January 3rd, 2006
I had deep misgivings about seeing Spielberg’s Munich. The tragedy was too close to my heart.
I was supposed to be with the 1972 Israeli Olympiads as a member of the Israeli women’s basketball team. At the last minute, the International Olympic Committee decided against including a women’s basketball event. (It did not become a regular event until the 1976 Olympics.)
I didn’t go to Munich, but I spent years training with the athletes who did go. We developed a close camaraderie, as people do at training camps where tensions and hopes are high. I knew each one of them personally. They were my friends. I watched in horror as the massacre unfolded on TV. I, too, could have been slaughtered by the killers linked to Yasser Arafat.
Instead, I watched them slaughter my friends and saw how callously the world responded. The games went on even as my friends’ bodies were flown home draped not in medals but in burial shrouds.
I feared how Hollywood, even if it was Stephen Spielberg, would depict this tragedy but I finally went to see the film. Munich was worse than I had feared. It left me appalled and enraged. I felt violated. The film debased the memory of my friends. It exploited a horrifying atrocity. It slandered the brave Israeli volunteers who were ready to sacrifice their lives to seek justice and to risk orphaning their children in this dangerous but necessary assignment. Terrorists had to learn they could not murder Israelis abroad with impunity and that the perpetrators of this atrocity would not live to plot another one.
Americans, including Spielberg, have never had to live intimately with war and terrorism in a tiny country surrounded and outnumbered by intractable enemies. My Olympiad friends had. I had. I was born in Israel and have lived my whole life with Islamic terrorism. It began long before the so-called occupation, and has continued without cease. Its goal is to destroy Israel and expel or exterminate all Jews. Most young women like me did military service to defend our country in its never-ending war for survival. We accept this obligation with stoicism and without compromising our ethics or our humanity. That is what reality and our ideals demand of us.
But this film is not about reality or about presenting a truthful account of the aftermath of Munich. It is about Steven Spielberg—his spin on history, his ego, and his arrogance in thinking that he has special wisdom and insights about how to bring peace. He may believe that the ends justify the means so he has license to twist the truth to promote peace. But “the road to hell is paved with good intentions.”
Some in the mainstream liberal media are praising this movie lavishly and, unfortunately, many people with limited historical knowledge may accept readily Spielberg’s twisted version of events and, worse, his political propagandizing (or “morality”).
Spielberg didn’t search for the moral or factual truths. He didn’t spend time in Israel or meet with both Jewish and Arab victims of Islamist terror. Instead, he used the fraudulent book Vengeance. Its author, George Jonas, was exposed years ago as having lied about his contacts with Israel’s Mossad. The book’s title, Vengeance, is inherently biased and pejorative. Israel did not go after the terrorists out of vengeance, but rather as part of its ongoing war against terrorism.
Spielberg’s screenwriter, Tony Kushner, was no better an influence than Jonas. A political ultra leftist, Kushner co-authored the vehemently anti-Israel volume Wrestling with Zion, and is infamous for his comment that “I wish modern Israel hadn’t been born.”
In addition, two of Spielberg’s consultants for the movie were Bill Clinton and his obedient Middle-East negotiator, Dennis Ross—both of whom had their own agendas and both of whom failed to secure peace when they were in power. Spielberg’s reliance on these sources for such an important film is ethically irresponsible. The bare-bones, non-technical term for Spielberg’s spin is lying. Spielberg exploits the respect and betrays the trust of audiences who believe in him.
Spielberg plays fast and loose with history most clearly when he brazenly substitutes his own political voice for Golda Meir’s documented statements. On September 12, 1972, she told the Knesset:
“We have no choice but to strike at the terrorist organizations wherever we can reach them. That is our obligation—to ourselves and to peace. We shall fulfil that obligation undauntedly.”
Golda Meir’s unwavering commitment and sense of duty are moral universes away from the equivocating words Spielberg puts in her mouth:
“...every civilization finds it necessary to negotiate compromises with its own values.”
Meir did not see counter-terrorism as a compromise of Jewish values but rather as submitting to those values. There is nothing in Judaism that requires Jews to “turn the other cheek” to murderers of our people. True, Meir did not want to send Israelis to risk their lives. Nor did she want Israelis to have to kill. It was she who said to Israel’s enemies,
“We can forgive the Arabs for killing our children but we cannot forgive them for forcing our children to kill their children.”
We Israelis do not celebrate when we kill our enemies though our enemies celebrate when they kill us. Instead, it is a grim duty imposed on us by relentless racism and hate. Meir knew this.
The manufactured quotation is sheer moral relativism and parrots the Left’s favorite theme that “violence begets violence.” It is also the key message of Spielberg’s turgid movie. Munich also contains graphic violence, tasteless gratuitous sex scenes, and frequent profanity that numb the mind and serve no constructive purpose. A central theme is to make the audience believe that retributions against savage and barbaric slaughter do not deter terrorism. This concept is part of Leftist anti-war appeasement and a defeatist philosophy that blames victims of aggression.
But he offers no proof that this is true. The West made a major mistake in Munich when it appeased Hitler and failed to stop him before he became more powerful. We do not hear Spielberg argue for post-9/11 negotiations with Osama bin Laden. Spielberg, typical of so many “progressive” liberals, would like Israel to adopt his appeasement philosophy while he sits safely and comfortably thousands miles away in his Pacific Palisade mansion, far from danger.
Spielberg told Time magazine that Munich is “a prayer for peace.” But if he is truly seeking prayers for peace, he need look no further than the Jewish liturgy and the Hebrew Bible for both wisdom and balance. America’s Founding Fathers said: Rebellion to Tyrants is Obedience to God. There is also the truism: “He Who is Compassionate to the Cruel Will Ultimately Become Cruel to the Compassionate.”
I was particularly upset when Spielberg’s Israeli agent said that he cares only about Jewish blood and not about Arab blood. Anti-Semites often put such a comment in the mouth of a Jewish character, which, by association, defames all Jews. This grossly misrepresents Israeli morality and values. Spielberg contradicts this image himself when he shows Avner, the leader of the Israeli hit-team, horrified that the innocent daughter of one the targets is present and he quickly acts to stop the attack until she is safely gone. This is just one example of the lack of coherence, morality, and clarity that pervades this movie.
The opening movie credits informs us that Munich was “inspired by real events.” One of the last scenes of the movie shows Avner making love to his wife as he envisions the spectre of dead Israeli athletes lying on a bloodstained Munich runway. This obscene perversion of the truth and decency could only have come from a sick mind that egregiously twists facts and has the chutzpah to promote his movie as “inspired by real events.”
In the last 45 minutes of the movie, Spielberg depicts Avner as haunted by paranoia and guilt. In truth, those who sought out and terminated the Palestinian terrorists were determined and resolute Israelis who proudly defended their country against those who had ruthlessly slaughtered innocent civilians.
To further his pacifist political message, Spielberg invents a scene where the Arab terrorist and the Israeli agent encounter each other by accident in a safe house in Greece. In this contrived scene, each side argues their own perspective as Spielberg attempts to insinuate a degree of moral equivalence on both sides. This does justice to neither side, nor to the truth. It serves only to misinform the public. The Middle East has a long and complex history, and movie-goers with little knowledge of that history will drift even further into Hollywood fantasy than they did when they sat through E.T.
The moral equivalence message is illustrated by a statement made by the Council of American-Islamic Relations, (CAIR), an anti-Israel organization which asserts moral equivalence between victims and terrorists. In a 12/26/05 FoxNews interview, CAIR spokesman, Ahmed Bedeir, had this to say:
“The viewers who see this movie will find that both sides are seeking and fighting for the same thing and have the same desires … which is a homeland. Ironically [they both have] similar motives and desires…. The only difference between what these so-called Mossad-sponsored assassins and other terrorists—they both use a similar means—they make bombs and they blow up people and they kill innocent civilians and, in the meantime, violence begets violence. The policy has not worked, and I’m glad people like Steven Spielberg have produced a movie to raise questions about these certain policies of killing individuals, especially without due process [or] without providing the evidence and many of the assassins that were in this movie question the legitimacy of these targets.”
Hussam Ayloush, Southern California’s executive director of CAIR praised the film saying,
“This film moves the issue closer to a more neutral stance. It shows the Palestinians are not fighting Israel because they hate Jews or because they are intrinsically violent.”
Sadly, the average movie-goer will never know where fact ends and fantasy takes over. As a result, many will no doubt come away confused about the moral issues involved in the Arab-Israeli conflict, seeing diminished difference between the barbarity of Arab terrorists and the justice meted out by the Israeli agents who pursued them.
Spielberg is a movie director and a great storyteller. But he is not a historian, a political scientist, or a statesman. If he wishes to meddle in high-stakes international politics, he should first remember that ”fools rush in where angels fear to tread.”
Whatever good intentions Spielberg may have had, his “docudrama” serves only the dangerous Islamist propaganda machine and may even inflame Jew-hatred.
Rachel Neuwirth’s website is available here.
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