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Torn on “Munich”… December 26, 2005, 12:31 pm

Posted by quintapalus in Movie Reviews.
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I still don’t know whether or not I am going to see Spielberg’s Munich. While I have little doubts as to the technical merit of the film, meaning that it will have fantastic production value and be skillfully filmed, the story that Spielberg presents worries me. It seems conventional wisdom that the creator of Schindler’s List couldn’t possibly be converted to the dark side of the force, but then again, everyone agrees that Nazis are evil, while the vote is split on the Palestinians. Let’s face it, Jews of all political stripes play on the same team when it comes to WWII, but move forward more than 50 years and start talking about road maps and statehood and all of a sudden it’s skins versus shirts with conservative Jews on one side and liberal Jews on the other.

Liberal Jews, unfortunately, have to deal with the juxtaposition of their Judaism and their political views towards victimhood (I’ll give you three guesses on who plays the victim in their world, in this case). One can imagine the universal condemnation of a movie that even approached moral relativity on the actions of Israel hunting down Nazi war criminals after WWII, (violence begetting more violence or becoming Nazis in the process, etc etc.). Yet, make the same movie where Israel hunts down “victims” with a protected status akin to the spotted snow owl and you have some takers – moral indignation on one hand, enlightened metaphysical musings on the other. So yes, I do believe that Spielberg with his Schindler’s List street cred in hand, could indeed make a movie that finds moral equivalence between the Palestinian Black September group and Israel’s response to the horrific slaughter of its athletes.

So I will continue to read more articles and reviews of Munich before I decide to go or not go. My biggest fear is that if Spielberg has made the wrong movie, its viewers will never know the truth and more so, the moral underpinnings of the entire event. They will only know, as has become so unfortunately typical these days, what they see on the screen and repeat as Gospel. It will only add to the pile of propaganda continually laid on the doorstep of Israel as it struggles for its very right to exist.

Here is one of the more interesting reviews that I have read recently from Harvard law student Mitch Webber:

The most misleading line in Stephen Spielberg’s Munich comes near the beginning. Israel’s prime minister, Golda Meir, tells her cabinet, “Every civilization finds it necessary to negotiate compromises with its own values.” The implication is that Meir was reluctant to hunt down the terrorists responsible for the Munich massacre, and that doing so was contrary to Israeli, and civilized, values.

The truth is just the opposite. Meir understood that Israel’s chief obligation is to ensure that Jews will never again be slaughtered with impunity, simply for being Jewish. Holding mass murderers accountable is not a compromise; it is Israel’s reason for being.

The most misleading omission from Munich is Germany’s response to the massacre. Germany released the Black September terrorists less than two months after they had killed eleven innocent civilians. Israel had to hunt down Black September, because Germany didn’t value Jewish lives enough to capture, try, and imprison those who kill Israelis on German soil. (Also missing from the film is any mention of Germany’s refused to allow the Israeli Olympians their own security detail, despite credible threats to their safety, and Germany’s refusal to let Israel conduct a rescue operation.) Meir said that she was “literally physically sickened” by Germany’s capitulation. She continued, “I think that there is not one single terrorist held in prison anywhere in the world. Everyone else gives in.”

Nobody can accuse Stephen Spielberg of insensitivity toward Jews and Israel. But by trying so hard to appear evenhanded, he has made an incomplete and imbalanced movie. In Munich, those who would murder racist butchers are no better than the butchers themselves. Conservative columnist Warren Bell put it best when he described Munich’s simple-minded morality like this: “when good guys kill bad guys, they’re as bad as bad guys.” Liberal writer Leon Wieseltier concurred: “Munich prefers a discussion of counterterrorism to a discussion of terrorism; or it thinks that they are the same discussion. This is an opinion that only people who are not responsible for the safety of other people can hold.

If both sides of the political spectrum can agree that a nation is not only right, but obligated, to act as Israel did, why does Munich try so hard to say otherwise?

A large part of the blame belongs to the screenwriter, Tony Kushner, whose literary accomplishments (Angels in America, among other brilliant plays) are too often overshadowed by an extreme left-wing political agenda. Why on Earth would anyone entrust a script about Israel to someone who declared, “I wish modern Israel hadn’t been born?” (So much for impartiality.)

Spielberg and Kushner end up glorifying Jewish victims, but deploring those who would keep Jews from becoming victims. Their sense of Jewish tragedy blinds them to the possibility of Jewish heroism.

And yet, even if Munich had gotten the dialogue, plot, and tone right, there would still be something missing. Rather, there would be someone missing, a character, Avery Brundage. The reason Munich matters so much to American Jews has nothing to do with Arab terrorism or European appeasement. Those complementary stories were familiar to the world decades before Munich. It was Avery Brundage, an American, who so outraged. The same Avery Brundage who, as head of the U.S. Olympic Committee in 1936, had insisted on sending an American delegation to “Hitler’s Games” in Berlin; the same Avery Brundage who, in 1941, was expelled from the anti-war America First Committee for his Nazi allegiance; this was the man who, in 1972, was president of the full International Olympic Committee. According to Time Magazine, during the standoff, Brundage’s chief concern was with “remov[ing] the crisis from the Olympic Village,” as if to say, “There’s no way we can save the hostages. Let’s at least save the Games.” After the murders, despite strong opposition within the IOC, including from the German organizers, Brundage insisted that everything go on as if nothing had happened. He refused even to mention the dead Israelis in the following day’s memorial ceremony. Los Angeles Times columnist Jim Murray summed up Brundage’s decision like this: “Incredibly, they’re going on with it. It’s almost like having a dance at Dachau.”

Murray’s comparison is apt. It was Dachau that taught my grandfather’s generation the importance of Israel as a haven in a world that is too often either hostile or indifferent to Jews. And when he was my age, my father watched Munich, the massacre, live on tv, and he learned the same lesson. Thirty-three years later, Munich, the movie, forgets to explain why Israel acted as it did.

That’s the story Steven Spielberg missed.

Bolding mine. Well said.

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Comments»

1. America…F*ck Yeah! » Krauthammer’s Thoughts on “Munich” - January 15, 2006, 5:43 pm

[…] I have posted my own thoughts previously on being torn about seeing Munich (which I still have not seen) and here, Charles Krauthammer posts his own thoughts after his viewing: If Steven Spielberg had made a fictional movie about the psychological disintegration of a revenge assassin, that would have been fine. Instead, he decided to call this fiction “Munich” and root it in a historical event: the 1972 massacre by Palestinian terrorists of 11 Israeli athletes at the Olympic Games. Once you’ve done that — evoked the killing of innocents who, but for Palestinian murderers, would today be not much older than Spielberg himself — you have an obligation to get the story right and not to use the victims as props for any political agenda, let alone for the political agenda of those who killed them. […]


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