Schindler’s List – and then what happened?

Where is the other half of the story – the glory that is Israel? If they can’t love us, then teach them to respect us, even to fear us.

Jack Engelhard

OpEds Steven Spielberg
Steven Spielberg
צילום: מתוך האתר האישי

“Schindler’s List” has been remastered and is being shown again in limited release, and its director, Stephen Spielberg, names it his finest achievement.

Absolutely so. Job well done…and the film ought to be shown over and over again to remind the world what happened.

So what’s my complaint?

Nothing much…except that in the 25 years since it first came out, what’s changed? Nothing. Anti-Semitism is still around, ugly as ever, and gaining.

That wasn’t supposed to happen. Spielberg himself thought the movie might change things. Good intentions. But no such luck.

The movie first came out in 1993, and I remember how I cringed watching it, and in today’s mostly favorable re-review of it in the LA Times, writer Akiva Gottlieb mentions something about Jews being portrayed in the film as “lesser people,” which explains why I cringed. Well, yes, we were down and out, up to and during the Holocaust.

But before that we were Europe’s most upright and honorable citizens…doctors, attorneys, judges, scientists, musicians, soldiers, and just plain people being creative and living well.

From one university to the next, we were Europe’s leading professors, especially in Berlin.

That is not the image we get, not through Spielberg, nor through nearly all the other Holocaust films which show us as 90-pound weaklings and skeletons piled up in heaps.   

We need the Sequel.

Obviously, it is necessary to show the harrowing scenes…yes, that is what they did to us…but the effect can be numbing…and that is not who we were or what we are.

In other words, where is the other half of the story – the glory that is Israel? If they can’t love us, then teach them to respect us, even to fear us.

Where is THAT movie?

Instead, Spielberg (in 2005) then gives us “Munich.” Yes, it’s about Israel. But in the hands of leftist screenwriter Tony Kushner, who reportedly once said he wished Israel had never been born – what was Spielberg thinking? – the IDF (or secret service) comes across as mostly the bad guys, at best as ambivalent
Whatever Spielberg did in 1993, he undid in 2005. It’s as if Hollywood can’t leave it alone; anything that might cast Israel favorably, let alone heroically.
avengers on the trail of the PLO, which committed the massacre against 11 Israeli Olympians at Munich, 1972.

My column at that time, “Spielberg is no friend of Israel,” was read, I am told, by everyone in Hollywood -- including Spielberg.

So whatever Spielberg did in 1993, he undid in 2005. It’s as if Hollywood can’t leave it alone; anything that might cast Israel favorably, let alone heroically.

There has always got to be a catch. I should know. So the rest of this column is MOVIE TALK.

To get a glimpse at the “in development” process, back we go to the late 1980s and mazel tov…Hollywood bought the rights to my novel, “Indecent Proposal.” Those are good days. They don’t tell us much. We need Variety to tell us. Once he sells his book to Hollywood, the writer is generally out of the loop and kept in the dark.

One reason for this may seem strange. But here’s the secret –

Hollywood suffers from an inferiority complex. Over there, they feel outclassed and overmatched by what they call “New York Writers.” To them, we are the real deal.

When filming starts, Principal Photography, they want us nowhere near the set.

But, back at the ranch, as the film is in development, that doesn’t stop the family from sitting around the kitchen table guessing who would play the leads.

For my Ibrahim Hassan character, the Arab prince who has too much money, I’m guessing Omar Sharif or Armand Assante. For my Jewish Joshua Kane, who doesn’t have enough, I’m guessing a younger Paul Newman, maybe Dustin Hoffman. But for the blonde American beauty, who stands between these two in their test of wills, that’s easy…Michelle Pfeiffer.   

But then, three things. First, the screenwriter. I thought she’d be good. I’d read that she’d made a movie about Beethoven. What could be better? Except that her Beethoven was a dog.

Next, I get a call from a producer who says he’s just finished my novel, and did not know that the book celebrates Israel. “Your Joshua Kane,” he says, “is a flaming Zionist.”

So? So get ready for anything.

Joshua Kane…Holocaust survivor…American…but volunteered and served heroically with the IDF in 1967 and again in 1973…was to be my bridge between the fallen Jews of Europe and the arisen Jews of Israel. I needed the King David Jew to be the final thought of the novel, and then the final scenes of the movie.

Then one morning, Leslie says, INTUITIVELY, “Don’t be surprised if they turn everyone into modern-day whitebreads.” Which they did.

No complaints. The check cleared and the movie starring Robert Redford, Demi Moore and Woody Harrelson was a record-breaking smash hit. So was the book.

The movie was released in 1993, the same year as Spielberg’s “Schindler’s List.” Is there, then, a message?

For me, it means a chance to do it again, and do it right. We hear that Paramount is in the process of re-making “Indecent Proposal.”

Does this new screenwriter appreciate the difference between a dog and a composer?

This time will Israel get into the picture as the bright half of our Jewish story? As I intended when I first started writing it partly in Philly and partly at the Navy base in Haifa.

Then Spielberg – Jews as blameless victims? You did it and did it well. It was right for its time.

But now’s the time to show the Jews as warriors defending a people thrilled to be back home after centuries on the run.

You deserve a chance to set the record straight. So do they.

New York-based bestselling American novelist Jack Engelhard writes regularly for Arutz Sheva.

He is the author of the international book-to-movie bestseller “Indecent Proposal” and most recently “News Anchor Sweetheart.” Contemporaries have hailed him “The last Hemingway, a writer without peer, and the conscience of us all.” Engelhard is the recipient of the Ben Hecht Award for Literary Excellence. Website: