This film could have been titled “There Will Be Beef.”
Steven Spielberg's "Munich" is an act of courage and conscience. The director of "Schindler's List," the founder of the Shoah Foundation, the most successful and visible Jew in the world of film, has placed himself between Israel and the Palestinians, looked at decades of terrorism and reprisal, and had one of his characters conclude, "There is no peace at the end of this." Spielberg's film has been called an attack on the Palestinians and he has been rebuked as "no friend of Israel." By not taking sides, he has taken both sides.
The film has deep love for Israel, and contains a heartfelt moment when a mother reminds her son why the state had to be founded: "We had to take it because no one would ever give it to us. Whatever it took, whatever it takes, we have a place on earth at last." With this statement, I believe, Spielberg agrees to the bottom of his soul. Yet his film questions Israel's policy of swift and full retribution for every attack.
"Munich" opens with a heart-stopping re-enactment of the kidnapping and deaths of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics. It then shows Prime Minister Golda Meir (Lynn Cohen) with her cabinet, stating firmly, "Forget peace for now." It shows the formation of a secret Israeli revenge squad to kill those responsible. It concludes that although nine of the 11 were eventually eliminated, they were replaced and replaced again by men even more dangerous, while the terrorists responded with even more deaths. What was accomplished?
The movie is based upon a book by George Jonas, a 1956 Hungarian freedom fighter, now a conservative Toronto political writer, who has been an acquaintance for 25 years. I thought to ask him what he thought of Spielberg's view of his material, but I didn't. I wanted to review the movie as an interested but not expert outsider, sharing (with most of the film's audience) not a great deal more knowledge than the film supplies. Those who know more, who know everything, are often the wrong ones to consult about a film based on fact. The task of the director is to transmute fact into emotions and beliefs -- and beliefs, we need to be reminded, are beliefs precisely because they are not facts.