Sunday, May 05, 2013

Lessons from "The Gatekeepers" and "Incendies"

by Salman Hameed

The situation in Syria is has been awful for the past two years and there is an ever present danger of the conflict spreading into the neighboring countries. Israel attacked a shipment of missiles that it believed were meant for Hezbollah in Lebanon. Just a few hours ago, there were four large explosions near Damascus, and there is a possibility that it is the second strike by Israel inside Syria in two days. From the New York Times:
Four explosions just west of Damascus shook the ground across the Syrian capital early on Sunday, sending fiery mushroom-shaped clouds towering over the landmark Mount Qasioun and brightening the night sky in a demonstration of firepower more potent than anything the residents of the city, a government stronghold, have witnessed during more than two years of war.  
 The Syrian government immediately blamed Israel for the explosions, whose power appeared to far outstrip that of any weapons in the rebels’ arsenals. Israeli officials refused to confirm that Israeli forces had carried out the strikes, which the Syrian deputy foreign minister, speaking on CNN, called “an act of war.”

With much still unexplained about the effects and motivations of the attack, it rattled the region, which has lived in fear that the Syrian war will lead to a wider conflict. It was unclear whether Israel, if it carried out the strikes, sought to intervene in Syria’s civil war or was simply expanding its campaign to prevent the Syrian government from transferring weapons to Hezbollah, the militant Shiite organization in Lebanon that is Syria’s ally and one of Israel’s most dangerous enemies. 
The attacks could end up providing psychological and perhaps military assistance to the Syrian rebels, who over the last several weeks have faced losses in a series of government offensives around Damascus and the city of Homs to the north. For the rebels, any damage to crucial military structures from the attacks — said by opposition activists to have hit bases of elite troops as well as weapons stores — would be offset by political complications if the explosions are linked to Israel.        
In this context, I wanted to point to a new documentary out, The Gatekeepers, that interviews six surviving former heads of Israeli security agency, Shin Bet. Most of the focus there is on Israel-Palestinian conflict. Nevertheless, it is a sobering film on the nature of conflict. You will find plenty of things to agree and disagree in this film. Here is our Film Autopsy of The Gatekeepers (see here for other Film Autopsies):

While we are on the subject, I also wanted to highlight a fantastic movie about the Lebanese civil war as well. Incendies is set in a country that looks a lot like Lebanon in the 1970s and it exposes the absurdity and the futility of the factional war that engulfed Lebanon for several years. This is an intense film. If you haven't seen, you should definitely check it out. Here is our Film Autopsy of Incendies:


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