Amalek, memory and Spielberg

Publié le par David CASTEL


 

The directors current offering stands in contrast to a lesson we learn from the this week's parsha

 

"Remember what Amalek did to you," we learn in this week's parsha. "Blot out the memory of Amalek."

 

Amalek was the nation who brutally attacked the children of Israel when they left Egypt. But who or what is Amalek today and why does it matter to a modern Israeli at the beginning of the 21st century?

 

First we need to say very clearly that the Mishnah taught more then 1500 years ago that there is no particular people that can be identified
as Amalek today.

 

But This does not mean, as some have tried to interpret, that we are no longer commanded to destroy Amalek because the genealogies of the nations have been confused and we simply cannot properly identify who is Amalek (but if someone were to miraculously reveal to us who was really an Amelekite we would be commanded to kill them…God forbid).

 

Rather, it means that at a certain point in history the idea that one could be defined by one's point of origin became morally absurd. People are determined not by where or to whom they were born but by the choices they make in the journeys of their lives.

 

Nonetheless the idea of Amalek remains powerful and relevant. Amalek is any and all people who represent blind hatred and malice that leads to terrible evil. Sadly Fatah and Hamas have been tragic expressions of Amalek energy in this generation.

 

The PLO was not created as a National Liberation movement; it was created with the stated intent to destroy the State of Israel. Until today the PLO has refused to recognize that Israel has any legitimate right to exist.

 

Hamas is committed to Israel's destruction by the most vicious and vile means. That may not be pleasant to hear, but it is the plain truth. And here is the key. There is only one way to combat Amalek: To remember. While for Plato the loss of knowledge is the source of evil, for Hebrew wisdom it is the loss of memory which is the source of evil.

 

A great lie

 

A tragic example of precisely this kind of loss of memory appeared this week in Israel in the form of Steven Spielberg's movie, Munich.

 

It is a film based on the great lie of moral equivalence. It has no historical memory. It does not understand the sacred moral imperative of memory – to remember Amalek.

 

In Spielberg's Munich, both the Israelis and the Arabs want a home. They both want a state. They both have a conscience and express complex mixtures of good and evil.

 

Both make speeches about blood and home and soil. One is not quite able to distinguish between terrorist and victim. Spielberg completely forgets the moral, historical context. He does not remember Amalek.

 

In Israel it is considered tragic when innocent civilians are killed in a necessary military action. But for terrorists, killing innocent civilians is not a mistake; it is their policy and objective.

 

In this regard there is one particular "act of forgetting" which was especially immoral on Spielberg's part. In George Jonas book "Vengeance" (upon which the film Munich was primarily based), we learn that the Israeli agents were given clear instructions: "If you have a choice between killing anyone on the list together with an innocent bystander or aborting your mission, your instructions are to do nothing."

 

Remember, Mr. Spielberg!

 

Moral equivalence

 

There is no moral equivalence between the Munich terrorists and the Israeli agents who killed them. Spielberg tells us that when good guys kill bad guys they are bad guys. But while the good guys have some bad and the bad guys have some good, there are still core moral distinctions between just and unjust causes. The allies and the Nazis in World War II were not morally equivalent.

 

The teaching of Amalek is that precisely this idea of moral equivalence is a violation of spirituality and wisdom. Yes, there is great moral complexity in the Israeli-Arab conflict, but there are also core distinctions between the two positions.

 

Just walk into Hadassah hospital in Jerusalem and see Jews and Arabs working side by side treating sick people with total commitment and dedication, and ask yourself, could such a beautiful holy endeavor exist any place in the Arab world today? Remember, Mr. Spielberg, that the answer is a resounding no!

 

Basic differences

 

Spielberg forgets to make the basic moral distinction between Israeli democracy and brutal Arab dictatorships. Human rights activist Andrei Sakharov used to say, "Nations which brutalize their own citizens will certainly brutalize their neighbors if they are given the chance."

 

Remember, Mr. Spielberg.

 

Spielberg forgets the simple fact that the overwhelming majority of Israel's citizens want peace at almost any price, while the overwhelming majority of Arabs on the West Bank and in East Jerusalem support bombings of buses filled with schoolchildren.

 

Remember, Mr. Spielberg.

 

Of course Israel is far from perfect. But the differences between Israel and the Arab world are enormous. In Israel Baruch Goldstein is a pariah in almost all of Israeli society. In East Jerusalem, the West Bank and almost all of the Arab world, terrorists, suicide bombers, Saddam Hussein and Bin Laden are national heroes.

 

Remember Amalek, Mr. Spielberg.

 

Futile appeasement

 

But it is even more than that. Amalek represents in Jewish thought the desire to destroy Israel at all costs.

 

Spielberg forgets that the Arab educational systems throughout the West Bank, and the Fatah propaganda through the years has been filled with content taken directly from Hitler and his Nazi ideology. Direct quotes from Hitler's evil minister of propaganda Goebbels fill Palestinian material.

 

Perhaps Mr. Spielberg has forgotten that Munich is the place that British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain sought to appease Hitler to bring "peace in our time." The result was the Holocaust, World War II, and the brutal loss of fifty million lives.

 

Remember, Mr. Spielberg.

 

Honor thy enemy

 

Of course as we began the article, the fact that a person or a group begins as Amalek does not mean they need to end up as Amalek.

 

If Fatah or even Hamas were to abandon their murderous ways and truly seek a fair solution to the very difficult conflict in which we are all mired, we would be ready to talk – at any time and any place.

 

But we must also honor our enemy by recognizing that he has different values then we do and that we cannot buy his hatred off with indoor toilets.

 

Amos Oz said after the Ramallah lynchings a few years ago, "the Palestinians are suffocated and poisoned by a blind hate."

 

We must remember Amalek, for the loss of memory is itself the source of evil which brings great suffering in the world.

 

And one more suggestion for Mr. Spielberg, from another of his famous movies: Phone home, Mr. Spielberg.

 

(02.09.06, 19:50)

Publié dans Réactions en Israël

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