Sunday, December 25, 2005

Spielberg defends Munich..again

Entertainment: For someone who said he was only going to do one interview with a friend at Time Magazine, he is starting to show up everywhere in a bad attempt to blunt the criticism he is getting. This time he goes with another friendly Roger Ebert who does a nice job of lying what positions the critics are taking with Spielberg.

Spielberg, who is the most popular filmmaker in modern history, has regularly chosen to make serious and thoughtful films, some of limited appeal, along with his box-office blockbusters. It is striking that the director of "Jurassic Park" (1993) and the Indiana Jones movies is also the director of "Schindler's List" (1993), "The Color Purple" (1985), "Amistad" (1997) and now "Munich." "Some of my critics are asking how Spielberg, this Hollywood liberal who makes dinosaur movies, can say anything serious about this subject that baffles so many smart people. What they're basically saying is, 'You disagree with us in a big public way, and we want you to shut up, and we want this movie to go back in the can.' That's a nefarious attempt to make people plug up their ears. That's not Jewish, it's not democratic, and it's bad for everyone -- especially in a democratic society." Yet what is he saying that has people so disturbed? Careful attention to the film itself suggests that it's not so much what he says as that he dares even to open up the Middle East for discussion. "My film refuses to be a pamphlet," Spielberg said. "My screenwriter Tony Kushner and I were hoping to make it a visceral, emotional and intellectual experience, combined in such a way that it will help you get in touch with what you feel are the questions the film poses. He said he was taught by his parents, his rabbi and his faith that discussion "is the highest good -- it's Talmudic."
I have yet to see anyone "basically saying" this film should not be shown, Spielberg fall back on a typical Hollywood liberal defense of saying people who disagree with them want to censor them. Ebert then sanctimoniously says that Spielberg has become the man to open up the Middle East for conversation. That must be a surprise to those who have been discussing it for over four plus decades. As for Tony Kushner, a leftist who once said
"I think the founding of the State of Israel was for the Jewish people a historical, moral, political calamity.... I wish modern Israel hadn't been born."
and this.
In his introduction to the book, Kushner takes particular aim at those American Jews who have rallied to Israel's defense in the past three years during the Palestinian terrorist war of attrition. He rails at those Jewish writers — distinguished political liberals and conservatives alike — who signed an advertisement in the aftermath of the April 2002 "Passover massacre," in which dozens of Jews were killed. The ad condemned Palestinian terror, affirmed the justice of Israel's cause, and called on the international community to stand with Israel in a time of peril. But to Kushner, the statement was "shameful" because it did not balance condemnation of terrorism with opposition to Israeli self-defense. Specifically embracing discredited lies about Israeli "atrocities" during the course of the Operation Defensive Shield battle in Jenin, Kushner can only see the Palestinians as victims. This distorted version of the truth coming at a time of continued Palestinian rejection of peace offers and dedication to the destruction of Israel is as outrageous as it is false.
It is disturbing to think someone with views such as this is someone Spielberg wishes to work with and agrees with at various levels. Some parts of Kushner's views on Israel is in line with the most odious writings and speeches you find on Memri, anti-Israel/Jew websites.
"But what about the issue of "moral equivalence," the charge that he equates the Israeli and Palestinian causes, when the rightness of one (or the other) is seen as not debatable? "Frankly, I think that's a stupid charge. The people who attack the movie based on 'moral equivalence' are some of the same people who say diplomacy itself is an exercise in moral equivalence, and that war is the only answer. That the only way to fight terrorism is to dehumanize the terrorists by asking no questions about who they are and where they come from. "What I believe is, every act of terrorism requires a strong response, but we must also pay attention to the causes. That's why we have brains and the power to think passionately. Understanding does not require approval. Understanding is not the same as inaction. Understanding is a very muscular act. If I'm endorsing understanding and being attacked for that, then I am almost flattered."
Spielberg has no clue what he is talking about here. The moral equivalence charge comes from the fact he puts terrorists on the same level as the team sent out to respond. No one is saying not to understand the causes or dehumanize the terrorists and no one does as anyone who has read Sun Tzu Art of War about knowing the enemy. If Israel did not understand the enemy and the causes, they would have been wiped out years ago for being stupid. Spielberg does not understand or worse refuses to believe that people can reach the conclusion that killing terrorists is the best answer while making sure the capability of terrorism is severly curtailed.
In "Munich," there is a scene where Ali, a member of the Black September group that carried out the 1972 attacks, talks about his idea of a Palestinian homeland. Also a scene where Avner's mother, an original settler in Israel, defends their homeland. And a scene where an Israeli spymaster, played by Geoffrey Rush, provides a strong response to Avner's doubts. "The whole Israeli-Palestinian idea of home suggests that there are two enormously powerful desires in competition," Spielberg said. "Two rights that are in a sense competing. You can't bring that to a simplicity. The film is asking you to surrender your simplicity on both sides and just look at it again. There was an article in USA Today by a Los Angeles rabbi, accusing me of 'blind pacifism.' That's interesting, because there is not any kind of blind pacifism within me anywhere, or in 'Munich.' I feel there was a justified need to respond to the terrorism in Munich, which is why I keep replaying images of the Munich massacre throughout the movie. "In 1972, when Black September used the Olympics to announce themselves to the world, they broke all the rules and broke the boundaries of that conflict. Israel had to respond, or it would have been perceived as weak. I agree with Golda Meir's response. The thing you have to understand is, Munich is in Germany. And these were Jews dying all over again in Germany. For Israel, it was a national trauma. The Avner character, in the end, simply questions whether the response was right. "Sometimes a response can provoke unintended consequences. The Rush character and Avner's mother reply. But people feel my voice is represented in Avner. The movie says I don't have an answer. I don't know anyone else who does. But I do know that the dialogue needs to be louder than the weapons."
Ebert fails to mention this scene is made up and it proves the charge of moral equivalence and every other criticism of Spielberg/Kushner making this movie as pointed out in Time magazine.
"There is an entirely fictional scene in the movie in which Avner and his Palestinian opposite number meet and talk calmly, with the latter getting a chance to make his case for the creation of a homeland for his people. That scene means everything to Kushner and Spielberg. "The only thing that's going to solve this is rational minds, a lot of sitting down and talking until you're blue in the gills," says Spielberg. Without that exchange, "I would have been making a Charles Bronson movie--good guys vs. bad guys and Jews killing Arabs without any context. And I was never going to make that picture."
Back to his charge if the response was right and make no mistake in his mind, the response was not right. 11 of your countrymen get killed by a terrorist organization, of course you go after the group and its backers to eliminate them. But he also reveals himself to be a handwringer by stating the response has "unintended consequences" Does he really believe that Israel did not know what was going to happen? The Black September group which was an offshoot of the Arafat's PLO was already known by the time Munich happened. They tried to take over the kingdom of Jordan which resulted in King Hussein killing thousands of Palestinians to stop them. Israel did not have blinders on and their response was the best option. You cannot show weakness or doubts claiming some moral high ground as Spielberg does living far away from the conflict. The most interesting part of the article is Spielberg calling Ebert back to again cast himself as some sort of artistic martyr who is "daring" to ask the tough questions.
The telephone rang, and it was Steven Spielberg once again. After our previous conversation, I sent him a defense of "Munich" written by Jim Emerson, editor of (his article appears on the Web site). It includes quotes from many Jews highly critical of Spielberg. I heard an urgency in Spielberg's voice. "[Emerson's article] brought together some sources and some criticisms I hadn't seen," Spielberg said, "and it made me want to be more specific about the responsibility of a Jewish artist. "Everybody is sort of saying they wish I would be silent. What inspired me by what I read in Emerson's article is that silence is never good for anybody. When artists fall silent, it's scary. And when Jewish artists fall silent about Israel, it's maybe not so much because we think asking questions will do damage to Israel, but because we're intimidated by the shrillness and hysteria with which these questions are received sometimes. "And I guess, because I'm a Jewish-American artist, that means that I'm not willing to shut up because somebody who claims to speak for the Jewish community tells me to. I guess I have a very deep faith in the intelligence and in the fairness and in the intellectual courage of the Jewish community, and I know that the questions I'm posing with 'Munich' are also questions that many Jews here and in Europe and Israel are asking.
Kurt Loder of MTV points out his attitude about this film has been pretentious. He is not inventing the wheel as the first media figure to ask these questions. But he may be the first to be so damn narcissistic about it. The fact he is being slammed from all sides and getting defensive about it shows while he may have said he knew he would take hits, he did not realize the kind of hits and how hard it would be. Captains Quarters has a review of the film.
At some point in time, one hopes that Hollywood will grow up and realize that nihilism doesn't have a moral equivalency with Western values that celebrate life and civilization. Terrorism that deliberately targets women and children and non-combatants and celebrates their deaths do not and should not have the same moral standing as free nations defending those women, children, and noncombatants by killing the terrorists that prey upon them. It's this twisted moral viewpoint that destroys Munich and continues the reputation of the name as a symbol of foolish and benighted appeasement.
Reuters has interviews with Mossad members who think the film is bad nd refutes many points about the movie.
Much of the criticism from Israelis in the know focuses on the film's depiction of the moral debates that burden the team. A former Israeli special forces officer who took part in a Mossad assassination in the 1980s called this fanciful. "Look, we all did mandatory military service, we all had combat experience, and we all accepted the necessity of hitting out at our enemies. Israel is a country at war," he said. "So you go, you do the job, and you hope you'll be back in time to eat breakfast with your kids and take them to school."

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