Munich (2): Spielberg: “For me this movie is a prayer for peace”

December 15, 2005

* Munich’s screenwriter Tony Kushner: “I wish modern Israel hadn’t been born”

* Munich: already been named among the American Film Institute’s 10 best movies of 2005

* Arab-American Joseph Farah: “The problem in the Middle East, ultimately, is that one side (the Palestinians) seeks to destroy the other. And Spielberg doesn’t seem to realize that.”

 


This is the second of two dispatches today on Steven Spielberg’s new blockbuster film on Israel and its response to the Munich Olympics massacre. The first dispatch contains articles from a wide range of people criticizing the film. This dispatch presents more mixed points of view, including points sympathetic to the film.

Update: There is now a third dispatch on this subject here: Munich (3): BBC set to name woman agent who killed Olympics massacre mastermind

 

CONTENTS

1. The Munich massacre, and hitting back
2. Tony Kushner: “I wish modern Israel hadn’t been born”
3. The most famous Jewish director
4. Gila Almagor: Spielberg is “good for Israel”
5. Spielberg set to visit Israel next month
6. A potential Oscar winner in March
7. Mel Gibson to produce Holocaust TV series
8. “His ‘Prayer For Peace’” (By Richard Schickel, Time magazine, Dec. 4, 2005)
9. “Israel LA envoy criticizes new Spielberg film ‘Munich’” (Ha’aretz, Dec. 11, 2005)
10. “Israeli widows preview Spielberg’s ‘Munich’” (Reuters, Dec. 9, 2005)
11. “Spielberg is wrong” (By Joseph Farah, Freeman Center for Strategic Studies, Dec. 6, 2005)



(Please see the other Munich dispatch first.)

[All notes below by Tom Gross]

THE MUNICH MASSACRE, AND HITTING BACK

The murder of eleven members of the Israeli Olympic team in 1972 horrified the entire world (apart from some in the Middle East and anti-Semites elsewhere). The PLO leader Yasser Arafat had decided to exploit the Olympic Games – and in Germany moreover – to kill athletes from the Jewish state.

Counter-measures were ordered against the planners and perpetrators of the massacre by Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir and then later by Menachem Begin. They were designed, in the words of Israeli journalist Uri Dan, “to tell the PLO and other enemies of Israel that the Jewish state could stand up to murderers and eliminate them even when such operations involved considerable risks.”

In a cover interview Steven Spielberg gave to Time magazine last week, he said that “there has never been an adequate tribute paid to the Israeli athletes who were murdered in ‘72, and I wanted to tell this as a tribute to them.” Whilst Spielberg has already been widely criticized for this film even before it has reached movie theaters, his intentions appear to have been honorable.

 

TONY KUSHNER: “I WISH MODERN ISRAEL HADN’T BEEN BORN”

The film was written by the playwright Tony Kushner – it is his first feature screenplay. In the only interview Spielberg gave about the film to Time magazine (attached below), he says “Tony Kushner and I and the actors did not demonize anyone in the film.”

Yet Kushner, who is Jewish and known for his radical left-wing views, once called the founding of Israel “a historical, moral, political calamity... I wish modern Israel hadn’t been born.”

In another interview, with the Times of London, Kushner declared: “I deplore the brutal and illegal tactics of the Israeli Defense Forces in the occupied territories. I deplore the occupation, the forced evacuations, the settlements, the refugee camps, the whole shameful history of the dreadful suffering of the Palestinian people; Jews, of all people, with our history of suffering, should refuse to treat our fellow human beings like that.”

 

THE MOST FAMOUS JEWISH DIRECTOR

Steven Spielberg enjoys tremendous stature among Jews around the world following his film about the Holocaust, “Schindler’s List”. He used much of the profit and other money he has to set up the Shoah foundation, to preserve testimonies for survivors of Nazi concentration camps and he is also the sponsor of the Steven Spielberg Jewish Film Archive at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

This year it was announced that the factory where Oskar Schindler shielded more than 1,000 Jews from the Holocaust is to be turned into a museum commemorating the actions of the German industrialist. Since the 1993 release of the film, large numbers of tourists have sought out the factory.

 

GILA ALMAGOR: SPIELBERG IS “GOOD FOR ISRAEL”

Gila Almagor, a well-known Israeli actress who is cast in the movie, has defended Spielberg saying the film will improve Israel’s image.

Almagor, who is cast as the mother of a Mossad hitman, told Yediot Ahronoth that “it is so important for him (Spielberg) that the film do what it should do for Israel.” She also told the Israeli newspaper that Spielberg’s intention was to help Israel’s image.

 

SPIELBERG SET TO VISIT ISRAEL NEXT MONTH

According to the Israeli newspaper Ma’ariv, Spielberg is due to visit Israel in mid-January to attend the Israeli premiere of the film.

Since 2000 many American Jewish directors and actors have avoided visiting Israel, perhaps fearing too close an association with the Jewish state while it was being attacked during the Intifada. For more on this see the dispatch “Steven Spielberg, Barbara Streisand, Philip Roth, Daniel Libeskind: Where are you?” (April 1, 2002).

 

A POTENTIAL OSCAR WINNER IN MARCH

Ever since production of the movie was announced, “Munich” has been a leading candidate for the Oscars to be held at the Kodak theatre in Hollywood on March 5, 2006.

The New York Daily News declared: “If Munich is in the quality range of Schindler’s List it will be the frontrunner.”

A review on the cinemablend.com website says: “Munich is going to stick with you long after leaving the theater. You’ll be changed forever.”

The film has already been named among the American Film Institute’s 10 best movies of 2005.

A previous docudrama about the murder of the athletes, “One Day in September,” by Swiss Jewish producer Arthur Cohn, won a best documentary Oscar in 1999.

 

MEL GIBSON TO PRODUCE HOLOCAUST TV SERIES

On another entertainment industry subject, Mel Gibson is to produce a TV movie for ABC television based on a memoir by Dutch Jew Flory Van Beek, whose Catholic boyfriend hid her from the Nazis.

Gibson, whose film “The Passion of the Christ” last year was assailed by many critics as anti-Semitic and whose father is on record as doubting the Holocaust occurred, may not take an executive producer credit on “Flory.”

Last year, Gibson’s ultraconservative Catholic father, Hutton Gibson, described the Holocaust as “maybe not all fiction, but most of it is.”

Some commentators are suggesting that Mel Gibson is now attempting to repair his image within the Jewish community. For more on “The passion of the Christ” see the dispatch “What’s popcorn in Aramaic?” (March 9, 2004).

***

I attach four articles below on Munich, with summaries first for those who don’t time to read the full articles.

[All notes above by Tom Gross]

 


SUMMARIES

[Summaries below prepared by Tom Gross]

SPIELBERG: “FOR ME THIS MOVIE IS A PRAYER FOR PEACE”

“His ‘Prayer For Peace’” (By Richard Schickel, Time magazine, December 4, 2005)

Just after finishing his new movie about the aftermath of the massacre at the Munich Olympics, Steven Spielberg talked with TIME movie critic Richard Schickel...

TIME: WOULD IT BE FAIR TO SAY THAT THIS MOVIE IS, IN THE END, ABOUT THE HUMAN COST OF A QUAGMIRE?

Yes. And also for me this movie is a prayer for peace. I always kept thinking about that as I was making it. Some-where inside all this intransigence there has to be a prayer for peace. Because the biggest enemy is not the Palestinians or the Israelis. The biggest enemy in the region is intransigence. Do you know Amos Oz’s books? There’s a wonderful quote we found, that sort of makes sense to me: “In the lives of individuals, and of peoples, too, the worst conflicts are often those that break out between those who are persecuted.” They see in each other’s faces a reflection of some larger oppressor. That may well be the case with the 100-year conflict between Arabs and Jews...

IN THE SAME WAY, EVERYONE IN THE MOVIE IS HUMAN. YOU FEEL FOR THEM ALL.

Right. I think the thing I’m very proud of is that [screenwriter] Tony Kushner and I and the actors did not demonize anyone in the film. We don’t demonize our targets. They’re individuals. They have families. Although what happened in Munich, I condemn. One of the reasons I wanted to tell this story is that every four years there’s an Olympics somewhere in the world, and there has never been an adequate tribute paid to the Israeli athletes who were murdered in ‘72, and I wanted to tell this as a tribute to them. That was an important motivation for me, one of the earliest reasons I wanted to tell this story. I wanted this film to be in memory of them, because they seem to have been forgotten. The silence about them by the International Olympic Committee is getting louder for me every four years. There has to be an appropriate official acknowledgment of what happened...

 


“THE MESSAGES ARE PROBLEMATIC”

“Israel LA envoy criticizes new Spielberg film ‘Munich’” (Ha’aretz, December 11, 2005)

Israel’s consul-general in Los Angeles levelled criticism Sunday at Steven Spielberg’s “Munich,” saying that the new film drew an incorrect picture of the Mossad’s hunt for the PLO terrorists of the 1972 Olympic massacre, taking the legendary director to task for morally equating the agents and the terrorists and for addressing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with “a certain pretensiousness” and “quite superficial statements.”

“The film is based on the book written by George Jonas, a book in which there is no truth,” said Ehud Danoch, Consul General of Israel in Los Angeles, in a reference to Canadian journalist Jonas’ book Vengeance: The True Story of an Israeli Counter-Terrorist Team.

“It is, in fact, based on things that [self-styled Mossad man] Yuval Aviv told the author,” Danoch said. “This same Yuval claimed to have been in the Mossad and the head of a Mossad team, a claim that was untrue. At most he was a ‘selector’ for El Al for a few months,” Danoch said, referring to the airline’s unarmed security personnel who interview departing passengers...

...Danoch cited a scene in which a Palestinian terrorist named Ali delivers “a monologue of two or three minutes in which he lays out the Palestinians’ arguments. There is no counter-monologue to this.”

The diplomat said that Israeli officials had inquired about the film, but that the screenplay had been a closely guarded secret...

 


ISRAELI OLYMPIC WIDOWS PREVIEW MUNICH

“Israeli widows preview Spielberg’s ‘Munich’” (By Dan Williams, Reuters, December 9, 2005)

...Ilana Romano, whose weightlifter husband Yosef was the first Israeli sportsman gunned down during the 1972 guerrilla raid, said she attended an exclusive courtesy screening of “Munich” in Tel Aviv this week along with fellow widow Ankie Spitzer.

An advance copy of the thriller, which opens in the United States on Dec. 23 and in Israel next month, was flown out by its producer Kathleen Kennedy and screenwriter Tony Kushner.

“They were very nice, and wanted to get across the point to us that the film was made with utmost sensitivity,” Romano told Reuters. “For me, it was important that the film does no dishonour to the memory of the murdered athletes, nor to the image of the State of Israel. Both my criteria were satisfied,” she said.

…While Romano said Munich contained “historical surprises” -- on which she declined to elaborate, citing reluctance to spoil the film for viewers -- the widow credited Spielberg with fairly exploring Israel’s reasons for mounting the reprisal missions.

“At the time, I had no dilemma (about the policy),” she said. “There was simply no other way. The film strengthened this view, for me.”

Spitzer, whose fencer husband Andrei was killed in a botched German attempt to rescue Israeli athletes taken hostage by Palestinian gunmen, could not be reached for comment.

 


AN ARAB-AMERICAN CRITICIZES STEVEN SPIELBERG

“Spielberg is wrong” (By Joseph Farah, Freeman Center for Strategic Studies, December 6, 2005)

…As Spielberg puts it in the latest issue of Time magazine, “The biggest enemy in the region is intransigence.”

If that is truly the message of “Munich,” the film is a blatant lie, propaganda, a waste of time...

Though I haven’t seen the film, I can judge Spielberg’s words and descriptions. It’s time for someone to recognize that the Israel people are persecuted and the Arab people are oppressed by the same enemy.

That enemy is the Muslim leadership in the Middle East and elsewhere that oppresses its own people and scapegoats the Jews as a way of turning the enmity of its own oppressed people away from its rulers and channeling it toward the persecution of the Jews...

The real danger in the Middle East, to which Spielberg appears oblivious, is that we are nearing a time when the Arabs will have for the first time the ability to destroy Israel.

That is the real thriller on our horizon...



FULL ARTICLES

SPIELBERG: “FOR ME THIS MOVIE IS A PRAYER FOR PEACE”

His “Prayer For Peace”
By Richard Schickel
Time magazine
December 4, 2005

www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1137684,00.html

Just after finishing his new movie about the aftermath of the massacre at the Munich Olympics, Steven Spielberg talked with TIME movie critic Richard Schickel, who collaborated with him on the TV documentary Shooting War, about his reasons for taking on Munich, his anger at the International Olympic Committee and his modest plan for improving Arab-Israeli relations.

TIME: WOULD IT BE FAIR TO SAY THAT THIS MOVIE IS, IN THE END, ABOUT THE HUMAN COST OF A QUAGMIRE?

Yes. And also for me this movie is a prayer for peace. I always kept thinking about that as I was making it. Some-where inside all this intransigence there has to be a prayer for peace. Because the biggest enemy is not the Palestinians or the Israelis. The biggest enemy in the region is intransigence. Do you know Amos Oz’s books? There’s a wonderful quote we found, that sort of makes sense to me: “In the lives of individuals, and of peoples, too, the worst conflicts are often those that break out between those who are persecuted.” They see in each other’s faces a reflection of some larger oppressor. That may well be the case with the 100-year conflict between Arabs and Jews.

DO YOU THINK THIS FILM WILL DO ANY GOOD?

I’ve never, ever made a movie where I said I’m making this picture because the message can do some good for the world--even when I made Schindler’s List. I was terrified that it was going to do the opposite of good. I thought perhaps it might bring shame to the memory of those who didn’t survive the Holocaust--and even worse to those who did. I made the picture out of just pure wanting to get that story told. I thought it was important that at least my kids someday could see what happened, just to hear that story being told. I feel the same way about Munich. I don’t think any movie or any book or any work of art can solve the stalemate in the Middle East today.

BUT IT’S CERTAINLY WORTH A TRY.

Everything’s worth a try. I didn’t make this movie to make money, and I don’t know if I’ve made a commercial movie at all. But I certainly feel that if filmmakers have the courage to talk about these issues--whether they’re fictional representations of real events or are pure fiction or pure documentaries--as long as we’re willing to talk about the real tough, hard subjects unsparingly, I think it’s a good thing to get out in the ether. It’s not a bad thing. And there’s a project I’m initiating next February that I think might also do some good.

WHAT’S THAT?

What I’m doing is buying 250 video cameras and players and dividing them up, giving 125 of them to Palestinian children, 125 to Israeli kids, so they can make movies about their own lives--not dramas, just little documentaries about who they are and what they believe in, who their parents are, where they go to school, what they had to eat, what movies they watch, what CDs they listen to--and then exchange the videos. That’s the kind of thing that can be effective, I think, in simply making people understand that there aren’t that many differences that divide Israelis from Palestinians--not as human beings, anyway.

IN THE SAME WAY, EVERYONE IN THE MOVIE IS HUMAN. YOU FEEL FOR THEM ALL.

Right. I think the thing I’m very proud of is that [screenwriter] Tony Kushner and I and the actors did not demonize anyone in the film. We don’t demonize our targets. They’re individuals. They have families. Although what happened in Munich, I condemn. One of the reasons I wanted to tell this story is that every four years there’s an Olympics somewhere in the world, and there has never been an adequate tribute paid to the Israeli athletes who were murdered in ‘72, and I wanted to tell this as a tribute to them. That was an important motivation for me, one of the earliest reasons I wanted to tell this story. I wanted this film to be in memory of them, because they seem to have been forgotten. The silence about them by the International Olympic Committee is getting louder for me every four years. There has to be an appropriate official acknowledgment of what happened.

IT SEEMS TO ME THAT EVEN THOUGH YOU SAY, “I DIDN’T MAKE THIS MOVIE TO MAKE MONEY,” OBVIOUSLY YOU DO WANT AS MANY PEOPLE AS POSSIBLE TO SEE THE MOVIE BECAUSE OF THE ISSUES THAT IT RAISES.

The subject matter isn’t the kind of subject matter that is going to outgross King Kong--not even on the last day of [Kong’s] release. But one never knows in this business. I don’t have a crystal ball, and I’ve never had one, even though I’m accused of having one secreted away somewhere. I don’t. And I don’t know. I’m lucky at this point in my career that I can make the movies I want to make without having a studio come in and second-guess me. I always say thank goodness for Jaws, because Jaws gave me final cut. I’ve had it now for 30 years, and because of that I only have myself to blame for anything that goes wrong.

PEOPLE ASK ME WHAT YOU’RE REALLY LIKE. THE SHORT ANSWER I ALWAYS GIVE--AND IT’S A TRUTHFUL ONE--IS THAT I DON’T KNOW ANYONE WHO’S BETTER AT KEEPING IN TOUCH WITH HIS INNER CHILD. ON THE OTHER HAND, YOU MAKE AN AWFUL LOT OF MOVIES, LIKE MUNICH, THAT ARE FAR FROM CHILDLIKE. GUESS I’LL HAVE TO COME UP WITH A NEW ONE-LINER ABOUT YOU.

I don’t know if you can, Richard. Maybe the child in all of us dies just when we need him the most. I cannot tell you how many people come over to me on the street and repeat almost verbatim the line the Martians say to Woody Allen in Stardust Memories: “You know, we like your earlier, funnier films.”

THEY COME UP TO YOU?

They’ll say, “Why can’t you get back to making E.T. or Raiders?” This is not from young people but from older people, who I guess grew up with the movies I made when I was a kid and they were kids too. So I’m bewitched by Woody Allen in the sense that I keep hearing this scene from Stardust Memories played out in my real life. It’s very bedeviling.

SO DOES THAT MEAN YOU’RE GOING TO PUT AWAY CHILDISH THINGS FROM HERE ON OUT?

Well, you never can tell. I keep looking around for things, but then when I get the opportunity, say, to direct Harry Potter, I say no. When I get the opportunity to do something like Spider-Man, I say no. The films that are offered me that have childlike souls, I tend to say, “I’ve done that.” I don’t know if that just means I’ve grown up for good or whether something’s going to come along that’s going to make me say, “O.K., whatever I said to you is full of hot air, and the child lives in all of us until we die.”

YOU SEEM TO HAVE THIS PATTERN OF DOING TWO MOVIES BACK-TO-BACK AND THEN STEPPING BACK. DO YOU LIKE DOING IT THAT WAY?

I hate doing it that way. When I don’t have a movie, I don’t take a job just for the sake of working. I just sit it out until I find something I’m passionate about. If I find something light, I’ll make it. Like Terminal. It wasn’t a film that I’ll be remembered for, but it’s a film I’ll remember for the rest of my life, a sweet short story that gave me a chance to work with Tom Hanks--and people think I’m crazy for saying this--giving what I think was his best performance. Some people have said, “Why did you make that little movie when you could have been doing something important?” And I said, “Well, at the time it was important.” And if I find something dark and historical--like this Doris Kearns Goodwin book [Team of Rivals, about Abraham Lincoln] I’m working on now--I’ll do that. It’s just how things work out. It’s all about timing.

 


“THE MESSAGES ARE PROBLEMATIC”

Israel LA envoy criticizes new Spielberg film ‘Munich’
Ha’aretz
December 11, 2005

www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/656341.html

Israel’s consul-general in Los Angeles levelled critism Sunday at Steven Spielberg’s “Munich,” saying that the new film drew an incorrect picture of the Mossad’s hunt for the PLO terrorists of the 1972 Olympic massacre, taking the legendary director to task for morally equating the agents and the terrorists and for addressing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with “a certain pretensiousness” and “quite superficial statements.”

The film follows a Mossad hit squad assigned to track down and kill the Palestinian Black September gunmen behind the abduction of Israeli athletes during the Munich Olympics. Eleven atheletes were killed in the operation and an ill-fated rescue attempt by German security forces.

“The film is based on the book written by George Jonas, a book in which there is no truth,” said Ehud Danoch, Consul General of Israel in Los Angeles, in a reference to Canadian journalist Jonas’ book Vengeance: The True Story of an Israeli Counter-Terrorist Team.

“It is, in fact, based on things that [self-styled Mossad man] Yuval Aviv told the author,” Danoch said. “This same Yuval claimed to have been in the Mossad and the head of a Mossad team, a claim that was untrue. At most he was a ‘selector’ for El Al for a few months,” Danoch said, referring to the airline’s unarmed security personnel who interview departing passengers.

According to Danoch, throughout the film Spielberg equates the Mossad agents and the terrorists. “This is an incorrect moral equation. We in Israel know this. There is also a certain pretensiousness in attempting to treat a painful, decades-long conflict by means of quite superficial statements in a two and a half hour movie.”

“As a Hollywood movie, I assume that in Hollywood it will be defined as a well-made film, but from the standpoint of the messages it sends, the messages are problematic.”

As an example, Danoch cited a scene in which a Palestinian terrorist named Ali delivers “a monologue of two or three minutes in which he lays out the Palestinians’ arguments. There is no counter-monologue to this.”

The diplomat said that Israeli officials had inquired about the film, but that the screenplay had been a closely guarded secret.

“When we asked regarding the screenplay, we were told, of course, that Spielberg would not do anything that would hurt Israel.”

Danoch, speaking to Israel Radio, declined to answer directly when asked if the film was likely to aid those who criticize Israel’s policy of targeted assassination of terrorists and their commanders.

 


ISRAELI OLYMPIC WIDOWS PREVIEW MUNICH

Israeli widows preview Spielberg’s “Munich”
By Dan Williams
Reuters
December 9, 2005

www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/L09769928.htm

Steven Spielberg faces fierce debate over his film about Israel’s retaliation for the Palestinian attack on its team at the Munich Olympics, but the director has at least one fan: the widow of a slain athlete.

Ilana Romano, whose weightlifter husband Yosef was the first Israeli sportsman gunned down during the 1972 guerrilla raid, said she attended an exclusive courtesy screening of “Munich” in Tel Aviv this week along with fellow widow Ankie Spitzer.

An advance copy of the thriller, which opens in the United States on Dec. 23 and in Israel next month, was flown out by its producer Kathleen Kennedy and screenwriter Tony Kushner.

“They were very nice, and wanted to get across the point to us that the film was made with utmost sensitivity,” Romano told Reuters on Friday.

“For me, it was important that the film does no dishonour to the memory of the murdered athletes, nor to the image of the State of Israel. Both my criteria were satisfied,” she said.

Though no stranger to tackling highly charged historical events in his films, Spielberg has kept a low profile over Munich. Confidants say the director, recognising the potential for his film to spark controversy, wants it to speak for itself.

Munich tells of the Israeli agents assigned to hunt down and kill the Palestinians suspected of planning the Olympics assault, in which 11 athletes died. With Israel and the Palestinians still locked in conflict 30 years on, it remains a loaded episode.

Spielberg has also hinted that his portrayal of Israel’s reprisals tactics would not be entirely flattering and would raise questions about the U.S. “war on terror” since the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

SPOOKED BY SOURCES

Veterans of Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency came out of the cold to question Spielberg’s sourcing after it emerged that Munich was based in part on “Vengeance”, a 1984 book drawn from the purported confessions of a former assassin who said he broke rank in protest at the retaliations policy.

“I think it is a tragedy that a person of the stature of Steven Spielberg, who has made such fantastic films, should have based this film on a book that is a falsehood,” said David Kimche, a former Mossad deputy director.

Israel has never formally acknowledged responsibility for the series of shootings, explosive booby-traps and cross-border commando raids that killed 10 Palestinians linked to Black September, the group behind the Munich slayings.

The reprisal campaign included the 1973 killing in Norway of a Moroccan waiter mistaken for Black September’s leader. Six members of the Israeli hit team were prosecuted for murder, and Israel eventually paid compensation to the victim’s family.

Black September mastermind Mohammad Daoud has also questioned the basis for Spielberg’s portrayal.

While Romano said Munich contained “historical surprises” -- on which she declined to elaborate, citing reluctance to spoil the film for viewers -- the widow credited Spielberg with fairly exploring Israel’s reasons for mounting the reprisal missions.

“At the time, I had no dilemma (about the policy),” she said. “There was simply no other way. The film strengthened this view, for me.”

Spitzer, whose fencer husband Andrei was killed in a botched German attempt to rescue Israeli athletes taken hostage by Palestinian gunmen, could not be reached for comment.

 


AN ARAB-AMERICAN CRITICIZES STEVEN SPIELBERG

Spielberg is wrong
By Joseph Farah
Freeman Center for Strategic Studies
December 6, 2005

In a little more than two weeks, Steven Spielberg will release “Munich,” his epic film about the murder of 11 Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympics.

But the movie, Spielberg warns us, is not really about this unjustifiable, murderous act. It’s really about the human cost of a political quagmire - the Arab-Israeli conflict.

As Spielberg puts it in the latest issue of Time magazine, “The biggest enemy in the region is intransigence.”

If that is truly the message of “Munich,” the film is a blatant lie, propaganda, a waste of time. He suggests, “The worst conflicts are often those that break out between those who are persecuted.”

That statement suggests, rightly or wrongly, that each side in the conflict is persecuted.

Now there is no question that the Israelis are persecuted - hated for who they are because of who they are. And there is no question that the Arab people are oppressed.

But are the Arabs persecuted?

I don’t think that’s the right terminology and I say this as an Arab-American.

Though I haven’t seen the film, I can judge Spielberg’s words and descriptions. It’s time for someone to recognize that the Israel people are persecuted and the Arab people are oppressed by the same enemy.

That enemy is the Muslim leadership in the Middle East and elsewhere that oppresses its own people and scapegoats the Jews as a way of turning the enmity of its own oppressed people away from its rulers and channeling it toward the persecution of the Jews.

There’s another reason Spielberg’s premise of “intransigence” is so obviously false.

One side in the Middle East conflict - the Israeli side - has bent over backward to solve the problem. The Israelis have sacrificed concerns about their own security in an effort to give the Arabs what they say they want - a land of their own. And every time they make another unilateral move in that direction, they are met with more violence and higher stakes.

To accuse the Israelis of “intransigence” is about as big a lie as one can tell.

The problem in the Middle East, ultimately, is that one side seeks to destroy the other.

Can anyone deny that the Arabs still seek to destroy Israel and eradicate every Jew from the Middle East?

On the other hand, Israelis do not seek to destroy their enemies in the Middle East. If they sought to do so, they have the capability of doing it. They have possessed that capability for a long time. They have never used it. In fact, they have been a model of restraint even when faced with the possibility of defeat and destruction themselves.

The real danger in the Middle East, to which Spielberg appears oblivious, is that we are nearing a time when the Arabs will have for the first time the ability to destroy Israel.

That is the real thriller on our horizon.

Instead, Spielberg has chosen to make a movie about the past, about the balance of terror that has kept the quest for peace and freedom in the Middle East at an intractable impasse.

Coming very soon, the Muslim powers that have both persecuted the Jews and oppressed the Arabs will have within their arsenal weapons of mass destruction that could destroy Israel.

Will they sit on them the way the Israelis have for more than 40 years?

I don’t think so. I doubt Steven Spielberg believes that. I don’t know anyone in their right mind who would want to take that chance.

Steve Spielberg is a gifted moviemaker. But he fails to understand one of the central lessons of history. Appeasement of evil never works.


All notes and summaries copyright © Tom Gross. All rights reserved.