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Steven Spielberg's Schindler's List taught a new generation of movie-goers the reality of the World War II Holocaust. Spielberg's new movie, Munich, regrettably undoes some of his earlier good work, in recounting Israel's response to the slaughter of 11 Israeli athletes by the Palestinian Liberation Organization at the 1972 Olympics. Israel's Prime Minister Golda Meir ordered Israeli agents to hunt down and liquidate the PLO assassins, as a "Never Again!" message of life affirmation to the evil forces of the world.
Recent statements by Mr. Spielberg (Los Angeles Times, LA Weekly, Time) regarding his new movie suggest that his "close encounters" with "extraterrestrials" are taking their toll. We all know that Hollywood history is not history, but Steven Spielberg is taking great pains to carefully position his new movie as "historical fiction."
Historical fiction means some of the events in this movie are real, but the story is imagined. Specifically, this means that the horrific murders that occurred at the Olympics in 1972 actually happened, but the story Steven Spielberg is telling about the Israeli response to those murders is fictional, that is, imagined by the writers and director.
The presumed name of the Israeli Mossad's secret team was "Caesarea," although there is rumor of another undisclosed "X" name, and the media called their mission "Wrath of God." There is very little known about this secret unit because Israel has not opened its intelligence files to the public. Steven Spielberg's movie is based on a book called Vengeance by George Jonas. According to press materials, there were no Mossad consultants to this movie, nor were there PLO consultants. But there were political consultants who assisted the writers, producers and director. Their collective representations about the people and events of this secret unit are the imagined part of the story.
The American movie is entitled Munich, however, the French release of the film reportedly is called Vengeance.
The word "Munich" is synonymous with appeasement. In history, The Munich Pact of 1938 is viewed as the catastrophic mistake of the 20th Century that paved the way for The Final Solution -- Hitler's extermination of 6,000,000 Jews. Great Britain's Neville Chamberlain, together with Daladier of France and Bonnet of Italy, appeased Adolf Hitler in Munich, with the ceding of parts of Czechoslovakia to the Reich. When Chamberlain arrived home in London, he announced that he had secured, "Peace in our time!" Abandoned by its allies, Czechoslovakia surrendered to Hitler. World War II began shortly thereafter, and even today, the word "Munich" remains the international symbol of appeasement that encouraged Hitler to invade Poland and Russia, in his fascist quest to exterminate the Jews.
The word "vengeance," as commonly understood, is reserved only for God. But justice is the universal window into the human condition. To characterize the Israeli response as a "response to a response" as Spielberg states in Time Magazine and his new movie implies, is a clear effort to deny the objective morality of what happened, not only in 1972, but throughout history. Justified Deterrence is the moral precept that Israel relies upon to defend itself and prevent its destruction from terrorism and other forces of aggression. Reducing the events of September, 1972 and its aftermath to an existential melodrama about manmade vengeance denies the political nature of the Olympic assassinations and its implication for the safety of all Jews.
According to Time Magazine, Steven Spielberg is attempting to create a "prayer of peace" -- an analogy to correct the "stalemate" of the Arab-Israeli conflict. He cites the biggest enemy as "intransigence." The cause of the conflict -- as he would have his audience believe -- is that neither Palestinians nor Jews are willing to make any changes in their approach to one another.
The Middle East conflict is neither vague, nor abstract. This is not an "eye-for-an-eye" battle of humanity. This conflict has existed since the 7th century. While people in the media and political consultants refer to the "Arab-Israeli" conflict, the source of the Middle East conflict originates with Jihad, the force that drives the modern terrorist organizations and Muslim regimes that support the destruction Israel and all non-Muslim civilizations, including the United States of America.
Militant Islam is not limited to the Middle East -- nor are its tactics -- as America learned on September 11, 2001.
The Israeli athletes who were assassinated by the PLO in Munich in 1972 did not die by tragedy, nor by moral failings. They were slaughtered. This was a massacre of innocents. At that time, and today, there are no doubts about what happened at the Olympics. We saw much of it live on television. Creating a fictional story about the secret Israeli response -- based on speculative feelings of a fictional protagonist -- distorts the truth of what actually happened in history.
The command to Convert by force, subjugate as dhimmis or kill the Infidel is a core belief of Islam. This Jihad, or Holy War, is 1400 years old, not just a few decades. This command is the basis for what is universally recognized as the "schism" of civilizations. Jihad is not like blasphemy or heresy, which can be debated and rejected by theologians. Jihad is fueled by the Islamic belief that murder is a holy act. Jihad is a permanent theological imperative as well as a political tactic to destroy freedom-loving people everywhere, not just Jews and Christians, as the world has learned since 9/11.
It is important to understand that Osama bin Laden publicly declared war on America well before 2001. Officially, he declared "Holy War" on America in August of 1996, but there were other provocations before and after. In fact, the early 1970s saw a major rise in terrorism throughout Europe, the Middle East, and the Far East. The 1972 PLO killings at the Olympics occurred in this contemporary context, but they originate in modern Islamic Jihad, arising from the ashes of Hitler's Holocaust. This is why recasting the present day Middle East conflict as a "tragic stand-off" or as a "stalemate" of the last few decades is historically incorrect.
In real history, there is an enemy. The enemy is Islamic Jihad, although sometimes Jihad is called Militant Islam or Islamofascism. Jihad is a permanent war. This means Jihad excludes the idea of peace, but allows for truces (hudnas) to regroup, infiltrate, and attack again. Ignoring the facts of history is dangerous, but recasting the facts of history into a relativistic "fiction" leads audiences to scream, "Steven Spielberg... phone home!"
Jihad -- like fascism and totalitarianism -- destroys the moral order of humanity. This Jihad is same evil force that denies Israel the right to exist. If Israel has no right to exist, then be my guest, declare that this is a narrative about manmade vengeance. But if Israel does have the right to exist -- and there is a moral order to humanity -- then the moral compass of civilization drives this story -- for all mankind -- and commands that Israel defend herself and the safety of all Jews, despite any personal struggle.
Now, let's enter the make-believe world of Steven Spielberg's movie, Munich.
This is the fictional story of a young Israeli named Avner (Eric Bana) who relinquishes his identity as a Mossad officer to lead the secret Israeli mission to track down 11 PLO operatives presumed to be responsible for planning and executing the Olympic slaughter. Because the mission is secret, Avner operates through highly paid informers. Neither Avner, nor his four-man team is privy to the Mossad's strategy, nor are they apprised of the specific history and deeds of each targeted Palestinian. Of the 11 PLO targets, only one -- Al Hassan Salameh -- commands our complete attention and fascination, as a worthy screen antagonist. He is the chief architect of the horrifying PLO assassinations, the front for Yasser Arafat's PLO, along with another uncredited PLO master planner. Unfortunately, Al Salameh operates off-screen, jet-setting around the globe, negotiating his security with governments, aligning with adversarial regimes, and eluding Avner throughout the movie, with little tidbits of information conveyed through highly paid informers. But we never see any of this, nor do we understand what drives Al Salameh, so the narrative moves forward in journalistic fashion, with riveting sequences, without Al Salameh's onscreen conflict and story participation. This error is fatal to the story, and robs the film of momentum.
The primary narrative is Avner's internal story, expressed as conflict with Ephraim, the Mossad Chief (Geoffrey Rush), and Avner's four-man team. Without a powerful onscreen antagonist who presents conflicting story values, Spielberg relies on flash-cuts from the opening sequence of the Munich slaughter to create tension. Unfortunately, story motivation cannot substitute for onscreen conflict, so the audience drifts away from the Israeli mission's strategic assassinations, and instead redefines and experiences them as a series of consecutive murders Sicilian style. What begins as an extremely well-motivated story deliberately descends into an episodic narrative about vengeance, framed by rationalization.
In the end, there can be no satisfying climax. In fact, the end credits state that Al Hassan Salameh was captured in 1979.
Writers Tony Kushner and Eric Roth boldly present an existential story-form about "the struggle" to track down 11 Palestinians "in response to" the loss of 11 Israeli athletes, but they purposely deny the audience the most gripping layers within the "thriller story" to track down Al Salameh. The compelling curiosities about Al Salameh's personal habits, his mastery of deceit, his layers of depravity, remain unexplored. There is no depiction of any internal struggle for Al Alameh to match that of Avner.
Above all, the audience cannot help but wonder about how the glamorized Al Salameh understands the underpinnings of the Arab and Muslim cultures that abandon the voices of their own poorest and most oppressed. What does Al Salameh think of a religion where Sunnis refuse to believe that their own brethren, Shias and Kurds, are human? How does he feel about the poorest Palestinians who claim to use terrorism because they are screaming to be heard? Is he listening to them? What is missing from his own mindset -- or is it the mindset of Islam -- that the world's wealthiest Muslim Arabs cannot take care of their own? What is inside this mysterious wealthy world of Arab jet setters who refuse to create their own society to respond to the cries of the Palestinians?
These opposing story values might have been a worthy journey to challenge Avner's struggle. It's as if the writers and director were intent upon ignoring the questions of interest in favor of creating a politically correct "Mein Kampf" ("My Struggle") for our time. Literally, the "struggle" is the story. The message is that the Israeli struggle to defend itself is morally equivalent to the Palestinian struggle to be heard. The end result is that Avner's struggle fizzles into a type of self-inflicted relativistic anti-Zionist propaganda.
With due respect, there are many outstanding moments, including an amusing character named Yvonne who presents the "dialectic" philosophy of Georg Hegel as dialogue with Avner, foreshadowing that this is a story about "rethinking right and wrong."
Ironically, this is the story clue. The Hegelian system is predicated on the unity of opposites and exploration of the negations that comprise these opposites. This unity of opposites -- the dialectic -- is ultimately tested by the "negation of the negation" and forms the synthesis of the dialectic. In Munich, the psyche, deeds, and strategy of Al Salameh represent the opposing forces to Avner's story, both literally and figuratively. Without a comprehensive exploration of this set of opposing story values, there can be no Hegelian process of the dialectic, nor its synthesis.
As a result, Munich is overflowing with good character choices and superior filmmaking, but fails as storytelling, even in the friendly audience of peers at the Directors Guild of America. The audience exited, speechless. Personally, I felt like the character Carl (Ciaran Hinds), the worrier who is constantly "chasing the mice" inside his skull, only Carl solved his mice cravings with alcohol and affection.
Instead, I went home and wrote this. Then, it became clear that "the (three) mice" are all blind. They are spinning around a treadmill of moral confusion, exhausted by politically correct thinking. By negating curiosity, they negate thought. By transposing history into a morally equivalent humanist struggle, "the three blind mice" took us into a world where there is no relief, let alone insight into the complexities of the human condition.
Now, fasten your seatbelt and hook your shoulder strap. You are about to exit the world of make-believe, and re-enter the real world where history rules, and truth prevails. Stay tuned for the historical overview that is missing from this movie.
The nexus between Islam and Nazism exists in the "Never Again!" timeline of the 20th century, officially dating to November 28, 1941, when Hitler made a pact with the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem -- the grandfather of the PLO -- to effect The Final Solution -- the extermination of all Jews from the face of the earth. As a reminder, the Grand Mufti had declared Jihad on the Allied Powers (our side) on November 25, 1941, and the United States of America was attacked two weeks later by the Axis Powers (their side) at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.
Tracing the roots of 20th century Islamic Jihad begins with the Balfour Declaration of 1917. After World War I, Great Britain was granted control of the "Mandate of Palestine" and sought to create a permanent home for Jews. In 1920, anti-Zionist Hajj Amin al-Husseini rose from Islamic Arab ranks and began a campaign to exterminate Jews. Concurrently, an Egyptian named Hasam al-Banna founded the Muslim Brotherhood, and began supporting Al Husseini who was elevated to "The Grand Mufti of Jerusalem" by the British.
Al Banna and The Grand Mufti continued inciting violence against Jews through the 1920s, and as Nazism spread through Europe, Jews fled to Palestine. Their next move was to make overtures to Adolf Hitler, and the influx of Jews set off the "Great Uprising" or "Arab Revolt" of 1936-1939. After the 1938 Munich Pact, Hitler moved swiftly into Poland and Russia, advancing "The Final Solution." Then, in 1941, he cemented his alliance with The Grand Mufti, after which The Grand Mufti moved to Germany and traveled regularly to present-day Bosnia (establishing the roots of the modern-day Bosnian conflict).
When World War II ended in 1945, the Grand Mufti colluded with intelligence communities (reportedly French and British) and avoided prosecution for war crimes by fleeing to Egypt. The United Nations was established, and as reparation for the Holocaust, called for the establishment of the State of Israel. On May 14, 1948, after the British Mandate expired, David Ben-Gurion formally established the modern State of Israel, which was immediately invaded by Arab armies, though Israel prevailed. The Grand Mufti and his Muslim Brotherhood regrouped in Egypt, as the modern-day anti-Zionist Jihadist movement that spawned other militant anti-Zionist organizations, including the Fatah Party, Yasser Arafat's Palestinian Liberation Organization that architected the 1972 Olympic killings, Hamas, Hezbollah, and Osama bin Laden's Al Qaeda.
The events of Munich, 1972 -- like the events of September 11, 2001 -- originate from the Islamic Jihad of the 20th century Muslim Brotherhood. This is why those who have witnessed or studied history feel compelled to clarify the origins of this conflict, because we know that murder is not a holy act. We know that Jihad is a permanent political tactic to convert or destroy all non-Muslim humanity.
Jihad is not equal to justified deterrence. The Munich slaughter is not equal to Israel's moral imperative to liquidate Jihadists. The Grand Mufti of Jerusalem is not equal to David Ben-Gurion. Adolf Hitler is not equal to Simon Wiesenthal. Yasser Arafat is not equal to Golda Meir. The PLO is not equal to Israel. The "culture of death" that is Jihad is not equal to the "culture of life" that is L'Chaim.
Is anyone really surprised that this outrage happened in Munich, the birthplace of Adolf Hitler's Third Reich' Jihadists, who are fighting an ancient struggle, are particularly cognizant of history, and pay obsessive concern to dates and places.
In history, there are no regrets about what happened to Adolf Hitler, no confusion about what happened at the 1972 Olympics and no legitimate voices that defy the necessity of Israel's strategic response to the Munich slaughter. The Israeli response to the 1972 Olympics transcends the timeline of history as a "Never Again!" morality tale of good vs. evil. This is not a story about negating life. This is not a story about vengeance. This is a story about the painful regrets and compelling issues that comprise the profound decisions involved in defending... the sanctity of human life.
Steven Spielberg describes his movie as a "prayer for peace." Although he defines the enemy as "intransigence," he refers to the "implacable resolve" of the agents who hunted down the PLO assassins. According to Webster, "implacable" means "incapacity for appeasement." Is Spielberg hinting that it is Israel's incapacity for appeasement that drives the Jihad? Is he implying that if only Gold Meir had appeased the terrorists this one time in 1972 -- like Chamberlain appeased Hitler at Munich in 1938 -- there would be no modern-day conflict? Is he suggesting that Israel's vengeance triggered the 3rd act of the 1400-year old Jihad? Is he stating that America -- like Israel -- is to be reviled for affirming the sanctity of life? Or is he condoning that America and Israel are to be hated for defending freedom?
Perhaps Mr. Spielberg is entranced by what Professor Jeane Kirkpatrick described as The Myth of Moral Equivalence, the humanist claim that all sides -- regardless of core beliefs, tactics and genocides -- are somehow valid. Otherwise, Spielberg seems convinced by moral relativism, the position that there is no comprehensive moral truth or truth value, that only personal subjective morality, deriving from social convention, is truly authentic. Even Hollywood publicists will have trouble extricating him from this self-inflicted philosophical quagmire by suggesting that he fall back on the obscure concept of moral pluralism which acknowledges the co-existence of opposing ideas and practices -- but does not require that they be equally valid. As a last resort, he may be tempted to gravitate to the nouveau concept of value pluralism. But this stimulates the little mice into over-drive, and begs the fundamental question of our time.
If Israel has no right to exist, then who does?
Otherwise, Mr. Spielberg is committed to persuading the world that Israel is at fault for its intransigence. He would have us believe that Jihad -- the core belief of Militant Islam -- is equal to Israel's justified deterrence to wage its own strategic defense. He would have us believe that Jihad is equal to The Ark of the Covenant.
Refusing to appease the anti-Zionist Muslim regimes that seek to destroy Israel is the litmus test for the 21st century. Maturity teaches us to recognize the origins of the creator-based concept of the individual. Righteousness teaches us to acknowledge the sanctity of the moral compass of civilization. Courage teaches us to defend these concepts, from which freedom derives. We are inspired by the wisdom of the ages to defend Israel's right to exist, because this "creator-based right to exist" is a gift to all mankind, not only "the chosen" few. The new anti-Semitism is anti-Zionism.
Perhaps we can learn "something important" after all -- not from movies -- but from the moral compass of history itself.
We are in a war of ideas. Freedom, Justice, and Truth transcend the movies. What really matters will survive the motives of movie studios. What really matters will survive all of us, especially the appeasers. What really matters will transcend the timeline of history.
The Muslim World is in a civil war of sane ideas vs. insane ideas. Baathists, Sunnis, Wahhabists, and Shias are scrambling for certitude, trying to figure out what side of history they are on. The insanity of Jihad is startlingly clear, once the moral compass of civilization is irrefutably in place. King Abdullah laid down the gauntlet by defining the "War on Militant Islam," challenging sane Muslims to renounce the insanity of this "culture of death" that is Jihad. Now that Iraqi Muslims have declared their future, it is possible for sane Muslims to declare that freedom rules. It is time to negate the schism of civilization, reverse the schism inward, and break "Militant Islam" at its very core belief. Murder is not a holy act. Jihad is not a Holy War. Jihad is evil. Only Muslims can declare moral victory in their own civil war of ideas. Jihad -- like all "cultures of death" -- is dead on arrival.
Steven Spielberg's "prayer for peace" appears to be earnest. Yet he misses the point of real history. By naming his movie Munich, he advances the message of appeasement. By promoting moral relativism as moral equivalence, he propels his audiences into moral clarity. By selling intransigence as the enemy, he invites history to define the constant enemy. The "Jihad to liberate Jerusalem" -- like all fascist and totalitarian genocidal schemes that deny freedom and dignity of the individual -- is the true enemy, not just of Israel, but of all mankind.
Meanwhile, all human beings get to decide which side of history they are on. Dreamworks appears to have made their decision.
Creating a dialogue that bridges the Muslim and the non-Muslim world is admirable, but the "true" dialogue -- like the events of 1972 -- begins with the value of life.
Moshe Weinberg, 33 Yossef Romano, 31 Yossef Gutfreund, 40 David Berger, 28
Mark Slavin, 18 Yacov Springer, 51 Ze'ev Friedman, 28 Amitzur Shapira, 40
Eliezer Halfin, 24 Kehat Shorr, 53 Andre Spitzer, 27
1. Arlandson, James, "The Truth about Islamic Crusades and
Imperialism," November 27th, 2005,
2. "The Status of Non-Muslim Minorities Under Islamic Rule,"
3. James Arlandson, "Islam(ists) and religious world domination,"
November 14, 2004,
4. Kirkpatrick, Jeanne J., "The Myth of Moral Equivalence,"
5. "Jerusalem Archives, 1941: "Grand Mufti Visits Adolf Hitler in
This article appeared in the American Thinker December 19, 2005. It is
Thanks are due to Naomi Ragen for emailing us the essay.
Kate Wright has taught sceenwriting at UCLA since 1995. She has been honored with many awards, and written historical epic screenplays: "Billy", "The Conspirator Saint", and "Handsome Harry". She is author "Screenwriting is Storytelling," (Perigee Books, 2004). Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org
This article appeared in the American Thinker December 19, 2005. It is
Thanks are due to Naomi Ragen for emailing us the essay.
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