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Ex-Israeli Security Chiefs Speak; Oscar Nod Documentary "5 Broken Cameras"; Imagine a World

Aired September 2, 2013 - 15:00:00   ET


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Hello again, everyone, I'm Christiane Amanpour and welcome to a special edition of our program, where we take a look at some of the stories and conversations we've had this year that we thought were worth sharing with you again and bringing some new developments.

Our focus tonight: Israel through the filmmaker's lens.

A documentary called "The Gatekeepers" received international attention, named on numerous "best picture" lists and nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary. It's the story of Israel's occupation of the Palestinian territories as told by the security chiefs of Israel who had to enforce it: the gatekeepers in the country's fight against terror.

It's full of stunning revelations by all six leaders of Israel's Shin Bet, its internal security service who usually live and work in the shadows. This is the first time they've all spoken publicly. They say they've done it because they're alarmed about Israel's future as a democratic and Jewish state.

In the words of one of them, "There was no strategy; just tactics." In other words, they accused their political leaders of reducing the entire Palestinian question to a matter of fighting terror, with no movement on a two-state solution that could finally end the war.

Another says, "You can't make peace using military means."

It's a brutally tough and honest account, and director Dror Moreh tells me that he hopes Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was recently reelected, will decide to see it one day, because no one understands the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians better than these six men, who you're about to meet.


AMANPOUR: Dror Moreh, welcome to the program.


AMANPOUR: One of your mission statements was that you wanted to hold a mirror up to the Israeli people.

MOREH: Yes. It puts a mirror which you cannot ignore.

These are the guys. If there is someone who understands the Israeli- Palestinian conflict, it's those guys, all of them, speaking for the first time on television, on the cinema, to say enough of the occupation. This is bad for the state of Israel.

AMANPOUR: Let's go to the oldest amongst your subjects, Avraham Shalom, who talks about how Israel's relationship with the Palestinians changed a couple of years into the occupation. Let's just listen.


AVRAHAM SHALOM, SHIN BET (from captions): As soon as we stopped dealing with the Palestinian state and started dealing with terrorism, terror became more sophisticated. So did we. Suddenly we had a lot of work in Gaza and the West Bank and overseas, too. So we forgot about the Palestinian issues.

In Nablus then, wherever you threw a rock, there was either a cat or a terrorist. Some nights we arrested hundreds of people.


MOREH: He is basically saying that the Israelis got, after 1967, occupied the West Bank and Gaza and they really didn't know what to do with that. So a lot of young Israeli soldiers had to go there and try to understand what do the Palestinians want.

And at the end of the day, because of the lack of foresight, from the leadership to where it's going, strategy versus tactics.

AMANPOUR: You focus a lot in your film -- and they focus a lot on what you've just said -- the difference between tactics and strategy that you say and they say that it just became about terrorism. And no matter how much they pacify the territory, the political move towards a peace settlement wasn't taken.

MOREH: The security forces has their job. And their job is whenever there's terrorism, to suppress that. By doing that, they buy valuable time to the politician to decide where do they want to take this conflict strategically.

Do they want to solve it or not? And they are complaining that, from the beginning -- and I can only say that, beside Rabin's era, which was short- lived -- and he was assassinated by an extreme right-wing Jew -- all the Israeli politicians never spoke or never thought strategically towards where they want to take it.

AMANPOUR: You know, there are some people who've obviously pushed back, saying how can you show such a bad light? One of the early screenings, I read that people looked at the six Shin Bet leaders who were in the Cinematheque at the screening and said, what are you, collaborators? You traitors, why are you saying this now?

MOREH: Well, Christiane, I have to tell you that I think that this is the most pro-Israeli film I've ever created.

When you see the Titanic that is heading towards the iceberg, what would you do, as a friend? Would you try to steer the wheel away from that? Or will you continue to push it towards the iceberg? I think that this is what they are afraid, that the Israeli ship is moving towards an iceberg.

And they're true friends. And they are -- if you can say about those six people, first of all, that they are pragmatic people and, second, that they are true patriots of Israel. And this is what they say.

AMANPOUR: You mentioned the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin, who was the one who signed the Oslo Accords and who believed in a peace settlement. I notice in the film that you brought up footage of the rallies before the assassination. And you featured -- at least the rallies featured -- Benjamin Netanyahu.

What were you saying by putting that video in? And what was he saying then?

MOREH: Well, there was a lot of incitement towards Rabin as a prime minister then. And Benjamin Netanyahu took his big share in that. I mean, the demonstration where Netanyahu is headed and behind him there is the coffin of Rabin. And he saw that. I'm absolutely sure that he saw that. He wasn't naive.

And he was heading those -- some of the rallies were horrible. I mean, they called Rabin as a Nazi collaborator. They called Rabin -- especially the extreme right wing in Israel, they basically -- I mean, Yigal Amir, the assassin, is in jail.

But I think much of the perpetrators, of the people who sent him, the extreme right wing rabbis, those politicians who were there also, are as much as blame as the one that pulled the trigger. He was his messenger.

AMANPOUR: Let me ask you about that, because you do talk in the film about the Jewish underground, as you call them, and about a 1980 plot to blow up the Dome of the Rock, the Muslim shrine there.

MOREH: One of the third holy places in the world.

AMANPOUR: Let us show this clip.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (from captions): At first, the idea was based on the belief that (inaudible) there will be no redemption and therefore, they have to get rid of that Dome.

They prepared the bombs. They used a very sensitive type of explosive, Semtex. It was planned by Menachem Livni, who was a demolitions genius. The charges would be placed so that the entire force of the explosion would be directed at the support structure. This would result in the collapse of the Dome.

The consequence of blowing up the Dome of the Rock, even today, is that it could lead to total war by all the Islamic states, not just the Arab states, not just Iran, Indonesia, too, against the State of Israel.


AMANPOUR: So that plot, as the Shin Bet chiefs say, could have been apocalyptic for Israel.

What did that signify?

And also they were then released, right? They were pardoned by the prime minister.

MOREH: Yes, absolutely. What does it signify? That they are willing to risk everything in order to achieve the religious goals. And this is what I think, when those extreme right-wing fanatics come to speak, you cannot argue with them. You cannot reason with them, because they have God's order in front of them. And they value land much more than life.

And this is the major problem in Israel. Those people, those extreme right-wing leaders and people in Israel are the biggest threat to the existence of the state of Israel, because every time that you see there is a shift towards movement, slowly towards peace, they are -- they come inside and they create the greatest havoc.

I mean, you know that we have now the same thing in the occupied territories, those tag price who are going and burning mosques, burning Quran, in order just to do exactly that, to stop the move towards peace.

AMANPOUR: Obviously there has been an incredible amount of Palestinian terrorism as well, and that has definitely affected the debate within Israel, the suicide bombings that were towards the end of the '90s, the killing of the so-called engineer, one of the heads of the Hamas cells, Yahya Ayyash.

I want to play a little bit of a clip about so-called targeted assassinations as spoken by the Shin Bet leaders and get you to react to that. Let's listen.


YUVAL DISKIN, FORMER SHIN BET LEADER: (from captions): People expect a decision, and by decision they usually mean "to act". That's a decision. "Don't do it" seems easier, but it's often harder. Sometimes it's a super- clean operation. No one was hurt except the terrorists.

Even then, later, life stops, at night, in the day, when you're shaving. We all have our moments. On vacation...

You say, "OK. I made a decision. And X number of people were killed. They were definitely about to launch a big attack." No one near them was hurt. It was as sterile as possible. Yet you still say, "There's something unnatural about it."

What's unnatural is the power you have to take three people, terrorists, and take their lives in an instant.


AMANPOUR: So on the one hand, here you have them talking about something that preoccupies the world right now. You see drone attacks by the United States against Al Qaeda and other such elements in Afghanistan, Yemen, elsewhere.

Here, it has also been very, very sensitive.

I thought Yuval Diskin said something quite interesting, that you can never stop thinking about those decisions that you make.

MOREH: Yes. It's a human dilemma. I mean, the dilemma that he raises there is a human dilemma. How do you live with yourself when you know that there is collateral damage? I think the war of the 21st century is a war which needs to fight intelligent war, intelligence war, which needs to find the needle in the haystack, in the form of a terrorist.

And the -- where the intelligence agencies are working all around the world in order to find that, the moral issues that are raised because of that, the moral issues of innocent bystander that are being killed by these techniques are raised over and over again and again. And I think that it's right. Israel has dealt with that all the time, five, seven, 10 years ago, with the strategy of targeted assassination.

And then at the end of the day, it comes to the basic questions, strategy towards tactics, because killing a terrorist is a tactic, strategically. Where do you want to take that? I mean, it's also relevant to America.

You can kill all the terrorists in the world. You can target, assassinate all the terrorists in Afghanistan. You kill Osama bin Laden, but where do you want to take the conflict at the end of the day? What is your strategy to go out from that? And I think that this is the basic question everywhere.

AMANPOUR: So, in other words, the tactic is to pacify and stop the terrorism and the strategy is try to make a political resolution.

MOREH: Absolutely. This is -- also in the movie, Ami Ayalon says, do you know, you need to create a better political solution. This is the aim of victory. What is victory? When he asks the question, what is victory, does someone answer that? I mean, he says that. The Israeli have won every war almost.

But strategically, do we feel better, safer now? I don't think so. I think that the Israeli public is much more intimidated now by all those threats, which basically Netanyahu is very well doing, is now Iran nuclear reactor, the Palestinian wants to kill us, everybody wants to kill us. But at the end of the day, what is your solution?

I mean, you always talk about threats, Netanyahu. What is the solution? Where do you want to take? Is there a hope? If there is no hope, say that. Say that eloquently and say it for the Israeli people there is no hope. You know, you are going to live all your life fighting for the survival. If this is the case, say that.

But you're not saying that. You're saying all the time, be aware; be aware there's a threat, there's a threat. I don't think that this is what the leadership should do.

AMANPOUR: Dror Moreh, a very powerful film. Thank you for joining me.

MOREH: Thank you for being here. I really appreciate that.


AMANPOUR: And after a break, we'll turn to another remarkable film, one that documents Palestinian life in the shadow of the Israeli settlements. It's called "5 Broken Camera," and like "Gatekeepers," it was nominated for this year's Oscar.

It also has a unique pedigree. It was made by a Palestinian and an Israeli. That's when we come back.



AMANPOUR: Welcome back to the program.

When a Palestinian farmer named Emad Burnat bought himself a home video camera to record the birth of his youngest son, he didn't realize he'd end up capturing the birth of a movement.

As the unofficial cameraman for his village of Bil'in on the occupied West Bank, Burnat documented five years of local resistance against the encroaching Israeli settlements and the separation wall snaking through his and his neighbors' lands.

These home movies have now been transformed into the Oscar-nominated documentary, "5 Broken Cameras." Very much a Palestinian film, it was nonetheless codirected by Burnat's friend and fellow activist, the Israeli filmmaker, Guy Davidi. And they joined me here in the studio to talk about their Oscar dreams and the serious message they're sending.


AMANPOUR: Emad Burnat, Guy Davidi, thank you for joining me. Welcome to the studio.

I want to ask you, Guy, when Emad came to you with more than 500 hours of this footage and said, here, what was the specific piece of video that caught your eye?

DAVIDI: I remember I was watching a lot of footage and I caught -- caught my eye at this moment of an old man that is blocking the jeep from taking someone to prison. And I know a lot of people in the village, but I didn't know this old man.

So I asked Emad, "Who's this guy?"

And he told me, "That's my father."

AMANPOUR: Let me play the video and then we'll discuss it.


EMAD BURNAT (from captions): My mother and father try to stop the jeep. I keep thinking, "What should I do?"

I have to believe that capturing these images will have some meaning.


AMANPOUR: So, Emad, Guy, this actually was your father and your mother in there.

What was going on there?

EMAD BURNAT: This is my father trying to block the jeep and my mother by the -- my brother was arrested. So they were trying to take him from the soldiers.

So, yes, I was filming. This is my life. I film that. And this is my story. So I wanted to tell the story from my personal perspective, because people come to make films; they just take shorts and go out there. They didn't feel how's the life there.

AMANPOUR: And as you say, it was also about documenting the birth of your son and how your son was raised.

And we're going to play another short clip about some of your son's first words.


EMAD BURNAT (from captions): Where are we?

GIBREEL BURNAT, EMAD'S SON: (from captions): Jidar.

EMAD BURNAT (from captions): The wall?

GIBREEL BURNAT (from captions): Matat.

EMAD BURNAT (from captions): Cartridge. There's a matat.

GIBREEL BURNAT: (Speaking foreign language).

EMAD BURNAT (from captions): Watch out!

GIBREEL BURNAT: (Speaking foreign language).

EMAD BURNAT (from captions): Don't be afraid.

EMAD BURNAT (from captions): What?

GIBREEL BURNAT (from captions): Jesh.

EMAD BURNAT (from captions): Army.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): So in that short clip, we've seen that your son's first words, Gibreel's first words, were "fence" -- that's the separation fence -- "cartridge" -- spent shells and bullets -- and "army," jesh.

EMAD BURNAT: Yes, this is very strange life for the Western audience, for the people in America or in Europe to watch these scenes, because our kids grow up like this, in this situation. So they open their eyes. They are facing the soldiers around the houses, in the streets. And they talk about the army and the soldiers.

So this is how the life is in -- so this is how our kids grow up there.

AMANPOUR: Obviously, everybody wants to know how come a Palestinian farmer, villager who's documenting and diarizing his life behind the fence, joins forces creatively with an Israeli Jew.

Did you think you were going to get criticized?

What did you think when you started this?

DAVIDI: Yes, it was -- it was very clear that, for both of us, that we would both be criticized for working with each other.

And I think that the minute we decided the film was be -- it's going to be Emad in the main character, it was going to be him in the focus, then, it was much more comfortable for me, as an Israeli, to work with Emad on that, because I'm helping him shape his voice and not -- and not interfering with my own voice in the film directly.

AMANPOUR: What I found quite touching, having covered much of the hard news in these kinds of stories, was that you were also focusing on your friends. One of them was nicknamed Phil.

And he was somebody that your young son, Gibreel, really liked.

And then one day, at one of these protests at the fence, he got shot.

You had to talk to your son about this. And he was asking you questions.

I want to play this video, because it's very human.


GIBREEL BURNAT (from captions): Daddy? Why don't you kill the soldiers with a knife?

EMAD BURNAT (from captions): Because they'd shoot me.

GIBREEL BURNAT (from captions): Will there be any left?

EMAD BURNAT (from captions): There will be.

Why do you want to hurt them?

GIBREEL BURNAT (from captions): Because they shot my Phil.

Why did they shoot Phil? What did he do to them?


AMANPOUR: Such complicated violence, political situation, and yet seen through the eyes of a -- of a child, just very ordinary questions about why this happened and what the reaction should be.

EMAD BURNAT: Yes, I, you know, I was shocked and he was shocked by -- when Bassem was killed. And everybody in the village also was shocked.

So when -- when Gibreel says that, it's not surprised me, because he was affected by what happens to Bassem or what's happening in the village.

AMANPOUR: And Gibreel was about 4 then?

EMAD BURNAT: Yes. And he -- always he was asking questions and what's going on, what's happening here.

AMANPOUR: Bassem, of course -- Phil was his nickname.

Some have been critical inside Israel.

They said, what is all of this?

These films going to the Oscars are slandering our nation.

What's your answer to that?

DAVIDI: It's our responsibility in Israeli society that we all try to raise the discussion about the consequences of what we do, so, you know, first of all, films and documentaries are not made in order to represent countries. They are not -- this is not a Eurovision or a -- or a contest or Olympics.

We are doing films in order to create change in our cultures. And that's why the reason that's a good thing that in a country financed films that criticize itself, it shows a power to open discussions and to find solutions to the different challenges that we have.

AMANPOUR: Guy Davidi, Emad Burnat, thank you so much for joining me.

EMAD BURNAT: Thank you.

DAVIDI: Thank you very much.


AMANPOUR: And Guy Davidi told me that he's on a mission to have the film shown in Israeli schools, stressing how important it is for young Israelis to learn more about life among the Palestinians.

A teachable moment that comes not a moment too soon, as we'll see when we return.



AMANPOUR: And finally tonight, history, they say, is written by the victors. But in a world where there are no winners, the textbooks themselves have become another battleground.

Palestinian schools have long been accused of teaching hate towards the Israelis. But an exhaustive new study funded by the U.S. State Department and composed of scholars on both sides of the divide, says that textbooks in Israel and the Palestinian territories glorify their own histories to the extent that the other don't even exist.

Take this map of Israel and now as it appears in more than half of Palestinian textbooks. You'll notice that Israel isn't even there. But take a look at how the Palestinian territories appear in three-quarters of Israeli textbooks. That's right. They don't appear. There's no Gaza, no West Bank.

And it's not just question of dueling maps. Textbooks in Israel describe their brave nation as "a little lamb in a sea of 70 wolves," while Palestinian textbooks offer a counter narrative. How can either side turn the page as long as this war of words continues?

And that's it for tonight's program. Meantime, you can always contact us on our website, And you can always join us on Twitter and Facebook. Thanks for watching and goodbye from New York.