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Jerusalem Bureau Chief Worried Israelis Aren't Listening to Left-Wing Movie Advocating Withdrawal

New York Times Jerusalem bureau chief Jodi Rudoren, who has courted controversy from pro-Israel conservatives during her brief tenure, appeared in the Sunday Arts section to express concern over the muted reception in Israel to the new documentary "The Gatekeepers," an unflattering look back at Israel's Shin Bet, the country's security service: "'Most Israelis Are Not Listening.' – Little impact at home for an Oscar-nominated film." The film is also a loaded call for Israeli Jews to withdraw from the West Bank.

The Oscar-nominated documentary “The Gatekeepers” braids the recollections and reflections of six former chiefs of the Shin Bet, Israel’s internal security service, into a disturbing narrative of their country’s occupation of the Palestinian territories since 1967. In the United States the confessions of these tough terrorist hunters have startled and provoked audiences, fueling the criticism among Jewish liberals of the right-leaning Israeli government’s expansion of settlements in the West Bank.

But one of the subjects of the film, Ami Ayalon -- who followed his Shin Bet tenure with several years in Parliament -- worries that the film will have less impact where it is most important, because “most Israelis who saw it are Israelis who are convinced.”

“Most Israelis are not listening,” Mr. Ayalon, who ran the Shin Bet from 1996 to 2000, said in an interview. “When it is too tough, the easiest way to deal with it is to close our eyes and to close our ears.”

The big question is whether the 97-minute, $1.5 million “Gatekeepers” will change that. It has already captured the attention of the world: at least 10 American film critics, including two from The New York Times, put it in their best-of-2012 lists, and Israel’s Foreign Ministry gets inquiries almost daily from its embassies about how to handle the reaction in countries where “The Gatekeepers” will soon be screened. (After an Oscar-qualifying run last year the movie opens in New York and Los Angeles on Friday.)

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The message of “The Gatekeepers,” formed from the collective wisdom of the six living former Shin Bet leaders, is this: The occupation is immoral and, perhaps more important, ineffective. Israel should withdraw from the West Bank as it did from the Gaza Strip in 2005. And the prospect of a two-state solution to the Palestinian conflict diminishes daily, threatening the future of Israel as a Jewish democracy.

As John Podhoretz of Commentary magazine wrote on Twitter: "....Rudoren is stunned that Israelis haven't changed their views b/c of a documentary"