“The Torah is a Torah of balance, of the balancing of contradictory ideas and philosophies. Not exercising power is suicide for Israel and the Jewish world in today’s world of terrorism, profound danger and existentialist threats.” These are the words of Rabbi Berel Wein, noted educator, scholar, historian and speaker in a recent edition of the Jerusalem Post. Of course, in reality this has always been the case throughout Jewish history, but with a significant difference. For, most times Jews were powerless and Jewish reaction to this condition was well defined.
Psychological responses to insecurity and trauma are well known: self-hatred and blame, identification with and appeasement of abusers, obsessive fantasy of a future paradise on earth. These solutions and responses are so integrated into the Jewish psyche that they have been passed down from generation to generation, displaying themselves even in relatively free societies, even in America and the recently ‘liberated’ homeland, Israel.
During this past Chanukah, the much credited film producer, Steven Spielberg elected to release “Munich”, his version of the Israeli response to the monstrous Arab terrorist assassination of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympic Games held in Munich. Spielberg has long been a supporter of Israel by way of huge financial donations. Why then create a flawed and heavily distorted version of the facts? Why argue the Arab position whereby terrorism is justified given Israel’s “occupation of Arab lands”? In his guilt ridden mind, not confronting terrorism realizes peace, never mind that history has clearly demonstrated the opposite. Perhaps the best case of what appeasement wrought, ironically occurred in Munich with Chamberlain’s appeasement of Hitler.
Apparently, to Spielberg, as to so many Jews who embrace contemporary liberalism, Israel has acceptance as long as she does not exhibit the power referred to by Rabbi Wein and becomes an embarrassment when she does. To Steven Spielberg, there is no recognition of the fact that many more Israelis have been murdered or maimed in the 12 years after the Oslo Accords than in the previous 12 years.
It surely was no accident that Spielberg selected playwright Tony Kushner. An extreme detractor of Israel, Kushner has repeatedly said the creation of that nation was a “mistake” and, has associated himself (as an Advisory Board member) with the Jewish Voice for Peace, a radical organization advocating divestment and boycott campaigns against Israel. He is a master at engaging contemporary liberalism’s ugly sister, moral relativism.
Thus, one observes at the film’s commencement, photos of the terrorists cast against those of the slain Israeli athletes! To expand this grotesque scene, the audience is shown the grieving relatives on both sides. Undoubtedly, the lack of a semblance of Jewish education dismisses Isaiah’s observation, “woe unto them that call evil good and good evil”.
The story is said to be “inspired by” the events at the Munich Olympics in 1972, when Black September, one of the most ruthless and violent Palestinian terrorist organizations, took 11 Israeli Olympic athletes hostage, before killing all of them. Two were murdered by the terrorists at the Olympic village and the others were killed by the terrorists at a German airport, where the terrorists were expecting to be taken by plane to an Arab country. On the tarmac, under fire from German policy, terrorists threw a hand grenade into one helicopter with Israeli hostages and opened fire on a helicopter with the others.
The bodies of five dead terrorists, killed by German police, were sent to Libya, where they were given a hero’s funeral. Three surviving terrorists were sent to jail in Germany but never stood trial. When a German Lufthansa jet was hijacked seven weeks later and the hijackers demanded freedom for the three terrorists, the German government let them go.
The 1999 Academy Award-winning documentary, One Day in September, examines these events in graphic detail. The film even says the German government, which refused to permit any Israeli involvement in a hostage rescue mission, colluded in the plane hijacking and freedom for the three captured terrorists.
This is the kind of appeasement policy that Spielberg seems to be advocating in his film. Indeed, following the successful and factual “One Day in September”, why was it necessary for the creation of “Munich”? Obviously, for Spielberg, a left wing agenda is far more important than an accurate account.
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 fulfill 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.
When Israel won the Yom Kippur War, when it hunted down the Olympic terrorists, when it invaded Lebanon and had Yasser Arafat in its sites in Beirut, the world respected Israel – and so did its Islamic enemies. And terrorist attacks stopped or slowed. When Israel showed weakness – signing empty peace treaties, like Oslo; pulling out of Southern Lebanon in an hour; and giving away Gaza – the world disdained Israel, and so did the Palestinian terrorists.
But all of this is lost on Spielberg as he joins the chorus in the cycle of violence mantra. Throughout the movie, Spielberg portrays the Israeli agents selected by Gold Meir to hunt down the PLO murderers as being filled with doubt and discomfort. It is as if he is projecting his own insecurity on them. Considering his majestic production of “Schindler’s List”, it does seem strange that he should be at once a victim of a malady described by psychiatric physicians as “the psyche of the abused”.
As noted by an eminent Harvard psychiatrist, Dr. Kenneth Levin, “this response is one widely noted and studied in children subjected to an early abuse and other traumas; an inclination to blame themselves for their misfortune. The judging of fellow Jews and Jewish institutions by a harsher standard than the judging of others is a manifestation of this behavior pattern. Further, states Dr. Levin, it “is seen not only in alienated Jews but also in people who value their Jewish identity and their connections with the Jewish community, even people who dedicate themselves to promoting the welfare of the Jewish community.”
Having concerned himself so deeply with the Holocaust, the lessons to be drawn from this tragedy have undoubtedly eluded Spielberg, and most certainly the cry “Never Again”. Interestingly enough, the words of a left leading Israeli novelist have been lost on Spielberg. Aharon Megged observed, “We have witnessed a phenomenon which probably has no parallel in history, an emotional and moral identification by the majority of Israel’s intelligentsia with people openly committed to our annihilation.”