:

A state ruling over a hostile population of one million foreigners will necessarily become a Shin Bet state, with all that this implies for education, freedom of speech and thought and democracy. The corruption found in every colonial regime will affix itself to the State of Israel. The administration will have to suppress an Arab uprising on one hand and acquire Quislings, or Arab traitors on the other.

Diskin simply replies that he "agrees with every word of it."


At a conference in London aimed at reducing conflict, during the second intifada, Ami Ayalon described being approached by the internationally renowned psychiatrist and human rights activist Eyad Al-Sarraj, who bluntly told Ayalon that, the Palestinians were victorious. Ayalon pointed out that they were losing hundreds, soon to be thousands of men, and that they were losing their "dream of statehood" asking "What kind of victory is that?" Al-Sarraj replied:

Ami, I don't understand you. You still don't understand us. For us, victory is seeing you suffer. That's all we want. The more we suffer, the more you'll suffer. Finally, after 50 years, we've reached a balance of power, a balance: your F-16 jet fighter versus our suicide bomber.

Ayalon said he suddenly understood the "suicide bomber phenomenon" and also " our reaction very differently:

How many operations did we launch because we hurt, because when they blow up buses it really hurts us and we want revenge? How often have we done that?

The final word can be left to the most vicious of the Shin Bet leaders, Shalom. Speaking more than a decade ago, he said Israel would have to "speak to everyone" and that for "Israel, it's too much of a luxury not to speak to everyone." He went on:

We are making the lives of millions of people unbearable … the future is bleak … we've become cruel … cruel to ourselves, but especially the occupied.

Sitting and waiting on the Israeli reaction to the Hamas rampage, it seems that nobody in the Israeli establishment listens to their most dedicated and professional killing outfit.

You can watch the film here. I hope that you do, and welcome your comments.

⏩ Brandon Sullivan is a middle aged, middle management, centre-left Belfast man. Would prefer people focused on the actual bad guys. 

The Gatekeepers 🔴 Inside Israel’s Internal Security Agency

Brandon Sullivan 🎥 against a backdrop of the ongoing war between Hamas and Israel shares his thoughts on a 2012 film directed by Dror Moreh.


Frequent contributor to TPQ Frankie asked in a comment:

Am I the only Quiller (not the death toll) that thinks fair play to Hamas for embarrassing Mossad....

I'll leave aside my own thoughts on this, and apologise for pedantry in advance, but the main agency that will be embarrassed by the astonishing attacks carried out by Hamas will be Shin Bet, who are responsible for preventing such attacks, a task they took over from Mossad in recent decades.

I only know this because of an excellent documentary and accompanying book which I watched and read back in 2012. Having watched the news avidly this weekend, and feeling fairly gloomy at the inevitable Israeli onslaught against some of the most defenceless people in the world, I re-watched the documentary to review it. It remains a riveting and vital piece of work.

Interestingly, I think the first time I contacted AM at TPQ was when I saw this film. Someone had written some graffiti on the cinema celebrating the Sabra and Shatila massacre. I took a photo, sent it in, and it was published.

The film consists of archival footage and interviews with all of the surviving heads of Shin Bet. Sometimes, cutting-edge technology is used to present a photo as a 3D landscape. The effects are hugely effective.

It's worth taking a moment to discuss the surviving heads of Shin Bet before getting to the themes discussed in the documentary. Their names and years of their leadership are noted below.

Avraham Shalom (1981–1986)

Yaakov Peri (1988–1994)

Carmi Gillon (1995–1996)

Ami Ayalon (1996–2000)

Avi Dichter (2000–2005)

Yuval Diskin (2005–2011)

Diskin, a man who looked the part (along with Ayalon in particular) discussed how he felt after "targeted operations" to kill "terrorists." Like all of the leaders, with the exception of Shalom, he was reflective, and thoughtful, and seemed to carry a burden of responsibility. But, all that said, Diskin still gave the orders to kill, many times. Diskin was 11 when the Six-Day War broke out and was heavily influenced (some might say radicalised) by a book called If Israel Lost The War. . Diskin noted that even when he carried out a "sterile" operation with no "collateral damage" he still felt uneasy about the power that he could wield. About the Israeli campaigns against their enemies, Diskin simply states that they had "no strategy, just tactics." This thought is supported by Ayalon who notes at the end of the film that Israel "wins every battle but loses the war."

Avi Dichter uses an anecdote to discuss the misunderstanding between Israelis and Palestinians. Israel needed to know how many people were under its control in the occupied territories and, so, it sent soldiers, including Dichter to count them. They learned how to say "we have come to count you" but hadn't learned to accent the word so it would be properly understood by the Palestinians between the doors they banged on. When asked by frightened civilians what the heavily armed young men wanted with them, they were informed, albeit inaccurately, that "we are here to castrate you" rather than "we are here to count you." As with all of the other leaders, Dichter appears open and willing to embrace his former enemies and committed to a political settlement. It's therefore disappointing, and confusing, to see that he is currently a minister in Bibi Netanyahu's government.

The avuncular Yaakov Peri discussed the "identifier technique" when, as a young soldier, he could occupy a village or town, herd all the military-aged men into the middle and then use an informer, hidden behind a mask and in a vehicle, to point out who had "trained in Syria" or was otherwise involved in "terrorism." Many Quillers will recognise this methodology from British colonial methods, including in the North, when, among others, Jean McConville was alleged to have been an "identifier." Peri was one of the Shin Bet leaders deeply affected by the murder of Yitzhak Rabin and dismayed at the subsequent failure of the Oslo peace accords.

Carmi Gillon handed in his resignation over the murder of Rabin, but it was rejected. Under his tenure, physical brutality – involving the physical shaking of detainees – increased and was codified as legal. One small man died under interrogation. As Gillon put it "died of shaken baby syndrome."

The two most interesting men to me were Ari Ayalon and Avraham Shalom. I'll discuss Shalom in the context of an incident, which became known as the "Bus 300 affair."

The Bus 300 Affair

On the 12th April 1984, four men, including at least two teenagers (Jamal Mahmoud Qabalan, Muhammad Baraka, Majdi Abu Jumaa, and Subhi Abu Jumaa), who were reportedly not members of any paramilitary group, hijacked a number 300 bus. The New York Times wrote that:

Some of the bus passengers described three of the hijackers as young. One hostage gave the ages as 16, 19 and 20 and remarked, 'They behaved very nicely, this I must say.' The leader was described as older and harder.

The report went on:

Hostages and officials said the hijackers wanted to cross into Egypt and release the passengers there in exchange for the release of 500 Palestinians held in Israeli prisons.

The army fired at the wheels of the bus, which sped to a halt. There was a standoff, in which one of the hijackers was killed, but two were brought off the bus unharmed. The army stormed the bus after identifying that the hijackers were "amateurs."

The condition of the two men brought off the bus is important. Here are photos of them:


Reports came out that all four hijackers had been killed in the assault to free the hostages. It was a lie. What had happened, according to Avraham Shalom was that "the army pounced on them … broke their bones … it was a lynching." Shalom arrived on the scene and asked what was going on. He was told that the two captured men had been badly beaten by the army. Shalom, the head of Shin Bet, a man with the highest political contacts in Israel, says in the documentary that he said "Hit them again and finish them." His men did as they were told, as Shalom put it they "smashed their heads in with a rock." Other reports state that it was an iron bar as well as rocks. Inquiries and a trial followed. Some were convicted. Shalom was ambivalent. Whilst he was steadfastly in support of a two-state solution for the conflict, he bluntly stated that he "didn't want to see terrorists in court." Other former heads of Shin Bet describe how people feared Shalom, and that he was a "bully." Nevertheless, he had to resign over his arbitrary death sentence.

Ari Ayalon, discussing the pardons of all those convicted of beating two defenceless teenagers to death, said that "the Prime Minister and the cabinet" failed.

Shin Bet and the Politics of Occupation

A total lack of trust in politicians, except for Rabin, is a constant theme amongst the leaders of Shin Bet, along with the need for a political settlement. Ayalon was dismayed at the illegal settlements, noting that the settlers were beginning to believe themselves as "the masters" and fearing their political and paramilitary power. Ayalon believes these fears were justified, citing the murder of Rabin as evidence.

Diskin is read a quote from an Israeli public intellectual, Yeshayahu Leibowitz:

A state ruling over a hostile population of one million foreigners will necessarily become a Shin Bet state, with all that this implies for education, freedom of speech and thought and democracy. The corruption found in every colonial regime will affix itself to the State of Israel. The administration will have to suppress an Arab uprising on one hand and acquire Quislings, or Arab traitors on the other.

Diskin simply replies that he "agrees with every word of it."


At a conference in London aimed at reducing conflict, during the second intifada, Ami Ayalon described being approached by the internationally renowned psychiatrist and human rights activist Eyad Al-Sarraj, who bluntly told Ayalon that, the Palestinians were victorious. Ayalon pointed out that they were losing hundreds, soon to be thousands of men, and that they were losing their "dream of statehood" asking "What kind of victory is that?" Al-Sarraj replied:

Ami, I don't understand you. You still don't understand us. For us, victory is seeing you suffer. That's all we want. The more we suffer, the more you'll suffer. Finally, after 50 years, we've reached a balance of power, a balance: your F-16 jet fighter versus our suicide bomber.

Ayalon said he suddenly understood the "suicide bomber phenomenon" and also " our reaction very differently:

How many operations did we launch because we hurt, because when they blow up buses it really hurts us and we want revenge? How often have we done that?

The final word can be left to the most vicious of the Shin Bet leaders, Shalom. Speaking more than a decade ago, he said Israel would have to "speak to everyone" and that for "Israel, it's too much of a luxury not to speak to everyone." He went on:

We are making the lives of millions of people unbearable … the future is bleak … we've become cruel … cruel to ourselves, but especially the occupied.

Sitting and waiting on the Israeli reaction to the Hamas rampage, it seems that nobody in the Israeli establishment listens to their most dedicated and professional killing outfit.

You can watch the film here. I hope that you do, and welcome your comments.

⏩ Brandon Sullivan is a middle aged, middle management, centre-left Belfast man. Would prefer people focused on the actual bad guys. 

17 comments:

  1. I'll make a point of watching it this weekend. Certainly have an ominous feeling over what is about to happen in Gaza. 300,000 troops amassing at the border for the inevitable invasion. All power and water cut off. No routes of escape. Civilians in the middle. Did Hamas prepare for this?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. They didn't cos like Bibi they have no interest in taking responsibility for the first duty of any govt - the defence of its citizens. More shaheeds are their goal. Bibi wants to hold onto office as long as he can to avoid jail.

      Delete
  2. @ Steve R

    I think Hamas most probably prayed for the invasion of Gaza to happen. Whether they will have made logistical provisions for their civilian population, perhaps within the range of what they have. But I have to say, I don't know much about Hamas, or indeed the enduring conflict. That was one of the reasons why I made a point of watching this film and reading the companion book.

    History rarely remembers the Israeli war crimes carried out following Palestinian terrorist attacks. Israel killed a load of civilians following the Munich attacks, but Munch remains burned onto people's minds. So it will be with this attack. Hamas traumatised Israel and a ground invasion won't change that, in fact it will simply made Hamas stronger. I have a feeling the IDF expect an easy invasion, and I don't think it will be that.

    The former head of Shin Bet's conversation with the Palestinian psychiatrist is compelling. Israel will, at some point, be faced with a choice of accommodation or total annihilation.

    In this clip, you catch the end of Avraham Shalom talking about how he was at one stage charged with scoping out a two state solution, which he thought was a good idea. Then, you'll see another former Shin Bet leader using the "identifier technique" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZepXBymtkUQ

    ReplyDelete
  3. Well worth the watch.
    Thanks Brandon.

    Interestingly all the securocrats interviewed acknowledged the unsustainability of the current Israeli setup. My other significant takeaway is the diversity of political positions within the Israeli population itself and in particular the detrimental & long-standing influence of some Rabbis and far-right cohorts.

    Poisonous ideologies kill.
    (the full movie with subtitles is freely available here on YouTube )

    ReplyDelete
  4. I think it's impossible to overstate the malevolence of the settlers. I saw a video one did switching lights on and off and pouring water out of taps to goad those in Gaza without power or water.

    The arrogance and brutality of many of the settlers is such that I suspect it inspired much of the Hamas barbarism.

    A Good companion piece to Waltz With Bashir and The Gatekeepers is Massaker. A truly disturbing film.

    I think many Zionost settlers have much in common with the dregs of loyalism who could be found at Holy Cross primary school in Ardoyne.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think that's right. Settlers are the dregs of any society. The Nazis built a lot of their plans around projected settlers in the areas they occupied.

      Delete
  5. Interesting review. I hope you all don't mind a few book recommendations. I found a book I read many years ago and published in 2007 called 'Inside Hamas' by Zaki Chehab eye-opening. Israeli technology must have advanced dramatically since then but even in 2007 some of the technology mentioned sounded like science-fiction.


    An excllent book on the Oslo Accords negotiations is 'Gaza First' by Jane Corbin. I did a dissertation on the negotiations back in the mid-nineties and it was so interesting and enjoyable it didn't seem like work. It couldn't succeed with constant changes in the Israeli government, a country with many belligerent leaders.


    Lastly, 'Hezbollah' by Haja Jaber is excellent too. Paints a different picture of the power and resources of this group compared to whst we hear on the TV.


    I will hopefully watch this documentary Brandon it sounds very informative.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Simon, what was the title and subject of your PhD thesis? Sounds like an interesting read. Obligation on us all to acquaint ourselves with as much reputable scholarship on this region as possible. Trying to revisit and PDF my PhDctom

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Barry, my dissertation wasn't a PhD, it was a research project for my undergraduate degree. One of my electives was Workshop on Negotiation and the dissertation made up the bulk of its marks.

      Delete
  7. Barry, here's a link to a 12/13 minute YouTube clip on the current situation in Gaza by Hungarian Canadian, Holocaust survivor and developmental psychologist, Dr Gabor Mate which may (or may not) be of interest.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. HJ - will run that in the Lynx slots as well. Anything you find of merit send it through.

      Delete
    2. Familiar with Mate's work The Hungry Ghosts on addiction and recovery.

      Delete
    3. I had guessed you'd be familiar with Mate's work Barry.

      What I found interesting in his YouTube presentation was his revelation that though he had been a supporter of Zionism as a young man, he now at a humanitarian level rejects all its outworking and sympathises largely with the plight of Palestinians.

      As a recognised authority on PTSD, Mate correctly points out that for the residents of Gaza, there's no P for them, no 'post' to their trauma.
      It still continues ... and compounds exponentially.

      Delete
  8. This is an interesting article about the low intensity terrorism, euphemistically called "settler violence", that Palestinians are subjected to.

    The indifference and collusion of the Israeli security forces in the murder and harassment is repugnant and ultimately self-defeating.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Forgot to post a link:

      https://amp.theguardian.com/world/2023/oct/15/they-want-revenge-theyre-saying-either-we-die-or-you-die-west-bank-residents-fear-rising-tide-of-violence

      Delete
  9. This clip shows an Israeli police officer threatening a reporter, and declaring that Gaza will be turned to dust.

    https://m.youtube.com/shorts/Wi0Ao-jw5cw

    ReplyDelete
  10. I was surprised to learn that at least 10 Shin Bet agents have been killed on or since the 7th Oct attacks by Hamas.

    The sheer number of IDF officers killed (listed in the article below) suggests to me that the number of soldiers killed may make up a greater percentage of casualties inflicted by Hamas, and perhaps bigger than that acknowledged by Israel.

    https://www.timesofisrael.com/authorities-name-44-soldiers-30-police-officers-killed-in-hamas-attack/

    ReplyDelete