The War on "Munich"

Salon’s Michelle Goldberg offers one explanation why many (covered here and here, typified by David Brooks) are so enraged about Spielberg’s latest, to be released Friday:

The analogy to our own time is obvious, and in some ways the argument about “Munich” is really one about America. Post-9/11 political correctness, which demands that stories about terrorism and counterterrorism be limned in starkest black and white, seemed to have dissipated these last few years. In the debate over Spielberg’s movie, though, it’s returning with a vengeance. The result is not just the mischaracterization of a movie; it’s the resurrection of the taboo against depicting the war on terror in shades of gray.

But despite the inevitable analogies to America post-9/11, the film is ultimately about Israel. As such, it was destined to ruffle feathers.

…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.”

Thankfully, Abe Foxman isn’t getting all Passion’d up about this one.
Full story.

10 thoughts on “The War on "Munich"

  1. Can anyone confirm this? this is from the Canadian Jewish News:

    In a bizarre twist, the commander of the Black September team, Abu Iyad, was half-Jewish, a militant whose mother was Jewish and whose father was Christian. He recruited the foot soldiers from Palestinian refugee camps in Jordan, Lebanon and Syria, and code-named the attack Operation Ikrit and Biri’m, the names of two Arab villages in northern Israel which had been emptied of its inhabitants by the Israeli army during the 1948 War of Independence.

  2. no idea, but if his mother was jewish i think he was whole jewish and not half. not that we should rush to claim him or anything.

  3. My problem with “Munich” is that I don’t think Spielberg has the emotional maturity or intellectual honesty to handle serious topics. And yes, I did see “Schindler’s List”, “Saving Private Ryan”, “War of the Worlds” and a good chunk of “Amistad” (I kept falling asleep). To me, his “serious” movies (as well as his “entertainments”) all reflect a profoundly adolescent view of the world. I’m tired of getting sucked in by serious debate over what are, at heart, horror movies. So I’ll be going to “King Kong” instead.

  4. whodareswins,
    I agree with you wholeheartedly. I haven’t seen Munich yet; this post was just about the pre-release reaction to it. But I too am skeptical about Spielberg’s capacity to handle the vagaries of human experience without resorting to the maudlin, the treacly, the kitschy. The fact that he keeps using the heavyhanded John Williams to (over)score his films is not a good sign. And according to Anthony Lane at least, we have cause for the creeps: “What a curious arc this movie has described: starting in terror, and ending up on the very brink of kitsch.”

  5. Although I should add that “Duel” is a classic and “Jaws” rocks. But that’s when Spielberg is doing what he’s good at: driving the audience nuts with nail-biting suspense, shorn of sermons and heart-tugging spectacle.

  6. Munich is “as close as I’ve seen to an American film that’s inside the Israeli head.” Please.
    Israelis struggle on a day to day basis with whats going on in the territories; whether its checkpoints, the separation barrier, lockdowns ect.- but lets be clear about something- one thing which does not keep israelis up at night (except for Uri Avneri) is the assasinations of people who are directly responsible for the countless deaths of your fellow citizens (be it members of black september or hamas.) This is not a morally questionable policy- these people are at war against Israel. If anyone has a problem with targeted assassinations carried out by israel(whether its black september, hamas, PFLP, whatever), that is in my view, the type of criticism dangerously close to deligitimizing Israel completely.

  7. I wonder . . . has anyone who has commented on Munich actually SEEN it? I have and here are my insights:
    Dan (Mobius)’s characterization of the criticism on it was correct. No, it doesn’t make the Mossad agents out to be pure heroes. It does deal with the moral dilemmas surrounding the work the Mossad did in eliminating the perpetrators. It was most certainly NOT anti-Israel. To be honest, Israelis were portrayed in the best light in the film; no one gets off. The Europeans (the western ones) are seen as both incompetent and spineless, the Americans (who are only represented by the CIA who foil the Mossad plan to kill Salameh, the planner of Munich and then proceed to give the Israelis middle fingers) are shown as complacent and selfish by playing both sides only to America’s benefit, and the Palestinians are portrayed, at least in 1972 thinking (elimination of Israel, right of return, etc.) as unrealistic and, in terms of the fact of people crying over dead terrorists, morally irresponsible. Example: Eric Bana, playing the lead character of Avner who is in charge of the operation, is having a late night conversation with Ali, a member of the PLO and whom is sharing safe house space with the Mossad team (along with his crew). Ali is talking about eliminating Israel and returning to his home in Palestine, and Bana states that’s not realistic. Ali accuses him of being too cozy with the Jews (he, of course, still thinks Bana is a member of Baider-Meinoff) and Bana says something like, “I’m that voice of conscience inside your fucking head.” I’m not being racist here, I’m just giving you the skinny on how everyone, Israelis, Europeans, Americans, and Palestinians are portrayed.
    The way I see it, you’re left with three possibilities for the people who planned Munich: to let them go scot free, to capture, try, and imprison them, or to kill them. There are obvious flaws with all three choices, but that is how it is in real life. There are few black and white issues; lots are simply grey.
    Questioning targetted assassinations does not make one anti-Israel nor delegitimizing Israel. These are moral dilemmas that would inevitably be faced by those who carry them out.

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