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How Israel Survives in a Tough Neighborhood

A new film documenting the careers of six directors of Shin Bet, Israel's internal security force, is making waves (although it didn't win an Oscar). Dubbed the Gatekeepers, it was created by the Israeli filmmaker Dror Moreh and features extensive interviews with six ex-directors of Israel's famed security service. It details some of the service's most sensitive episodes, such as the assassination of a Hamas leader with an exploding cell phone. It also chronicles the men's frustration with Israeli politicians and their sense that the occupation has left Israel strategically adrift.

One thing that's immediately clear from early reviews of the film is that none of the leaders of Shin Bet could ever be a U.S. defense secretary. Here, for instance, is Avraham Shalom, a Shin Bet director who, among other things, captured Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann, discussing Israel:

"We've become cruel. To ourselves as well, but mainly to the occupied population." Our army has become "a brutal occupation force, similar to the Germans in World War II. Similar, not identical."

Shalom was referring to Nazi persecution of non-Jewish minorities but it's still a shocking quote, considering the source. Indeed, Asawin Suebsaeng collects several more examples that would immediately land a U.S. politician in hot water.

Beyond the controversial rhetoric, Moreh is being widely praised for bringing an extremely secretive side of Israel's fight for survival to light. At least in the U.S. In Israel, the film has received a more muted reaction.