Spielberg's Munich and Me - Part I

I didn't go to Munich, but I spent years training with the athletes who did go. We developed a close camaraderie, as people do at training camps where tensions and hopes are high. I knew each one of them personally. They were my friends.

Rachel Neuwirth,

Rachel Neuwirth
Rachel Neuwirth
I had deep misgivings about seeing Steven Spielberg's Munich. The tragedy was too close to my heart.

I was supposed to be with the 1972 Israeli Olympiads as a member of the Israeli women's basketball team. At the last minute, the International Olympic Committee decided against including a women's basketball event. (It did not become a regular event until the 1976 Olympics.)

I didn't go to Munich, but I spent years training with the athletes who did go. We developed a close camaraderie, as people do at training camps where tensions and hopes are high. I knew each one of them personally. They were my friends. I watched in horror as the massacre unfolded on TV. I, too, could have been slaughtered by the killers linked to Yasser Arafat.

Instead, I watched them slaughter my friends and saw how callously the world responded. The games went on even as my friends' bodies were flown home draped not in medals, but in burial shrouds.

I feared how Hollywood, even if it was Steven Spielberg, would depict this tragedy, but I finally went to see the film. Munich was worse than I had feared. It left me appalled and enraged. I felt violated. The film debased the memory of my friends. It exploited a horrifying atrocity. It slandered the brave Israeli volunteers who were ready to sacrifice their lives to seek justice and to risk orphaning their children in this dangerous but necessary assignment. Terrorists had to learn they could not murder Israelis abroad with impunity and that the perpetrators of this atrocity would not live to plot another one.

Americans, including Spielberg, have never had to live intimately with war and terrorism in a tiny country surrounded and outnumbered by intractable enemies. My Olympiad friends had. I had. I was born in Israel and have lived my whole life with Islamic terrorism. It began long before the so-called "occupation" and has continued without cease. Its goal is to destroy Israel, and expel or exterminate all Jews. Most young women do military service, as I did, to defend our country in its never-ending war for survival. We accept this obligation with stoicism, and without compromising our ethics or our humanity. That is what reality and our ideals demand of us.

But this film is not about reality or about presenting a truthful account of the aftermath of Munich. It is about Steven Spielberg - his spin on history, his ego, and his arrogance in thinking that he has special wisdom and insights about how to bring peace. He may believe that the ends justify the means, so he has license to twist the truth to promote peace. But "the road to hell is paved with good intentions."

Some in the mainstream liberal media are praising this movie lavishly. Unfortunately, many people with limited historical knowledge may accept readily Spielberg's twisted version of events and, worse, his political propagandizing (or "morality").

Spielberg didn't search for the moral or factual truths. He didn't spend time in Israel or meet with both Jewish and Arab victims of Islamist terror. Instead, he used the fraudulent book Vengeance. Its author, George Jonas, was exposed years ago as having lied about his contacts with Israel's Mossad. The book's title, Vengeance, is inherently biased and pejorative. Israel did not go after the terrorists out of vengeance, but rather as part of its ongoing war against terrorism.

Spielberg's screenwriter, Tony Kushner, was no better an influence than Jonas. A political ultra-leftist, Kushner co-authored the vehemently anti-Israel volume Wrestling with Zion, and is infamous for his comment that "I wish modern Israel hadn't been born."

In addition, two of Spielberg's consultants for the movie were Bill Clinton and his obedient Middle East negotiator, Dennis Ross - both of whom had their own agendas and both of whom failed to secure peace when they were in power. Spielberg's reliance on these sources for such an important film is ethically irresponsible. The bare-bones, non-technical term for Spielberg's spin is "lying". Spielberg exploits the respect and betrays the trust of audiences who believe in him.

Spielberg plays fast and loose with history most clearly when he brazenly substitutes his own political voice for Golda Meir's documented statements. On September 12, 1972, she told the Knesset: "We have no choice but to strike at the terrorist organizations wherever we can reach them. That is our obligation - to ourselves and to peace. We shall fulfil that obligation undauntedly."

Golda Meir's unwavering commitment and sense of duty are moral universes away from the equivocating words Spielberg puts in her mouth: "...every civilization finds it necessary to negotiate compromises with its own values."

Meir did not see counter-terrorism as a compromise of Jewish values, but rather as submitting to those values. There is nothing in Judaism that requires Jews to "turn the other cheek" to murderers of our people. True, Meir did not want to send Israelis to risk their lives. Nor did she want Israelis to have to kill. It was she who said to Israel's enemies, "We can forgive the Arabs for killing our children but we cannot forgive them for forcing our children to kill their children."

We Israelis do not celebrate when we kill our enemies, though our enemies celebrate when they kill us. Instead, it is a grim duty imposed on us by relentless racism and hate. Meir knew this.

The manufactured quotation is sheer moral relativism and parrots the Left's favorite theme that "violence begets violence." It is also the key message of Spielberg's turgid movie. Yet, Munich also contains graphic violence, tasteless gratuitous sex scenes, and frequent profanity that numb the mind and serve no constructive purpose.

A central theme of the movie is to make the audience believe that retributions against savage and barbaric slaughter do not deter terrorism. This concept is part of Leftist anti-war appeasement and a defeatist philosophy that blames victims of aggression. But Spielberg offers no proof that this is true. The West made a major mistake in Munich when it appeased Hitler and failed to stop him before he became more powerful. We do not hear Spielberg argue for post-9/11 negotiations with Osama Bin-Laden. Spielberg, typical of so many "progressive" liberals, would like Israel to adopt his appeasement philosophy, while he sits safely and comfortably thousands miles away in his Pacific Palisade mansion, far from danger.

Spielberg told Time magazine that Munich is "a prayer for peace." But if he is truly seeking prayers for peace, he need look no further than the Jewish liturgy and the Hebrew Bible for both wisdom and balance. America's Founding Fathers said: rebellion to tyrants is obedience to God. There is also the truism: "He who is compassionate to the cruel will ultimately become cruel to the compassionate."

[Part 1 of 2; First published in The American Thinker.]