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Monday, January 30, 2006


Steven Spielberg's latest film is a milestone in American mainstream culture. The story of the 1972 Palestinian attack on Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics, the movie is less concerned about the massacre and focuses instead on the aftermath. Many prominent Jewish groups and Zionists have condemned the work, clearly a sign that Spielberg has created something worthwhile.

The director says this about himself and his motivations:

"I made this picture as a committed Jew, a pro-Israeli Jew and yet a human Jew. I made this movie out of love for both of my countries, USA and Israel.

"Some political critics would like to see these people [Palestinians] dehumanised because when you take away someone's humanity you can do anything to them, you're not committing a crime because they're not human. This film clearly states that the Black September of the Munich murders were terrorists. These were unforgivable actions but until we begin to ask questions about who these terrorists are and why terrorism happens, we're never going to get to the truth of why 9/11 happened, for instance."

The film tells the story - "inspired by real events" - of the Mossad-led retaliation team directed by Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir to hunt down and kill the organisers of the massacre. Eric Bana plays Avner, the leader of the squad. In the beginning, the team finds its targets with vigour but soon doubts start creeping in. Avner becomes the moral compass of the film, left defending a homeland he no longer recognises, loves or respects. In the end, he turns his back on the Jewish state entirely and settles in Brooklyn.

It is clear why the film has generated such animosity in the Jewish community. Writing in the Washington Post, Charles Krauthammer could barely believe that Spielberg had dared humanise Palestinians at all:

"Spielberg makes the Holocaust the engine of Zionism and its justification. Which, of course, is the Palestinian narrative. Indeed, it is the classic narrative for anti-Zionists, most recently the president of Iran, who says that Israel should be wiped off the map. And why not? If Israel is nothing more than Europe's guilt trip for the Holocaust, then why should Muslims have to suffer a Jewish state in their midst?"

Spielberg is no better than Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Krauthammer's Zionist paranoia. Does he not realise that such delusional words only make him look like an extremist? Perhaps he doesn't care, such is his desperation to prove Israel's moral case.

Harvard Law Professor and Israel apologist Alan Dershowitz was equally concerned and Mark Baker, a course lecturer in terrorism at the University of Melbourne (writing in the Australian Jewish News on January 27) was incensed that Spielberg had "created a flattened universe where there is no moral compass of right and wrong":

"Munich, the byword since 1938 for political appeasement against evil, is exactly that: a film that appeases the evil of terrorism by equating the blood of victims with the blood of perpetrators. I never expected to be sitting through another Exodus, in which the certainties of Zionism ignore that Palestinians could just as easily be singing 'this land is mine'. Yet Steven Spielberg’s new film tries to make up for the stupidity of Hollywood’s cowboy-and-Indian polarities by creating a flattened universe where there is no moral compass of right and wrong.

"The moral confusion is there from the outset, with the juxtaposition of the reactions of an Israeli and a Palestinian family to news of the loss of their sons - one a victim of terror; the other a murderer. The film is obsessed with these kinds of narrative symmetries: there are 11 terrorists in Spielberg’s list to match the 11 murdered Israeli Olympians, signalling that counter-terrorist strategies could only be invented by Jews who live by the vengeful ethos of an eye for an eye."

The paper's editorial thankfully took a more measured, and revealing, line:

"Much has changed since the pioneering days of Exodus and Cast a Giant Shadow, when Hollywood was a source of comfort and sustenance for Israelis and Jews, as witnessed in the once-unthinkable Golden Globe Award given last week to the Palestinian movie Paradise Now. It is a change that some of us, understandably, find hard getting used to."

The Zionist Organisation of America called for a boycott of the film and in perhaps the most hysterical analysis, Jack Engelhard, author of the novel "Indecent Proposal", wrote that Spielberg is "no friend of Israel":

"In Hollywood today, where David is Goliath and Goliath is David, you never want to be labelled a conservative or a fan of Israel. Hollywood is all about being trendy and Israel is not the trend. You won't get invited to the right parties and you won't win any Oscars if your heart bleeds for a nation that is always on the verge of being wiped off the map.

"Jews pioneered Hollywood. If, as our enemies say, we own Hollywood, well, here's the plot twist - we have lost Hollywood, and we have lost Spielberg. Spielberg is no friend of Israel. Spielberg is no friend of truth. His "Munich" may just as well have been scripted by George Galloway."

"Munich" has many faults. The film is too long, supposedly factually inaccurate and the Palestinian narrative isn't given nearly enough time to breath, but Spielberg has articulated a view long held by many, but furiously denied by Israel-apologists: the Jewish state's actions are immoral and breeding even greater hatred. Robert Fisk says the film is almost revolutionary:

"But Spielberg's movie has crossed a fundamental roadway in Hollywood's treatment of the Middle East conflict. For the first time, we see Israel's top spies and killers not only questioning their role as avengers but actually deciding that an 'eye for an eye' does not work, is immoral, is wicked. Murdering one Palestinian gunman - or one Palestinian who sympathises with the Munich killers - only produces six more to take their place. One by one, members of the Mossad assassination squad are themselves hunted down and murdered. Avner even calculates that it costs $1m every time he liquidates a Palestinian.

"So now the real challenge for Spielberg. A Muslim friend once wrote to me to recommend 'Schindler's List', but asked if the director would continue the story with an epic about the Palestinian dispossession which followed the arrival of Schindler's refugees in Palestine. Instead of that, Spielberg has jumped 14 years to Munich, saying in an interview that the real enemy in the Middle East is 'intransigence'. It's not. The real enemy is taking other people's land away from them.

"So now I ask: will we get a Spielberg epic on the Palestinian catastrophe of 1948 and after? Or will we - like those refugees desperate for visas in the wartime movie Casablanca wait, and wait - and wait?"

There were times I was moved to tears while watching the film. Spielberg's film-making skills - I've never been a huge fan of his work, though 'Schindler's List' was a flawed exercise in Holocaust remembrance - caused me to feel ashamed of the Jewish state. For an American Zionist to make such a statement means that Israel can no longer rely on its supposed higher morality and victimhood to survive and prosper. Those days are long gone. The Holocaust cannot be used to justify every Israeli move (as the film ably demonstrates.)

Spielberg's film is also an essay on the morality of the use of state terrorism. The director, along with screenwriter Tony Kushner, argues that such behaviour is useless, morally bankrupt and counterproductive. State-sponsored terrorism, the greatest scourge of our time, is usually ignored in the mainstream media or relegated to the backpages. It
is therefore significant for Spielberg to debate such actions.

The "crime" of Spielberg is daring to articulate an alternative perspective in the Middle East conflict. Such revelations are a direct threat to Zionist supremacy in media, government and public circles. I'll finish with Kushner's recent essay on his motivations behind the film:

"I think it's the refusal of the film to reduce the Mideast controversy, and the problematics of terrorism and counterterrorism, to sound bites and spin that has brought forth charges of "moral equivalence" from people whose politics are best served by simple morality tales. We live in the Shock and Awe Era, in which instant strike-back and blow-for-blow aggression often trump the laborious process of analysis, investigation and diplomacy. "Munich's" questioning spirit is an affront to armchair warrior columnists who understand power only as firepower. We're at war, and the job of artists in wartime, they seem to feel, is to provide the kind of characters and situations that are staples of propaganda: cleanly representative of Good or Evil, and obedient to the Message.

"Contradiction in human affairs, such as the possibility that injustice can drive people to do horrible things, is routinely deplored and dismissed in these troubled times as just another example of the naivete of the morally weak (a.k.a. liberals and progressives). But there will always be pesky people who, when horrific crimes are committed, insist on asking, "Why did that happen?"

"This is a great annoyance to the up-and-at-'em crowd, whose unshakable conviction is that the only sane and effective response to terrorism is savage violence commensurate with the original act. To justify this conviction they offer, as so many of the political critics of "Munich" have done, tautologies on the order of "evil deeds are done by evil people who do evil deeds because that's what evil people do." If that's helpful to you as a tool for understanding terrorism, you won't like "Munich."

"In the film, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is presented not as a matter of religion versus religion, or sanity versus insanity, or good versus evil or civilization versus barbarism or Judeo-Christian culture versus Muslim culture, but rather as a struggle over territory, over geography, over home.

"We've followed the lead of many Israeli historians, novelists, filmmakers, poets and politicians who have recognized and described the Israeli-Palestinian struggle this way — as something tragic and human, recognizable. We've incurred the wrath of people who reject, with what sounds like panic, an inescapable fact of human life: People do terrible things in the name of a cause they believe is just, even in the name of a cause that actually is just.

""Munich" insists that this characteristic of human behaviour is not meaningless in the struggle against terrorism. In other words, we believe that one aspect of the struggle against terrorism is the struggle to comprehend terrorism. If you think understanding the enemy is unimportant, well, maybe there's a job in Washington for you."


Blogger Wombat said...

I saw the film and found it simplistic. It is certainly enjoyable and as a film, captivating, but I don’t agree with Fisks aggrandizement of it's significance.

Krauthammer is such a moron, it's no surprised that he reaches for the historical "Spielberg is no better than Mahmoud Ahmadinejad" trigger. He was one of those nut jobs that told asserted that all Iraqi war critics should crawl into a hole after the January 2005 Iraqi elections and has been wiping egg off his face ever since.

It's interesting AL thatther have been people who question your qualifications or suitability to hold your position at Macqarie University and yet Mark Baker's simplistic reference to evil and other facile slogans should alarm his students.

What Barker is either anxious to open his mouth to change feet, or seems to have completely missed is that the “stupidity of Hollywood’s cowboy-and-Indian polarities” was in fact the product of Jewish archetypes. This was well documented in a series I saw on ABC (or was it CBS) which traced the migration of Jewish film makers from NY to the West Coast, which was fuelled and their losing struggle to gain control over cinemas at the time, and how this led to the motion picture industry in Hollywood.

Monday, January 30, 2006 3:42:00 pm  
Blogger Aaron Lane said...

In fact, Antony's reading of this film is just as simplistic as Barker's--Israel is evil, and Palestinians might do bad things too, but only because those innately horrible Jews made them.
This, however, it not what someone without an agenda would get from Munich. The movie understands the impulse behind Israel's decision to assassinate those behind Black September; as we listen to Golda Meir putting her argument forth to cabinet, we find ourselves nodding in agreement. It is only during the business of the killings themselves that we start to have doubts. And this cuts to the very heart of the movie. The men who killed the eleven Israeli athletes certainly, in my view, deserved to die, but Spielberg argues that the price that must be paid to effect this punishment is simply too high. Bloody revenge almost never brings about lasting satisfaction or conclusion to a situation; more often it merely leads to greater turmoil, be it violent or emotional. The film is therefore a illustration of the fact that violence can almost never bring about any lasting peace or effect any permanent solution to a problem.
By the way, I am interested in Antony's description of Schindler's List as a "flawed exercise in Holocause remembrance." Is the man completely incapable of finding merit in anything done or said about Jews which does not take a tone of utter negativity and criticism towards them as a people? I personally can not think of one way in which Schindler's List could have been improved upon.

Monday, January 30, 2006 8:29:00 pm  
Blogger orang said...

Aaron Lane said...
..." The men who killed the eleven Israeli athletes certainly, in my view, deserved to die, "

Aaron, so you then are a believer of capital punishment?

Monday, January 30, 2006 10:09:00 pm  
Blogger Melanie said...

aaron lane: "Is the man completely incapable of finding merit in anything done or said about Jews"

Antony has a knee jerk reaction whenever you mention anything about Jewish suffering. Why? Because it might legitimise Israel as the last refuge for Jews.
Quite obvious was his reaction to Hamas. An organisation whose genocidal intent is no diffent to Nazism and even more so. They are very open about it. Yet none of this even pings Antony's soul. He can't recognise evil (yeah he might disaprove of Hammas but hardly). Why? I don't know. Maybe he hates his dad, who knows.

Monday, January 30, 2006 10:24:00 pm  
Blogger Wombat said...


Your summary of the movie is a very good one, but I fail to see how you can suggest AL's is simplistic when he and the links he posts say essentially the same thing.

What doesn't sit well with me is that the movie goes to grat pains to portray Israel's agents as being tormented by their moral dillema, which makes the movie poerful, but I'm left wondering if the real life protagonists went through this emotional journey.

I think the moviw woudl have been chilling if indeed it were auto-biographical in some way. Do you have any idea about this Aaron?

As for Schindler's list, I always felt that Spielberg was being rather pragmatic in making the film. Deep down, he must have knows it wod be an Oscar shoe in, so long as he didn't botch it.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006 12:46:00 am  
Blogger Wombat said...

Melanie said...

"Antony has a knee jerk reaction whenever you mention anything about Jewish suffering."

When the mortality rate of Palestinians is 5 time that of the Israeli oppressors, it becomes a matter of numbers. No no denies that Israel suffers from security concerns and occasional terrorist attacks, but they are overwhelmingly more poweful than those they are oppressing and it is the Palestinians who are being disenfranchsed, not Israeli's.

"Quite obvious was his reaction to Hamas. An organisation whose genocidal intent is no diffent to Nazism and even more so."

Have you at any stage stopped to condemn Israel for having supported and encourgaed Hamas during it's birth? If you have, I missed it.

Israel and the US have repetedly played Russian roulette by meddling in the affairs of their others. As with the Afghanistan resistance or the Iran/Iraq war, they either backed the lesser of their enemies or manipulated events to ensure that those enemies would inflict as much harm to one another as possible, thereby disempowering them.

Israel has itself to blame for Hamas, though I am quite certian, the extremist Zionist element welcomes this oputcome and the opportunity to escalate hostilies and have an excuse to walk away from any effort to establish a peaceful settlement.

If Hamas is evil, then so by the logic of Baker, and Krauthammer, so are it's enablers.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006 2:27:00 am  
Blogger orang said...

You zionist apologist clowns wank on fanastic about how Hamas is the same as Nazism. Give us a f**n break.

..Besides they don't even have the same uniforms. Jackboots, they need to get those cute leather knee length boots.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006 6:42:00 am  
Blogger Stev said...

Melanie said:
Because it might legitimise Israel as the last refuge for Jews.

Do you really believe this is the case? It seems to have a similar sound to the 'second holocaust' argument that surfaced a while back. As far as I'm aware nobody answered my question as to where this holocaust would come from.

Hell, even if a second holocaust did come (which I highly doubt), surely you would have to agree that Jews would be safe from persecution in the US? Hell, even if not in the greater US, at least in NY. Half the people there seem to think they're Jewish anyway, even if they're not.

Or what about Australia? Sure, there might be a few 'anti-semites' like Ant, or myself, who feel compelled to campaign for the Palestinian cause. But even these people are in the minority, if not in the greater community, at least in the government and press.

Or what about Europe? Most European nations have laws which stop people from even questioning the holocaust. Do you really think a country that is willing to go that far for Judaism is going to be part of this 'second holocaust'.

Yes, Jews have a right to their own state. Israel has a right to exist. But let's not delude ourselves into thinking that it is some kind of 'last refuge' for Jews.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006 1:42:00 pm  
Blogger Wombat said...

Well put Stev,

With all due rspetcs to Melanie, she continues to cling to the idea of an impeding holocaust in the absence of evidence or reason.

Neither of these empiral factors seem to be of relevance. It's as if it is prophecised in some holy book or by some modern day prophet.

In any case, it seems that the refusal to aknowledge the lack of justification empowers and enables Zionists to constantly raise this belief in debates about Israeli policy and their oppression of Palestinians.

Perhaps ZIonists are conting on theri opponents being too polite to call them on it.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006 3:09:00 pm  
Blogger smiths said...

whilst reading about jewish culture and religion i couldnt help but be drawn to a number of seemingly genocidal points in the mitzvot;

# Destroy the seven Canaanite nations Deut. 20:17
# Not to let any of them remain alive Deut. 20:16
# Wipe out the descendants of Amalek Deut. 25:19
# Remember what Amalek did to the Jewish people Deut. 25:17
# Not to forget Amalek's atrocities and ambush on our journey from Egypt in the desert Deut. 25:19

what i also found interesting as i read about the amalek especially is that they were turned into a kind of abstract enemy of the jewish people spanning all time and the nazis were compared to the amalek and guess who else, thats right, the arabs

of course you could dance around these points but a religion that has clearly spelt out genocidal tenets makes me feel uncomfortable to say the least, especially whilst jewish fanatics run around yelling about how arbs are intent on wiping them out

Tuesday, January 31, 2006 6:22:00 pm  

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