December 22, 2005


Immoral equivalence: Spielberg's not so subtle commentary about our post 9-11 world is the ultimate obscenity (Jonathan Tobin, Dec. 22, 2005, Jewish World Review)

It should be noted that the film has already come in for justified criticism for being primarily based on a book whose primary source was a fraud. Vengeance by George Jonas purported to tell the tale of a disillusioned Mossad agent, but it turned out the man was just a cab driver with an Israeli accent, and not an ex-spy. But even if we discount this, the film still fails its subject matter. That's because the goal here is not merely to wrongly argue that the battle against Palestinian terror is as criminal as anything the terrorists have done; its purpose is also to humanize the terrorists.

In a Time magazine story on his movie, Spielberg said the insertion of a fictional conversation between the leader of the Israeli team and a PLO operative was essential to his vision of the film. In it, the Arab speaks of his longing to recover his family's dignity and property that he claims they lost to Israel.

Without this and other elements that serve to break down the legitimacy of killing the men behind the attack on the Olympics, he says the film would not have been worth making. What Spielberg seems most proud of is the fact that those who seek to destroy Israel — and either slaughter or scatter its people — are not "demonized." They are, he insists, "individuals. They have families."

To which we can only reply, "So what?" You could say the same of the 9/11 hijackers, as well as the operatives of Hamas, and Fatah (from whom the members of "Black September" — a front for the PLO — came) who have cut down Jews in pizza parlors, bus stops and at Passover seders. And even go on and include the German villains of Spielberg's World War II films.

But the problem with this film isn't just an obsessive refusal to be judgmental about terrorism or the tedious speechifying that overwhelms the action. There's something even more insidious at play here.

The main character, the Israeli agent Avner (played by Eric Bana), doesn't just loose his marbles because of a mission whose efficacy might well be debated. Spielberg's Avner rejects not merely a policy but Israel itself, which he abandons for the apparently more humane confines of Brooklyn, N.Y.

Even his Holocaust film is, after all, about a "good" German.

Posted by Orrin Judd at December 22, 2005 8:01 AM

The suicide cult lives on. Why don't they just collectively do it? Answer? So as to spite GWB.

Posted by: Genecis at December 22, 2005 8:32 AM

Judging by Spielberg's comments in Time magazine and elsewhere as of late, this may be an example of a reliably liberal film director getting in both over his head, and getting in with some radically left others like scriptwriter/artistic icon of the left Tony Kushner, who don't just hate Bush, but have it out for all of traditional western Judeo-Christian culture.

Spielberg's scriptwriters since "Jaws" traditionally have been nonentities, at least in terms of their public recognition. But Kushner is a name and one who may have driven the storyline far more due to his reputation within the liberal circles Steven hangs out with. In the closed circle of those making "Munich", the far left tone of the movie may not have registered, even on its director, but now that Spielberg has had to let the outside world have it's say -- including those who can't be branded as mere Republican fundamentalist/neo-con/Christer shills -- he's been taken aback by the reaction and is going into the first stages of damage control mode.

Posted by: John at December 22, 2005 9:59 AM

What Spielberg seems most proud of is the fact that those who seek to destroy Israel and either slaughter or scatter its people are not "demonized." They are, he insists, "individuals. They have families."

Hannah Arendt had the pithier version: the banality of evil.

Posted by: Bruce Cleaver at December 22, 2005 2:17 PM

If I recall the story correctly, one of Eichmann's captors, when they were still holed up in Argentina and thus had a lot of time to kill in close company with him, asked him the following question. Given how devoted he apparently was to his family (and the agent mentioned some of the stuff he'd seen while casing Eichmann's residence), didn't it trouble him that he had sent so many similarly-devoted Jewish parents to the death camps. "No," was the reply, "they were Jews."

Posted by: Kirk Parker at December 22, 2005 3:18 PM

I doubt if Spielberg would have the same opinion if terrorists (of any group) started blowing up pizzerias in Hollywood.

Kirk: you are exactly right.

Posted by: jim hamlen at December 22, 2005 8:51 PM