Neoconservatives launch a preemptive strike on Spielberg's latest, which dares to break the rules of post-9/11 political correctness.
By Michelle Goldberg
Steven Spielberg's "Munich" doesn't open until Friday, but a backlash charging the film with fuzzyheaded liberal naiveté and moral relativism began weeks ago. Political critics are berating the movie for suggesting that the violence wracking the Middle East is a cycle that both sides have a part in perpetuating. Spielberg, ironically, is accused of being insufficiently Manichean, and the charge threatens to ossify into conventional wisdom before the movie's audience can get to theaters to see how misguided it is. As New York Times media columnist David Carr wrote in his awards -season blog, "'Munich' finds itself in a seemingly endless spanking machine."
Spielberg's film tells the story of the Israeli response to the massacre of its athletes by Palestinian terrorists at the 1972 Munich Olympics. The killings were the work of Black September, a terrorist wing of Yasser Arafat's Fatah organization. Determined to both wreak vengeance and to project a message of strength to the word, Israel deployed hit squads from Mossad's Caesarea unit to find and assassinate those behind the attack. Often, the men who were directly responsible could not be located, and so other Fatah activists with more ambiguous involvement were targeted instead. The story is full of moral ambiguities -- few would dispute that Israel had the right to retaliate, but its pursuit of revenge became an end in itself, sometimes compromising both Israel's ethics and its own security.The analogy to our own time is obvious, and in some ways the argument about "Munich" is really one about America. Post-9/11 political correctness, which demands that stories about terrorism and counter-terrorism be limned in starkest black and white, seemed to have dissipated these last few years. In the debate over Spielberg's movie, though, it's returning with a vengeance. The result is not just the mischaracterization of a movie -- it’s the resurrection of the taboo against depicting the war on terror in shades of gray.