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Naomi Ragen is an American-born novelist and playwright who has lived in Jerusalem since 1971. She has published seven internationally best-selling novels, and is the author of a hit play.

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PostSun Dec 11, 2005 3:31 pm     Spielberg's Munich: Jewish victim = Palestinian terrorist    

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Spielberg's Munich: Jewish victim = Palestinian terrorist

By Naomi Ragen


The "cycle of violence" people, who inhabit the media, who have never been able to distinguish a murderer from a murderee, who in their morally fuzzy universe see in the targeted killing of a terrorist mastermind and the blowing up of a baby in a carriage and a grandmother in the park the equivalent tragedy, are the ones who are making it possible for terrorists to take over the world. Just as there were people who felt we could talk to Hitler and Goebbels, and 'reason' with them about the Final Solution, so we have our leading lights, our movie-makers, and anchormen, who are convinced if we just sit down with people who say the Holocaust never happened, and Jews are pigs and monkeys and we should wipe them off the face of the earth, we could convince them to go with us and smell the flowers in the botanic gardens. These people are propagandists of the worst kind: they destroy the will of free people to defend themselves by feeding them false hopes and painting a picture of an enemy that doesn't exist, and a universe that doesn't exist.

I am sorry to say that with his latest movie, Munich, Steven Spielberg has joined their ranks. Some time in the past, I sent out an e-mail that Mr. Spielberg was doing a movie equating terrorists with the Israelis that kill them. Then Snopes said it was a hoax put out by Spielberg's enemies. I groveled and apologized, but in my heart, I was glad to be wrong. So much for the accuracy of Snopes. Unfortunately, I was right the first time. It was no hoax. Below, from today's New York Times Op-ed page.

Naomi Ragen


What 'Munich' Left Out

By David Brooks
The New York Times
December 11, 2005

Every generation of Americans casts Israel in its own morality tale. For a time, Israel was the plucky underdog fighting for survival against larger foes. Now, as Steven Spielberg rolls out the publicity campaign for his new movie, "Munich," we see the crystallization of a different fable. In this story, the Israelis and the Palestinians are parallel peoples victimized by history and trapped in a cycle of violence. In his rollout interview in Time, Spielberg spoke of the Middle East's endless killings and counterkillings. "A response to a response doesn't really solve anything. It just creates a perpetual motion machine," Spielberg said. "There's been a quagmire of blood for blood for many decades in that region. Where does it end?" The main problem, he concluded, is intransigence itself. "The only thing that's going to solve this is rational minds, a lot of sitting down and talking until you're blue in the gills."

"Munich" the movie is a brilliant representation of this argument. Its hero, Avner, has been called in by Golda Meir to assassinate the terrorists responsible for the murder of 11 Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympics. Over the course of the movie, as assassination piles upon assassination, Avner descends into a pit of Raskolnikovian hell. Israelis kill Palestinians and Palestinians kill Israelis and guilt piles upon paranoia. Eventually, Avner loses faith in his mission, in Zionism, in Israel itself.

This is a new kind of antiwar movie for a new kind of war, and in so many ways it is innovative, sophisticated and intelligent. But when it is political, Spielberg has to distort reality to fit his preconceptions. In the first place, by choosing a story set in 1972, Spielberg allows himself to ignore the core poison that permeates the Middle East, Islamic radicalism. In Spielberg's Middle East, there is no Hamas or Islamic Jihad. There are no passionate anti-Semites, no Holocaust deniers like the current president of Iran, no zealots who want to exterminate Israelis.

There is, above all, no evil. And that is the core of Spielberg's fable. In his depiction of reality there are no people so committed to a murderous ideology that they are impervious to the sort of compromise and dialogue Spielberg puts such great faith in. Because he will not admit the existence of evil, as it really exists, Spielberg gets reality wrong. Understandably, he doesn't want to portray Palestinian terrorists as cartoon bad guys, but he simply doesn't portray them.

There's one speech in which a Palestinian terrorist sounds like Mahmoud Abbas, but beyond that, the terrorists are marginal and opaque. And because there is no evil, Spielberg gets the Israeli fighters wrong. Avner is an American image of what an Israeli hero should be.

The real Israeli fighters tend to be harder and less sympathetic, and they are made that way by an awareness of the evil implacability of those who want to exterminate them. In Spielberg's Middle East the only way to achieve peace is by renouncing violence. But in the real Middle East the only way to achieve peace is through military victory over the fanatics, accompanied by compromise between the reasonable elements on each side. Somebody, the Israelis or the Palestinian Authority, has to defeat Hamas and the other terrorist groups. Far from leading to a downward cycle, this kind of violence is the precondition to peace.

Here too, Spielberg's decision to tell a story set in the early 1970's makes "Munich" a misleading way to start a larger discussion. In 1972, Israel was just entering the era of spectacular terror attacks and didn't know how to respond. But over the years Israelis have learned that targeted assassinations, which are the main subject of this movie, are one of the less effective ways to fight terror.

Israel much prefers to arrest suspected terrorists. Arrests don't set off rounds of retaliation, and arrested suspects are likely to provide you with intelligence, the real key to defanging terror groups. Over the past few years Israeli forces have used arrests, intelligence work, the security fence and, at times, targeted assassinations to defeat the second intifada. As a result, the streets of Jerusalem are filled with teenagers, and the political climate has relaxed, allowing Ariel Sharon to move to the center.

Recent history teaches what Spielberg's false generalization about the "perpetual motion machine" of violence does not: that some violence is constructive and some is destructive. The trick is knowing the difference.

That's a recognition that comes from reality, not fables.

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PostSun Dec 11, 2005 6:29 pm        

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I want to watch the movie before I criticizes Spielberg... I still give him some credit...

I would like to recommend (if you haven't seen it) the movie "One Day in September" http://imdb.com/title/tt0230591/

It's a documentary about the events of the massacre during the '72 Munich Olympics. A very good movie (it won the Academy Award for Best Documentary in 2000)

For me, as a German, it was disturbing to see how the security forces in Germany handled the situation...

If you subscribed to the IMDB, you can see my reply to two Pro-Palestinian posts there (from some months ago... under this movie's board):




Anyway... I hope that Spielberg's movie will show the events as they happened... There IS a difference between the killing of innocent athletes and the killing of murderers/terrorists...

I'm sure that many people will see this movie...



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