munichSteven Spielberg gives a pretty in depth interview to Roger Ebert about his no-win situation making “Munich”. Indeed, when opening up the Middle East for discussion you often get attacked from all sides.

In the interview Spielberg talks about his love and support of Israel;

“I am as truly pro-Israeli as you can possibly imagine. From the day I became morally and politically conscious of the importance of the state of Israel and its necessity to exist, I have believed that not just Israel, but the rest of the world, needs Israel to exist.

Later on he adds

“This film is no more anti-Israel than a similar film which offered criticism of America is anti-America,” he said. “Criticism is a form of love. I love America, and I’m critical of this administration. I love Israel, and I ask questions. Those who ask no questions may not be a country’s best friends.”

Agreed. If the movie is such that even Abe Foxman of the ADL says the movie treats Israel fairly, then who are we to disagree?

Nonetheless the choice of Tony Kushner as screenwriter, a man apparently on record as saying “I wish modern Israel hadn’t been born,” strikes me as a tad disconcerting. I mean, if that’s the perspective you go into writing a screenplay with, it’s a wonder you don’t come out with pure propaganda.

Of course the real problem with the whole hoopla surrounding Munich is that it’s based on a book known to be mostly fiction. Universal bought the rights to it a while back and had apparent “contractual obligations” to using it as source material.

So I’m left not knowing quite what to think. If you kept up with the Jewish tradition of Chinese food and a movie today, tell us what you thought of it.

About the author

Laya Millman

36 Comments

  • Spielberg can say whatever he wants, I’m not buying it. The fact that he chose Kushner to write the screenplay says it all. I hope this movie flunks, especially in Israel. I certainly have no intention to see it.

    Here’s the movie’s review from Frongpage:

    http://www.frontpagemag.com/Articles/ReadArticle.asp?ID=20654

    Foxman says that Munich is “just a movie”. The Passion of the Christ was also “just a movie”, so why the double standard? Personally, I believe that Munich is much more damaging than The Passion.

    Spielberg’s next movie will be “Teheran”. The movie will deal with Israel’s retaliation to Iran’s attack. I’m sure Ahmadinejad will be more than happy to write the screenplay.

  • “Munich” perpetuates the moral relativism that equates the terrorist and those who defend against him. For all Stevie’s blather, the movie undercuts Israel’s justification for its self defense.

    The climate of sympathy for terrorists and “let’s just understand them” created by movies like this directly enables movies like “Paradise Now” that go one step further to active lionization of the terrorist in the mold of the Brando-esque rebel.

  • I read the George Jonas book a few years back, I don’t remember hearing anything about it being a fictional novel. Is the historical accuracy of the book actually false or is it just in contention?

    As for the movie, I saw is last night and didn’t think it was as bad as many people made it out to be. The only problem I had was that it offered, at least to the person with only a faint knowledge of middle esat facts, a very simplistic take on the conflict. There is nothing wrong with this on it’s own, but the movie is also very heavy handed when it comes to depicting the tragedy of events. It’s the equivalent of showing a very complex story and ending it with a “why can’t we all get along and make peace” koombaya sing along.
    The movie was entertaining, but the same way king kong was entertaining. and there’s something wrong with that.

  • Saw the movie. It’s long, not so exciting and the acting, on general, was average.

    Jews are getting rattled by the “we take care of our own blood comment”. And the Law of Return is what exactly? And all those Jewish Law firms hiring Jewish lawyers, and the nepotism within the shmatah/Jewlery business is….? I’m not against any of this per se. But chill the F out. We’ve got good historical reasons (read: trauma) for why we do what we do. But when someone shows this on a screen or in a book, Yids like to yell: “Self-hater…anti-Semite”. Feh.

  • The movie’s message is that Jews shouldn’t defend themselves or go after those who seek their death because it will only incite more violence and hatred. And this coming from a Jew (what a shocka!) makes it even worse. That’s the biggest problem with the movie. Well, that and the inaccuracy and the fact that people who watch the movie will think that they actually know what really happened, how it happened and why it happened.

  • “The movie’s message is that Jews shouldn’t defend themselves or go after those who seek their death because it will only incite more violence and hatred.”

    Hila…I saw the same movie you did and would disagree with you. Actually, most Israelis I’ve spoken to, when provided with safety and room to express their sentiments about their IDF service will echo similar concerns. And these are…what is the most effective way to deal with terrorism? Are the people I’ve killed contributed to that goal? Is the narrative the government/school taught me the ONLY narrative about pain/suffering in the Middle East? These are healthy questions. I wouldn’t say this is a “pro” or “anti” Israel film. Nor is it a particularly good film. But it raises legitimate questions.

  • Shtreimel,

    I didn’t see the movie but my friend did and I also read some reviews and articles concerning the making of the movie. From your review I see that the movie does deal with the issues I’ve heard and read about. Now, what is the most effective way to deal with terrorism? Not letting the terrorists to get away with it that’s for sure. This is only part of the solution but an essential one. Israel has completely lost its deterrence capability over the years. For years kassam rockets have been fired on Israeli towns *inside* the green line. Just today the Palestinians claimed that they have rockets that have 25 km range which cover even more towns. Do you understand how insane this situation is? Can you see something like this happening in the US, Europe or anywhere else? I’m sorry, but a country that permits this kind of situation to continue is a country that has no right to exit. The situation is already bad as it is, Israel doesn’t need Spielberg to preach her about morality. BTW, do you see Spielberg making a movie that expresses sympathy to the Al-Quida terrorists? Or tries to understand their acts? Of course not, so he chose himself an easy target. So some Jews will express their protest, so what? Who gives a f*ck, that ain’t gonna ruin my career, right?

    And again, most people are not familiar with that incident, this movie will be their first encounter with this subject and most likely their last. They won’t spend time to find more information from other sources. The movie is misleading and full of errors, this can’t be good. Oh yeah, and there’s also this Kushner guy who wrote the screenplay and said “I wish modern Israel hadn’t been born”. But I’m sure it has no impact on the overall feel of the movie…

  • Hila, are you seriously evaluating a movie that you haven’t seen and taking as one of your primary sources a guy whose opinion you obviously don’t really respect?!? Imagine Spielberg wrote ‘there’s this person named Hila, and though we’ve never met, some acquaintances say that Hila is a total fuck nut that you should never meet…’

    Anyhow, Muffti DID see the movie (last night) and has to say that he thought it was pretty good all in all. There were some problems: The moral questions were dealt with using a sledgehammer rather than a precision tool (i.e. you didn’t have to work to pull out the fine points) and the character development was kind of uneven. The relationships formed were hard to fathom and some of the events stretched the bound of plausibility. But, we should note, at heart it is an action/suspense film, not a pure work of history. You may as well jump down Dumas’ throat by pointing out that the King Louis he protrays in the Three Musketeers series is not especially true to form.

    But, importantly, there was no clear message regarding terrorism. If you object to any and all humanization of terrorists, then there are about 3 minutes of the film that you won’t like. If you think that any consideration of the possibility that killing Palestinean terrorists is not an especially effective deterrent to Palestinean terrorism [though, it may well be good for other things, like satisfying a need for revenge, showing the world that the Israeli stance on terrorism is unequivocal etc.], that all things considered, assasinations sans trial (a la Eichmann), are morally questionable and that some of the terrorist killed after Munich were never conclusively linked to Black September (whatever their other affiliations might be) — which has been documented in a book discussed in an earlier post and which no one seems especially keen to challenge — won’t like this movie but Muffti can only suppose that’s because they don’t like thinking about issues like these. In any case, the movie didn’t take a very sympathetic view of the terrorists involved in Munich. Even Abe Foxman is with Muffti on this one. And, as he points out, he actually saw the movie.

    In any case, most of the movie deals with the psychological effects on Avner, the main character and leader of the assasins: how he deals with working for forces whose exact goals are unknown to him, how the allegiances of the people he works with are unknown to him, the loss he suffers by not seeing his family and by seeing his close friends and co-workers die. In that respect the movie was vaguely Kafka-esque: you weren’t really sure at any point if the lead character was paranoid or had every right to be very, very afraid for himself and his family.

  • I celebrated chanuka here in galus by doing what everyone else seems to be doing on christmas, I went to the movies. I don’t know why everyone is freaking out baout this movie. Speilberg attempts to convey the reality that when Israelis are forced to respond with violence they do it knwoing they have to, but it troubles them. There’s a reference in the movie to the custom of taking some wine out of our cups Passover night when we mention the ten plagues to show that we don’t rejoice when Gods creations are harmed even if they are our enemies. This is basically the point Spielberg is trying to make. Jews kill when they have too, but we’ll at least be consious of it by taking a pinky owrth of wine out of our cups. The bigger issue I found with the movie was that it just wasn’t a very good movie. But you have to ask yourself why isn’t spielberg capable of making a compelling film about Israel. He is when it comes to the Holocaust. Maybe he’s a just a diaspora jew who’s only connection to Israel is through some bizzare idea of what the holocuast was about.

  • yes hila is right, Munich is much more damaging than The Passion , so why the double standard? because Spielberg is a liberal jew of course.

  • Grandmuffti,

    I saw an interview with Spielberg in which he says that he didn’t demonize the terrorists in the movie. You get to see them as humans with families of their own. And I’m asking, why the hell should anyone care about the terrorists? Unless according to Spielberg the terrorists are just as bad as the Israelis. Spielgerg should have made it clear that terrorism is EVIL and there’s no justification for it whatsoever, but instead he prefers to use moral relativism. This is not only an offence to the Israeli athletes who were murdered but to all victims of terror. I’m interested to know what drove Spielberg to make a movie about Israel getting even with the terrorists (the movie is not about the massacre itself). Could this has something to do with, oh I don’t know, the war in Iraq? The post 11/9 America? Could this be a cynical use of a national tragedy to make an anti-war point? I guess the shot of the World Trade Center in the last scene was just some kind of an inside joke. Yes, Israel is a convenient target, that’s why Spielberg used this incident to make his point. And that is one ugly thing to do.

  • “because Spielberg is a liberal jew of course.”

    Yes Spaniard, and not just a liberla Jew, but a liberal Jew made in Hollywood. And we all know what Hollywood is all about.

  • Hila…I could’ve saved some typing time if you would’ve fessed up that you didn’t see the film. You’ve got huge balls to get on a soap-box and rant about a film you haven’t seen. WOW!

  • Actually my Eema says that Spielberg attends an orthodox synagogue in Hollywood. One she attended while there. So I don’t think S.S. is all that liberal. And again, go see the movie before making judgment. I don’t think Spielberg’s intent was to villafy Israel or Jews. I’ll go see it and then come back to comment. i am more objective about these issues..
    T

  • Well I haven’t seen the movie, though I plan to before I leave for Israel. If not just becaus I love to see any and all portrayals of Golda Meir. But ummm Tony Kushner’s plays are very well written and smart and I like them. At the very least if you’re going to insult a person, spell his name correctly.

  • So y’all say that I don’t have a right to have any sort of opinion about the movie because I haven’t seen it. And everything I’ve read about it and heard about it (articles, reviews, interviews and my friend’s review who saw it), non if matters. BTW, I also read some very positive reviews about the movie that thought that the whole moral relativism thing was very appropriate. As a matter of fact, everything that I ranted about they liked because it suited their political point of view. But if you want to ignore those issues, fine then.

  • Hila said:

    So y’all say that I don’t have a right to have any sort of opinion about the movie because I haven’t seen it.

    Nonsense, Hila. Muffti is pretty sure that everyone here supports your right to be an ignoramus. Muffti doesn’t really see how any one here is ignoring issues; but its difficult to talk to someone whose opinions are all second hand.

  • I don’t see a real discussion here. I brought up some issues and was completely dismissed because I haven’t seen the movie. But you know what? Maybe it is difficult to talk to someone whose opinions are all second hand. Anyway, no need to go round in circles, let’s just agree to disagree.

  • “I don’t see a real discussion here. I brought up some issues and was completely dismissed because I haven’t seen the movie”

    (slaps his forehead in dumbfounded amazement)
    Hila…you’re destroying Stormfront’s contention that we’re a savvy, smart and slick nation.

  • Hila, the problem here is that you started off talking about the movie but now you are shifting to talking about general issues. There are interesting questions about how to best deal with terrorism, and then there is a critique of the movie. Muffti thinks we are all glad ot take you seriously on teh first, but not the latter if you haven’t even seen the movie.

  • Hila, the problem here is that you started off talking about the movie but now you are shifting to talking about general issues. There are interesting questions about how to best deal with terrorism, and then there is a critique of the movie. Muffti thinks we are all glad ot take you seriously on teh first, but not the latter if you haven’t even seen the movie.

  • “Personally, I believe that Munich is much more damaging than The Passion.”

    Hila…read the quote above (it’s yours). How can you say that a movie you haven’t seen is worse/better than another movie you’ve seen (or have you?). A movie is more than a review, either by Ebert or your friends. There’s a soundtrack, visuals, content, acting, direction….

    This seems pretty obvious to me. So obvious, I’ll leave further comments to GM.

  • Shtreimel, I’ll rephrase it then, personally, I believe that Munich is much more damaging that The Passion at least from what I’ve heard and read. That’s the impression I got. I saw The Passion. The movie was directed to a very specific audience, it was like convincing the already convinced. Do you remember the controversy the movie generated? The harsh criticism, the accusations, the almost apocalyptic predictions about pogroms against Jews that were all proven false. I think Munich may be more harmful because the issues it deals with are more relevant to the current geopolitical situation. Spielberg could have made another profitable (or not so profitable) science fiction movie, but he didn’t. Something motivated him to make a loaded movie about an incident that happened more than three decades ago. The movie is very political and it’s obvious that Spielberg was trying to make a political statement. Spielberg is a liberal lefty who is a strong opponent of Bush and his policies. He opposses the way America or the west in general deals with terrorism. He truly beleives (and that’s not my thoughts but his own words), that fighting terrorism the way we do only breeds more violence. The criticism is not only towards Israel but he uses Israel to make his point because yes, Israel is an easier target. Some Jews will get mad but that something he can handle. He would have been in a greater problem if he had picked America to make his point. Spielberg can’t give screen time to an Al-Qeada member explaining why they are doing whatever they are doing and how the west opresses them. It could have really damaged his career.

  • here is a good article from the LA Times that i feel fairly evaluates the movie and expresses what i want to say better than i could.
    and i actually saw it. Hila, I couldn’t disagree with you more. besides the fact that it’s absurd to criticize a movie you haven’t seen, the comparison to The Passion of the Christ is completely asinine. I came out of the movie speechless. the sheer scale of the violence and the enormous ideological questions it asks provoke thought, not argument. but that’s only if you’re willing to watch and listen.

  • Ofri, the only reason I made the comparison to The Passion was due to Foxman’s comment about Munich. He said it was “just a movie” and I think that The Passion (the same movie that so angered him) was also “just a movie”.

    From the articale, Spielberg’s words:
    “Answering aggression with aggression “creates a vicious cycle of violence with no real end in sight.”

    No Spielberg, there’s a difference between killing innocent people to killing terrorists. Killing terrorists does not create “a vicious cycle of violence”, it’s the terrorists who create it.

    “The movie is certainly told from the Israeli point of view. But it is told with a great deal of empathy. I just wanted to put empathy in every direction, because the situation is not cut and dried. I was not interested in telling that kind of a tale of vengeance and I didn’t want this to be a morality play, the way that ‘Private Ryan’ is a morality play.”

    I don’t have a problem with Spielberg humanizing the Palestinians but I do have a huge problem with humanizing Palestinian terrorists or any terrorists for that matter. In this story (the massacre) it’s very clear who are the good guys and who are the bad guys, but Spielberg isn’t willing to make up this point.

  • it’s also stated in the article that while there is no question whatsoever that the Munich massacre was abominable, terrorism is not created in a vacuum. Eretz Israel, as much as i love her and as much as she is a part of me, is not perfect. surely you acknowledge this fact. i think target killings are morally legitimate. i think it’s pretty obvious that stopping an act of terror is crucial. but killing terrorists is not going to stop terrorism, ever, and that’s one of the bigger messages of the movie.

  • I think this article hits on a couple of the key problems with respect to the movie: its anti-Zionism and its representation of Jews as needing to be “righteous” even when being attacked and killed.

    jpost op-ed

    Of course, it’s the moral equivalence the movie proposes in which all killing and all death by political violence are essentially the same that happens to be the most problematic aspect of this movie.

    Read that op-ed, it’s very much on target.

  • The real point is that this movie is not as good a movie as “The Sword of Gideon ” which covers the same topic. The Rod Steiger movie has less pretty scenery , cinematography , music , costumes , etc. but is definitely a better movie.

  • I live in the midwest of the US and am curious to hear the opinions of of other Jews, particularly Americans in Israel and what the Israeli public thinks about the movie. (Only if you have seen it, not just what you have read please) The Jewish population here is nearly non-existant so I do not have much open dialogue about the movie. I saw it very recently and have yet to fully form an opinion. I am trying to look through the violence at what Speilberg was trying to convey. I feel it was very one-sided (while NPR reviews and others felt that it showed both sides). Its overt messages about violence not solving anything is obviously correct-but then what? Is Spielberg just trying to bring the events into the public eye or is there more?

    Please voice your opinions.

  • Hey Nolan, how’s vet school treatin’ ya? No one in Israel has seen the movie yet, unless they got a bootlegged copy or saw it on a trip overseas so while there’s been a lot of discussion here about it, none is based on viewing the movie.

  • Its alright. I just gotta keep my eyes on the prize.

    I am trying to work a “study abroad” at the vet school in Jerusalem and make Purdue pay for it, but so far they are not going for it. We’ll see.

    At home in CT many of my catholic friends call me CK. I hope you dont use the name for the same reason that they do.

    Any idea when the movie (or if) it will make it to Israel?

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