Monday, December 26, 2005

"Munich"


"The characters' deep ambivalence about the revenge killings they commit is actually profoundly flattering to Israel. It is impossible to imagine such doubt, and such an ardent desire to adhere to a higher standard than that of one's enemies, among the film's terrorists. Indeed, I would guess that many Palestinians would find the movie unbearably self-congratulatory -- its central concern, after all, is the effect of retaliatory Jewish violence on the Jewish soul, not on the Palestinian flesh."

"Leave aside, for a moment, Israel's many assassinations of Palestinian militants in the occupied territories in recent years, including that of Hamas leader Sheik Yassin in March 2004. As Aaron Klein -- a captain in Israeli Defense Forces Intelligence -- reports in his new book, "Striking Back: The 1972 Munich Olympics Massacre and Israel's Deadly Response," the hit squads targeting the Munich plotters, far from being an immediate and short-lived response to that horror, continued operating for two decades. They killed Atef Bseiso, the last man on their list, in Paris in 1992.

As Klein reports, Bseiso, the PLO's liaison officer, had relationships with many security agencies, including France's Direction de la Surveillance du Territoire. His assassination in Paris enraged the French. "The Mossad claims the French responded by deliberately leaking the name of a high-ranking Palestinian source in Arafat's Tunis office," Klein writes. "The agent, Adnan Yassin, had been working for the Mossad for years, informing them of all that transpired in the office and among the Diaspora Palestinian leadership. In October 1993, Yassin was arrested, and never heard from again." The French retribution, writes Klein, "handicapped Israel during the sensitive negotiations leading up to the Oslo Accords."

This episode doesn't appear in the film, but it demonstrates that the questions raised by "Munich" are not simply fodder for dilettante cocktail parties. These are questions that are freely discussed within Israel itself -- indeed, they obsess the nation's thinkers -- and pondering them is in no way anti-Zionist. JJ Goldberg (no relation), the editor of the Jewish newspaper the Forward and an unequivocal supporter of the Jewish state, called the movie "as close as I've seen to an American film that's inside the Israeli head." He's somewhat baffled by the attacks on "Munich," which he suggests represent a knee-jerk response by people used to defending Israel against its global legions of denouncers. Describing their thinking, he said, "The world has condemned Israel, the world is blaming Israel for the rise of Arab terrorism, there's this conventional wisdom out there that Israel's treatment of the Palestinians has created this international wave of jihad terrorism, and so they're looking for it" -- "it" being anti-Israel sentiment. "They see the name Tony Kushner, and it's like the script is written before they even get in the theater."

Goldberg cited an apocryphal quote from Golda Meir: "We can never forgive them for making us kill their children." "In a way, the whole movie was an elaboration of that line," he said. "There's never a moment or hint that the Palestinians didn't start it by doing something awful. And it keeps on reminding you, the way Golda Meir did, that the people on the other side, whatever else they are, they're also human beings.

In certain circles, apparently, simply calling attention to the fact that the people killed by counterterrorists are, in fact, people, is at best maudlin, at worst disloyal. "It's very disturbing," said Goldberg. "Something bad has happened. It's almost as though Spielberg's warning about the corrosive effect on the soul is all too true."

(From an article in Salon, commenting on the firestorm that the Steven Spielberg movie has created)

2 Comments:

Blogger callieischatty said...

I think the film is good, its important for people to remember what happened at Munich.
I trust Spielberg to do the right thing.

3:57 PM  
Blogger Ramo said...

Haven't seen the film, but the article highlights the notion that Israel has always worked within a higher sphere of morality. Of course, one would not expect less from "God's Chosen People". Speilberg's heart is in the right place, but he works from within a paradigm that I doubt would allow hiim to be truly contrversial, or more importantly, insightful.

8:56 AM  

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