"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; I am a diasporan Jew, not a Zionist...I wish Jerusalem was an international city under a U.N. protectorate; and I wish the Museum of the Holocaust in Washington was a Museum of the Jewish-American Experience instead, with a holocaust wing, and I wish it stood on the Mall alongside museums devoted to the sufferings and triumphs of other ethnic-American groups, including a museum of the African-American experience, with a Slavery wing." - Tony Kushner
Thus speaks the man who will be doing the final draft for the screenplay of Steven Spielberg's new movie on the Munich massacre. The movie however will not be about the massacre of Israel Olympic athletes. Don't imagine that Steven Spielberg and Kushner will want to show the bravery of the athletes or the evil of their killers or the complicity of the German government in the massacre. Not at all.
The original draft by Eric Roth would have allotted 15 minutes of the massacre. 15 minutes of the movie. This Spielberg determined was too much. So speaks the New York Times article
"In Mr. Roth's script, for instance, the Munich killings dominated the first 15 minutes of the movie. Mr. Spielberg, the readers said, was still weighing how to depict the massacre without minimizing its power, but also without overpowering the audience."
Now Spielberg who had no trouble devoting the opening of 'Saving Private Ryan' to bloody and horrific scenes of the invasion of Normandy including shots that featured a soldier's intestines spilling out of his stomach, is now worried about 'overpowering' the audience by showing the actual massacre of Israeli athletes. Whenever directors talk about showing scenes without minimizing their power, what they really mean is they want to minimize their power so it does not overshadow their film's agenda which is to diminish the suffering of the victims and the evil of their killers.
Instead of being about the massacre of Israeli athletes the movie will be about the Mossad agents sent out to assassinate the terrorists feeling guilty and ambivalent about their missions. As Michael Oren points out:
"It's the flip side of the rationally motivated Palestinian terrorist: you can't have a Jew going to exact vengeance and not feel guilt-ridden about it, and you can't have a Palestinian who's operating out of pure evil - it's got to be the result of some trauma."
Spielberg's Holocaust film was predictably not about Jews resisting the Holocaust but about Schindler, a non-Jew intervening to save Jews. Indeed a serious movie about the Jewish resistance has yet to be made. Hollywood Holocaust movies show Jews mainly as helpless victims. American liberal Jews like Spielberg remain uncomfortable with the idea of Jews as victors. The image of Jews hunting down their killers is an uncomfortable one, whether those killers are Nazis or Arab terrorists. Ultimately the Jews must suffer and pay the price and if they are to kill, the lesson that comes out of it is that killing is evil and that the Jews who kill even in self-defense are scarred by it.
What is the real concern of Spielberg's film? It is not to commemorate the dead. It is not to condemn the massacre. It is certainly not to show the heroism of those who avenged and eliminated the PLO terrorists. We can see the goal of a project by its consultants. Spielberg has not consulted with the Mossad agents themselves. He has not consulted with Israelis. According to the article his consultants appear to be former Clinton administration officials, Dennis Ross, former Clinton White House spokesman Mike McCurry and Bill Clinton himself. What do any of these people have to do with the Munich massacre?
Ross for example was 23 when the massacre happened. He's certainly not there to provide input on the massacre of Israeli athletes or even the followup events. Nor are any of the others. They are there to achieve Spielberg's real goal which is to produce a movie that he believes will make a specific statement about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Bringing on board Clinton administration officials who had key involvement in the peace process serves that goal, the goal being propaganda not history. In The Last Days Spielberg attempted to endorse the fiction of a black brigade liberating Auschwitz to promote Black Jewish relations. It is safe to say that we can expect much grander dissembling here.
"By experiencing how the implacable resolve of these men to succeed in their mission slowly gave way to troubling doubts about what they were doing, I think we can learn something important about the tragic standoff we find ourselves in today," Spielberg said.
The message of course here is that 'violence' is not the answer. Violence being any Israeli attempt at self-defense. The point of the movie is to learn 'something important.' Not to commemorate the dead. Not to remember a horrific act of violence. But to learn that fighting terrorism is not the answer. Only making concessions to terrorism works. That is why Clinton's little men are his advisers, so he can hammer that message home to American and Israeli Jews who may have gotten hawkish on terror.
That is why Kushner, who hopes Israel will no longer exist, was brought in to humanize the terrorists, which we are assured will not increase sympathy for them in any way. The proper response to terrorism in the liberal mindset is defeatism. It is a recognition that your murderers have a good point and they can't possibly be beaten. Instead they must be conceded to. By transforming Israel's assault on the terrorists into a defeat, Spielberg can cinematically redefine one more event in Israeli history as evidence that Israel must give in to the terrorists. That the book Spielberg is relying on has been discredited, that the agent who serves as his adviser was never in the Mossad, but circulated stories about it in order to gain work and fame are irrelevant because the objective is not history but another plot twist in the long running bomb the 'Peace Process.'
If Spielberg has chosen to prostitute his talents as the Leni Riefensthal of Oslo it is not coming off a career high. A.I. was a disaster at the box office, so was the Terminal. Catch Me If You Can was obscure and Minority Report was far from the success Spielberg films have traditionally enjoyed. Spielberg's star is fading and a film in which he advocates the liberal Jewish agenda may not be a box office success but it will surely cement his ideological reputation particularly in the wake of the flak he caught for supporting the Bush administration's invasion of Iraq.
Hollywood people tend to fall into the trap of thinking of themselves as more than actors and directors but as activists with a responsibility to speak out on issues and change the world. After what he and many feel are his successes in the Holocaust and World War II, his next step may be to tackle the Oslo frontier.