I've been deeply suspicious about Spielberg's new film Munich, a suspicion powered in part by my dislike of all Spielberg films, regardless of content; in part by my dislike for Tony Kushner, generally and because of his manifest hostility to Israel; and in part by the reviews I've read of the film, both from blogsters and in the MSM. And I certainly haven't been shy about blogging about that negativity. I think, though, that fairness requires me to say that The Weekly Standard, a magazine with the most respectable conservative credentials, concludes that the movie really isn't that bad. Sonny Bunch's article looks carefully at the two types of effectiveness that one can measure flowing from wiping out terrorists: (1) preventing further terrorist acts and (2) ending all violence in the Middle East. Based on both George Jonas's Vengeance and Aaron Klein's Striking Back, two books about the Mossad operations, Bunch argues that the books strike some similar themes: the operations effectively dried up a lot of terrorism, which was important; the Mossad agents were not guilt-ridden, because they felt they were engaging in righteous acts (I agree); and this type of operation has nothing to do with bringing peace to the Middle East. And despite Spielberg's fatuous public opinings about the meaningless of an "eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth" and his hope that his movie will bring peace to all, Spielberg's movie doesn't stray far from either book's message:
[I]ssues of factual fidelity aside, it is a misunderstanding of Munich to view the film as a work of moral equivalence. For instance, much has been made of a scene near the beginning of the film in which photos of the Palestinian terrorists being targeted by the Mossad, and images of the dead Israeli athletes are juxtaposed. Some have suggested that this is a clear caseof moral equivocation, that Spielberg is trying to imply that there is no difference between the two groups of "victims." But if anything, it seems as though Spielberg is trying to help the audience understand the motivations of the Israeli government. In actuality, he seems to be highlighting the fact that the murders at Munich forced Israel to pursue these terrorists. On the whole, Munich is a finely-wrought character study of the effects of war on those who have to fight it--not an apologia for terrorism. By the movie's end Avner--gaunt, pale, and aged--is sleeping in a closet because he is afraid of retribution from Palestinian operatives. His fellow agents have been killed one by one and he now lives in fear, both for himself and his family. Again, this may or may not be factually accurate. For his part, Klein says that of the 50 officers he spoke with "nobody knows some kind of figure who had remorse. And it's a close circle of people. The people who were actually involved are not a lot." One place where Klein and Spielberg would agree, however, is that, unlike the Palestinian terrorists, the Israelis took extreme lengths to ensure that innocents were not injured in their strikes. In the film, the team risks missing a target and blowing its cover to save the life of a little girl. Compare this to the Palestinian terrorists who have no problem with turning AK-47s on hogtied hostages. And then there is the deeper question of humanity: Avner understand the justness of his mission, but still struggles with the taking of life. The terrorists show no such qualms. So even if it's inaccurate, Spielberg's characterization of a conflicted Avner is, in its own way, flattering to the Israelis. Indeed, it says more good than bad about the quality of the Israeli men who accepted the job of protecting their country by hunting down the terrorists who would do it harm. We should not want those tasked with defending us to be as remorseless as the sociopath terrorists who are so evil that they take delight in murder.Frankly, I'm not sure most viewers will get the nuances Bunch describes. Also, I still have no intention of seeing the movie, given my almost pathological aversion to Spielberg's directoral style. However, as I said above, I think it's important since I've been so down on the movie in my blog to present another view from a responsible source. All things being equal, however, I'm putting a bit more faith in Mona Charen's discussion of the movie, which calls it "deeply and disturbingly dishonest." And really, I think that's the nub of the argument. Spielberg wants to have it so many ways: his movie is true; his movie is fiction; his movie is a parable about peace; his movie is a parable about vengeance; his movie shows that Israelis are good; his movie shows that Israelis are bad; his movie shows that Palestinians are bad; his movie shows that Palestians are good. Who can keep up with those type of factual and moral chicanery? As Charen says in her column, "CC Colton warned, 'Falsehood is never so successful as when she baits her hook with truth.'" And given Spielberg's cartoonish approach to just about anything, I suspect that the average ill-informed member of the public will mislearn history, as Charen predicts, rather than gain nuanced information about the whole history of the Mossad's operations, as Bunch predicts.