December 10, 2005


Spielberg’s Munich Massacre (Jason Maoz, 12/7/2005, Jewish Press)

As the Monitor noted back in July, “alarm bells went off like crazy when Steven Spielberg hired Tony Kushner last year to rewrite the script of a movie about Israel’s clandestine — and lethal — response to the massacre of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics.”

The Monitor found cause for concern because Kushner is a radical leftist whose views on the Middle East are hardly distinguishable from the hateful screeds found on the most rabidly anti-Israel websites.

In an interview with the Times of London, Kushner declared: “I deplore the brutal and illegal tactics of the Israeli Defense Forces in the occupied territories. I deplore the occupation, the forced evacuations, the settlements, the refugee camps, the whole shameful history of the dreadful suffering of the Palestinian people; Jews, of all people, with our history of suffering, should refuse to treat our fellow human beings like that.”

Kushner, the Monitor pointed out, co-edited, along with the equally far-left Alisa Solomon, an appalling volume called Wrestling With Zion: Progressives Jewish-American Responses to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. The Forward`s Ami Eden wrote of that book: “... reading [it] takes you to an alternative universe, where the Israel of today has reoccupied Palestinian territories and is adopting harsh security measures — but not in response to a Palestinian-launched intifada bent on blowing up babies on buses. Instead, Israel’s presence in the territories today is primarily the product of — Kushner and Solomon’s words — ‘Ariel Sharon’s mad, bloody dream of Greater Israel, which he and his comrades of the radical Israeli right have pursued for decades.’ ”

And Kushner, the Monitor noted, had said, “I think the founding of the State of Israel was for the Jewish people a historical, moral, political calamity.... I wish modern Israel hadn’t been born.”

“This,” the Monitor concluded, “is the twisted creature to whom Steven Spielberg has entrusted the script of a movie that will affect the public perception of Israel — in the U.S. and around the world — for years to come.”

Apparently they were right to worry, Hits (Leon Wieseltier, 12.09.05, New Republic)
The screenplay is substantially the work of Tony Kushner, whose hand is easily recognizable in the crudely schematic quality of the drama, and also in something more. The film has no place in its heart for Israel. I do not mean that it wishes Israel ill; not at all. But it cannot imagine any reason for Israel beyond the harshness of the world to the Jews. "The world has been rough with you," the oracular gourmand godfather of an underground anarchist family, a ludicrous character plummily played by Michael Lonsdale, tells Avner Kauffman, the Israeli team leader. "It is right to respond roughly to such treatment." Avner's mother, whose family was destroyed by the Nazis, preaches this about the Jewish state: "We had to take this, because no one was going to give it to us. Whatever it took, whatever it takes." Zionism, in this film, is just anti-anti-Semitism. The necessity of the Jewish state is acknowledged, but necessity is a very weak form of legitimacy. There are two kinds of Israelis in Munich: cruel Israelis with remorse and cruel Israelis without remorse. One of the Israeli killers recalls a midrash about God's compassion for the Egyptians drowning in the Red Sea, and keeps on killing. Another one of the Israeli killers protests that "Jews don't do wrong because our enemies do wrong. ... We're supposed to be righteous," and keeps on killing.

All this is consistent with Tony Kushner's view that Zionism, as he told Ori Nir of Haaretz last year, was "not the right answer," and that the creation of Israel was "a mistake," and that "establishing a state means f***ing people over." (If he really seeks to understand Middle Eastern terrorism, he might ponder the extent to which statelessness, too, can mean f***ing people over.) When Avner's reckoning with his deeds takes him to the verge of a breakdown, he joins his wife and child in Brooklyn and refuses to return to Israel, as if decency is impossible there. No, Kushner is not an anti-Semite, nor a self-hating Jew, nor any of those other insults that burnish his notion of himself as an American Jewish dissident (he is one of those people who never speaks, but only speaks out). He is just a perfectly doctrinaire progressive. And the progressive Jewish playwright Tony Kushner's image of Israel oddly brings to mind the reactionary Jewish playwright David Mamet's image of Israel: For both of them, its essence is power.

Perhaps you have to be as smart as Leon Weiseltier to get why it isn't self-hatred?

Posted by Orrin Judd at December 10, 2005 5:38 PM

Perhaps what Wieseltier means is that Kushner's self-hatred is at most a secondary feature, a side-effect, of his over-riding conviction that there is no morality and therefore that power and the seeking of power is all there is. Kushner believes in the teaching of the Serpent of Eden. That is the salient fact about him.

Posted by: pj at December 10, 2005 8:47 PM

That's not self-hating, especially for the People of the Book?

Posted by: oj at December 10, 2005 8:53 PM

oj - If a man hates God and everyone and everything good, how significant is it that he hates himself? It's like calling a man who hates all numbers "17-hating."

Posted by: pj at December 10, 2005 11:38 PM

Ddin't know that about Mamet.

Posted by: Jim in Chicago at December 10, 2005 11:50 PM

Strange that none of the buzz on this film has noted that it was already done, with Michael Nouri (as I remember) playing the lead Mossad agent. I don't remember the name of the film (I'm sure I watched in on cable at some hotel).

It will be interesting to see how Golda Meir is portrayed. As I have read, the idea for the team was hers.

Posted by: jim hamlen at December 10, 2005 11:51 PM

"Gideon's Sword" and rod steiger is the name in that version.

kushner is a sodomite first last and always. he takes his marching orders from the same road apple as the rest of his lot.

this movie will flop just like clooney's current steaming pile.

these people aren't self-hating, they are narcisstic tumors.

Posted by: ebert's pork chop at December 11, 2005 12:01 AM

Except that Jews were Chosen by God and directly given the Law. No people is defined by 17.

Posted by: oj at December 11, 2005 7:43 AM

Right. Eighteen would be much more apropos.

Posted by: David Cohen at December 11, 2005 1:27 PM

This looks like parody, but I can't be sure anymore. It might very well be a straight news item.

Via Drudge, Newsweek's Top Ten Films of 2005:

1. HEAD-ON: A rough German masterpiece about two lost Turks transformed by love.

2. GOOD NIGHT, AND GOOD LUCK: Clooney's stunning, stirring tribute to a brave journalist.

3. KINGS AND QUEEN: Exhilaratingly unpredictable French gem about the havoc wreaked by a bourgeois femme fatale.

4. BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN: Ang Lee's devastating gay love story of the New West. A watershed.

5. THE BEST OF YOUTH: This Italian epic follows two brothers from '66 to now. It's six hours. You don't want it to end.

6. CAPOTE: Smart, unblinking portrait of a charming, ruthless genius.

7. CACH: This chillingly ambiguous thriller shows a French couple under siege. Is the enemy without or within?

8. MUNICH: Spielberg's tense, disturbing study of terrorism and reprisal.

9. THE SQUID AND THE WHALE: Painfully funny comedy of a bookish family's self-destructing.

10. A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE: Small-town hero or savage gangster? Cronenberg's tight, provocative teaser.

Posted by: erp at December 11, 2005 7:05 PM

i'd watch the cronenberg flick, but the rest are pfffftttttt.

Posted by: ebert's pork chop at December 11, 2005 8:53 PM

Actually, 9 sounded charming. The rest blech. More importantly Kushner, Pinter, Chomsky, Sontag. we have taken some real shots.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at December 12, 2005 1:39 AM
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