About two months ago, I published remarks about Steven Spielberg’s new movie, Munich:
“The movie Munich, produced by, Steven Spielberg, represents the ultimate of moral equivalency, since it equates the ‘human interest’ story of PLO murderers with the human interest of the unarmed Israeli athletes whom they murdered.”
These comments relied on reviews of Munich from well-meaning friends of Israel abroad. Only now that I’ve seen the movie myself here in Jerusalem do I realize that their perception of what distorts reality in Israel is far different from the reality that we live here in Israel.
Now, I can say clearly there is no moral equivalency whatsoever in this movie. I owe Mr. Spielberg a public apology.
Munich portrays every PLO members as uncompromising in their zeal to destroy Israel and to justify the murder of anyone who gets in the way of that goal. No moral equivalency here.
Munich represents a breakthrough of sorts, as it portrays the Israeli soldier with battle fatigue.
Avner, the film’s main protagonist, is an Israeli war hero who risks his life to save fellow countrymen from the clutches of PLO murderers, yet he succumbs to doubt about the justice of the battle for the Jewish State.
Avner represents so many Israelis I have encountered in my 36 years here as a student, social worker and journalist, people trying to cope with a crisis of confidence in the very Zionism that pioneered the State of Israel
Avner knows his past: the murder of his family at the hands of the Nazis, their rescue and salvation by the creation of Israel, and the price his father paid with a long and painful imprisonment at the hands of the British.
But Avner is plagued about his present, as he wanders European capitals, eating pork sausages at every stop, wondering aloud, together with his fellow combatants about why they are really killing off the PLO.
He and the soldiers serving under him ask questions and, tragically, get no answers. Even worse, none of their commanding officers are prepared to give them real answers.
From Zion to Brooklyn
Avner, at the end of the movie, has no future, not as an Israeli and not as a Jew, as he begins a new life with his wife and little girl in a non Jewish neighborhood in Brooklyn, detached from his roots in Zion.
A sequel to Munich could be entitled “Brooklyn,” with an opening scene of Avner working as a paunchy security guard on a subway platform, playing “shesh besh” (backgammon) at night with other Israelis in exile, watching his children “marry out”, his grandson go to church, and continuously mulling over and reliving those two great years when he pursued the killers of the Israeli Olympic athletes.
Avner reminds me of countless Israeli soldiers whom I have encountered who have the physical ability to fight, yet their moral stamina is conflicted. They are confused about what they are fighting for and lack basic knowledge about whom they are fighting against in active combat.
Indeed, it is hard to find any Israeli intelligence officer who has ever seen an official Palestinian Authority newspaper, an official Palestinian Authority textbook or watched even one minute of official PA TV or listened to a PA radio broadcast praising the murder of Jews in the struggle to liberate all of Palestine.
Munich could easily be used by Israeli Intelligence to train a future generation of crack Israeli troops, to recognize that Israeli soldier must know and recognize the nature of Israel’s adversaries, so that they will have the mental and moral capacity to fight the next battle in the continuing war forIsraeli independence, which is not yet over.
The time has come for Israeli intelligence to cope with the effect of the implosion of the peace process on a generation of Israeli soldiers who thought Israel and its Arab neighbors were heading for an era of peace and reconciliation, after 13 years of massive “peace preparation” in Israeli society,
It may be troubling for a supporter of Israel abroad to cope with the fact thatIsrael’s fighters can turn into mush and ask hard questions in between battles.
My first teacher at Hebrew University, Dr. Michael Rosenak, warned 36 years ago that “Israel’s supporters abroad have a tendency to make ideological idealizations out of someone else’s reality”.
It may have troubled many Israel supporters to witness a troubled Avner in “Munich”, 2005, rather than a swggering Kirk Douglas (“Cast a Giant Shadowm,” 1965) fighting for Israel.
This piece appeared on YNetNews, the internet edition of Yediot Aharonot, on February 23rd, 2006