Academy right on Shin Bet film

Phew! Thank heavens the Israeli film The Gatekeepers failed to win an Oscar. Maybe the Almighty is a cinema-goer and also felt like throwing up when he saw it.

Of course this film is going down a storm among liberal Jews, who are lapping up its confirmation by apparently unimpeachable authorities that Israel has slid into a pit of moral infamy.

The film consists of interviews with six former heads of Israel's domestic intelligence agency, the Shin Bet. Its dominant message is that Israeli society has been fatally corrupted by two noxious influences - the "settlers" and the Orthodox - and that those in Shin Bet charged with keeping it safe are sickened by what they themselves had to do.

Now, self-criticism and moral questioning are elevated Jewish virtues. But there is a great difference between conscience and demoralisation. These six imply that if only Israel had come out of the West Bank, there would now be peace in the Middle East.

For any former MI5 director, this would be unthinkable

As one of them says: "This job makes you into a leftist." Given such laughably simplistic views, does it also rot the brain?

Director Dror Moreh never states that Arab violence against Jews and Israelis pre-dated the "occupation" by decades. Nor does he ask how Israel would cope with the "Hamastan" the West Bank would become after such a withdrawal, just like Gaza. Indeed, years back several of these men had similarly urged Israel to withdraw from Gaza - the lethal consequences of which they fail to acknowledge.

We don't know to what extent these six were unaware how they would be used in this film. But it is astounding to see former intelligence chiefs shooting their mouths off with opinions that can only hearten Israel's enemies. For any former director of MI5, such behaviour would be utterly unthinkable.

For sure, Moreh does not sanitise Palestinian violence. His footage of the aftermath of the bus bombings during the Second Intifada is unsparingly graphic.

And there is no doubting the desperate struggle by Shin Bet and inevitable moral compromises needed to prevent further such atrocities. But Moreh nevertheless suggests a hideous equivalence between Palestinian murderers and the Orthodox, who are effectively group-libelled as fanatics who would even plot to blow up the Dome of the Rock.

Using the behaviour of a few crazies to damn a whole group is a well-known propaganda trick - as is misrepresenting a genocidal culture as just a few crazies.

But one has to wonder how men at the forefront of the defence against barbarism could have concluded that Israel has become unrecognisably cruel and callous.

Of course, one assumes that some things they have done are near the knuckle. But you would simply never know from this film of the lengths to which Israel goes to protect the lives of Palestinian innocents, and that the Israeli courts make unprecedented use of human rights law to invigilate the treatment of Palestinians. So how does one explain such a disturbing absence of balance amongst men charged with protecting the innocent against mass murder?

The answer surely lies in this chilling remark. A Palestinian told the Shin Bet man that the Palestinians were winning against Israel - because however much pain Israel caused the Palestinians, they would cause the Israelis just as much pain by forcing the Israelis to cause this pain to them.

In other words, the Palestinians believe that the Jews' uniquely developed conscience and sense of compassion will ultimately undermine their necessary defence against aggression. In the battle between those who love life and those who love death, there is alas no contest. And on the evidence of this film, the Palestinians are right.

Melanie Phillips is a Daily Mail columnist

Last updated: 10:45am, March 4 2013