Spielberg’s Munich and Me – Part I
by Rachel Neuwirth
January 04, 2006
I had deep misgivings about seeing Steven 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 Steven 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 do military service, as I did, 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. 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 comprises 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. Yet, Munich also contains graphic violence, tasteless gratuitous sex scenes, and frequent profanity that numb the mind and serve no constructive purpose.
A central theme of the movie 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 Spielberg 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.” [Emphasis added]
3 thoughts on “Neuwirth – Spielberg and Me – Part I”
Gary,>>I find it remarkably revealing that Bear to the Right has completely ignored the Abramoff scandal in Washington, DC, and has focused, instead, on an obsession with a Hollywood movie. As if this ignorance is bliss somehow excuses the Republican sleaze, especially from so-called conservatives who’ve been caught in the spotlights. Herewith is the text of conservative Republican David Brooks’s latest column.>>Howard>>January 5, 2006>Op-Ed Columnist>Saving the House>By DAVID BROOKS>>I don’t know what’s more pathetic, Jack Abramoff’s sleaze or Republican paralysis in the face of it. Abramoff walks out of a D.C. courthouse in his pseudo-Hasidic homburg, and all that leading Republicans can do is promise to return his money and remind everyone that some Democrats are involved in the scandal, too.>>That’s a great G.O.P. talking point: some Democrats are so sleazy, they get involved with the likes of us.>>If Republicans want to emerge from this affair with their self-respect or electoral prospects intact, they need to get in front of it with a comprehensive reform offensive.>>First, they need to hold new leadership elections. As Newt Gingrich and Vin Weber told me yesterday, Tom DeLay needs to take care of his own legal problems and give up the dream of returning as majority leader.>>But Republicans need to do more than bump DeLay. They need to put the entire leadership team up for a re-vote. That’s because the real problem wasn’t DeLay, it was DeLayism, the whole culture that merged K Street with the Hill, and held that raising money is the most important way to contribute to the team.>>New leadership elections would, at least, make the current leaders re-earn their slots with new platforms. At best, they would allow the party to reinvigorate itself under new management. A party led by young talents like Paul Ryan, Eric Cantor, Mike Pence and Mark Kirk would be taken seriously as a party of reform.>>Second, the Republicans need to get a grip on earmarks.>>Earmarks are the provisions that single members can stick into gigantic bills to steer spending toward favored projects. They’re an invitation to corruption. If individual members of Congress can control $100 million federal contracts or billion-dollar pork barrel projects, then of course companies are going to find ways to funnel graft to those members.>>To prove they’re serious about special-interest spending, Republicans could declare a one-year earmark moratorium until they get a handle on this problem. Or they could promote legislation mandating that earmarks eat up only 1 percent of any spending bill’s total cost.>>Third, Republicans need to steal David Obey and Barney Frank’s lobbying-reform ideas. For some insane reason, having to do with their own special interests, Democrats have been slow to trumpet the ideas coming from their own party. Republicans have a chance to hijack them before the country notices.>>Specifically, there should be a ban on lobbyist-paid travel. (Members should be allowed to take spouses on publicly financed travel because it is important that members get out and see the world.) Former members should not be allowed to lobby on the House floor. All lobbyist contacts with government officials should be posted on the Internet.>>Gingrich intriguingly suggests abolishing all fund-raising in the Washington metro area. Make the lobbyists go to the districts if they want to attend $1,000 cocktail parties.>>Fourth, enforce House rules. There’s bound to be corruption when spending provisions can be slipped into legislation in the dead of night, outside the normal oversight procedures. There’s bound to be corruption when members are forced to vote on sprawling bills nobody has a chance to inspect. Instead, all legislation should be posted online for 72 hours before the vote, so the staff and bloggers can nitpick and expose.>>Fifth, rebuild the ethics committees. Norman Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute proposes a bifurcated process. The investigations should be conducted by a commission of former members and former staffers. That way, current members are not investigating one another. Then the committees can vote on the commission recommendations.>>Sixth, readopt the pay-as-you-go budget rules. As long as a $2.6 trillion a year government is expanding into more areas of national life, businesses will have an incentive to invest in lobbyists. The 1990 pay-as-you-go rules, which forced Congress to offset new expenditures with spending restraint, not only imposed fiscal discipline but also forced pork projects to compete for limited resources.>>Finally, today – before noon – fire Bob Ney as chairman of the House Administration Committee. For God’s sake, Republicans, show a little moral revulsion.>>Back in the dim recesses of my mind, I remember a party that thought of itself as a reform, or even a revolutionary, movement. That party used to be known as the Republican Party. I wonder if it still exists.
Howard,>>I agree with David Brooks and others. This whole Abramoff situation is sleazy – and sad. I know Jack Abramoff and remember him when he was full of idealism. Somewhere along the way he lost his direction. I know his family, and I know they are very sad and distressed at his situation.>>Having said that, I believe that all those who broke the law…or who didn’t break the law, but violated codes of ethics, ought to be either prosecuted or reprimanded. I also think we need reforms, and that lobbyists (or their clients) should not be permitted to give money to elected officials. The reforms that David Brooks speaks of are very good and should be implemented.>>It is a messy situation…and we need to do what needs to be done to prevent it from happening in the future.>>There is no need for me to write about Abramoff. There is plenty of copy out there, both in the blogosphere and the mainstream media about him and the corruption he and his pals caused.
Extraordinary story. Very sorry about your friends. Yeah, really. Even all these years later. It’s heart sickening.
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