Spielberg and Kushner Smear Israel
by Andrea Levin,
Executive Director, CAMERA December 19, 2005
Steven Spielberg and an army of well-paid consultants and spinmeisters
are pulling out all the stops to promote Munich and fend off damaging
of the movie about the murder of Israeli Olympic athletes and the effort to
track down the crime's masterminds. The campaign has even included courting
family members of the slain men for endorsements to blunt a gathering storm
of negative commentary from the likes of David Brooks in the New York Times,
Leon Wieseltier in The New Republic and Andrea Peyser in the New York Post.
Briefly, the movie presents, via pulse-pounding scenes of kidnaping,
death, stalking and more death, the message that Israel was brutal, bungling
and immoral in its reaction to the massacre. True, the hostage-takers were
also brutal; but dispossessing Palestinians, we soon learn, lies at the
Cultured Palestinians passionately explain: "We are for twenty-four years
world's largest refugee population. Our homes taken from us. Living in
No future. No food. Nothing decent for our children."
In Munich there are no Palestinians clamoring for the destruction
of Israel - as all Palestinian groups did then and, regrettably, leading
continue to do today. On the contrary, in a contrived encounter between
the movie's lead, and a PLO member, the latter insists he simply wants a
He also blames Jews for turning the Palestinians "into animals" and charges
them with exploiting guilt over the Holocaust.
In all of this one sees the biases of Tony Kushner, the radical
playwright brought in by Spielberg to reshape the script. Kushner has
called the creation of Israel a "mistake,"blamed Israel for "the whole
history of the dreadful suffering of the Palestinian people,"and advocated
policies to undermine the state.
Israelis in the film, including Prime Minister Golda Meir, do make
their case. But the language is often self-incriminating and vengeful. Meir
says: "I don't know who these maniacs are and where they come from.
- they're not recognizable. You tell me what law protects people like
civilization finds it necessary to negotiate compromises with its own
The charge that Israel believed targeting terrorist leaders compromises
its values rather than affirms its obligation to seek every means to defend
itself against aggression is pure Hollywood concoction. But spiraling
about the use of force is central to Munich, with one team member, an
bomb-maker who eventually blows himself up, lamenting "We're Jews, Avner.
don't do wrong because our enemies do wrong...we're supposed to be
That's a beautiful thing. That's Jewish..."
Thus, not only, in the film's account, was it futile to assassinate
terrorist masterminds, because new and worse replacements sprang up to
the violence, but eliminating terrorists ostensibly destroyed the souls of
the Jewish hit team.
During the movie's production, numerous Israelis with knowledge
of the actual events disputed Spielberg's central themes. But the Hollywood
director, along with Kushner, ignored them and insisted on their own dark
In fact, historical accounts of Israel's decision to target leaders
of Black September, the group responsible for Munich, emphasize that the
at the Olympics was part of a worsening series of terrorist attacks against
Israel in 1972. Lod Airport had been struck twice in May with 32 killed.
days after the September 5 Munich atrocity, an Israeli official was shot in
Brussels, and two weeks later a letter bomb killed an Israeli in London.
Any nation supine in the face of such intensifying terrorism invites
ever more fearsome attack. Yes, Israel's new counter-campaign was reprisal
for the Munich murders, but it was aimed at fighting back against a broad
threat. What the various teams dispatched by Israel sought to do was
in its general goal: Shift the balance and force the adversary onto the
disrupting operations, planning and command structure.
None of this common sense about self-defense and the context in
which the Olympic massacre and Israeli reaction occurred are part of Munich.
Instead, Israel's action battling its adversaries is cast as aberrant,
and counterproductive. It is no different from the assault of the terrorists
and ostensibly spawns far greater violence.
Thus Munich is not fictionalized fact, but a falsehood at its core.
Small falsehoods too promote its thesis of Israeli culpability. For
Meir is said to have shunned attending the murdered athletes' funerals for
fear of being booed because she refused to negotiate with the terrorists -
yet as a New York Times piece reported one week after the killings, a poll
found her the most popular figure in the nation. Meir as the war-like
refusing to settle matters in peaceful dialogue, fit the picture.
The movie concludes that Israel should have, in Avner's recommendation,
"arrested" the terrorists "like Eichman." And, perhaps inspired by Kushner's
theme of the mistaken existence of Israel, an embittered and hounded Avner
abandons his homeland for all-American Brooklyn.
Munich offends on other counts. A leitmotif linking Jews and money
will make more than a few viewers wince. A Mossad handler growls: "I want
We're not the Rothschilds, he says, just a small country. "We need receipts.
You got me? Whatever you're doing somebody else is paying for it." Or: "A
and a Frenchman - we could haggle forever."
In other coarse invocations of supposed Jewish banter and attitudes,
a team member demands a comrade drop his pants to "see if he's circumcised"
when the teammate doesn't understand the need for Jewish violence. An
among the team has one Israeli shouting: "The only blood that matters to me
is Jewish blood!"
This and much like it is what passes for deep dialogue by two of
America's leading entertainment lights. Indeed, it is stunning to watch
and realize that its director brought Schindler's List to the world. Where
that was artistry drawn from truth, Munich is cinematic manipulation rooted
Evidently, exploring essential truths about Jews murdered 60 years
ago by a regime that no longer exists and is widely reviled is one thing.
the truth about Jews who, over the last half century, have continued to be
targeted for murder by Palestinians, Arab states, and in recent decades
and whose stalkers have enjoyed the support of the U.N., scores of NGO's,
perhaps attendees of Hollywood dinner parties, is quite another.
Andrea Levin is Executive Director of CAMERA