Wednesday, February 01, 2006

"Munich": Responses

"Der Spiegel" uses Spielberg´s movie as title to last week´s print magazine with the headline: May Democracies kill Terrorists - The Ethics of Revenge.
No matter to what conclusions the fanatic pro-Israel Spiegel comes, the headlines in themselves imply the first untruths.
Can there ever be an ethic in revenge?
Even the old Vikings with their very low threshold in refraining from killing came to conclusion that in the long run the circle of revenge and counter-revenge must be broken or it would destroy both parties and they invented a compensation system and a neutral court, which actually was the primare function of "Althingi" the parliament.
Mahatma Ghandi thought, that with the rule of an eye for an eye, everybody would go blind in the end. Revenge imprisons people in a vicious circle with no way out of violence and bloodshed, no hope for peace. How can anybody presume this was ethical.
And who has the ethics on his side. The Israeli death-squad revenging the kidnappings and killings of those Israeli athletes or the kidnappers revenging the far higher death-toll of the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land and the eviction of the Palestinians from their land with the help of rape, murder and massacres?
Then the assumptions of the first question: Who actually are the terrorists. Are agents acting for a state less terrorists than other agents acting for a national liberation movement? Both are killing for their political goals.
And then, what actually is a democracy?
Is it a country where people can go to elections and make a cross behind some name or the name of a party?
Well, then just about every country in the world has some kind of elections and should be called a democracy.
Isn't the minimum requirement for a country to be called a democracy that is has equal legal rights for all its citizens and protects those rights. And Israel even fails in this minimum, by discriminating with written laws against it´s non-Jewish citizens.
But then words like democracy, freedom and justice have turned into Orwellian phrases with no meaning at all, phrases just to be used to justify the powers of the powerful.

Here are other responses to "Munich".
For instance a review by Lydia Howell, a Minneapolis-based journalist and host of KFAI radio's "Catalyst: Politics & Culture."

Israeli hardliners have little to fear from Spielberg's excursion into the political thriller genre, a bloody philosophy lesson from which only the most dedicated and sophisticated viewers will be able to discern any worthwhile, deeper meaning...........
Some Israelis (such as Ehud Danoch, the Israeli Consul-General in Los Angeles) have slammed Spielberg for making Israeli and Palestinian violence seem "equivalent" -- a totally absurd claim to anyone who's actually seen the film. In fact, Munich virtually omits "the Palestinian side" of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. There's just one brief exchange, between the film's lead Israeli agent and a Palestinian, where the Palestinian expresses longing for a "homeland" and makes a fierce declaration that "Israel will eventually lose to the Palestinians, even if it takes a 100 years." It's a startling moment, because it's the only time a Palestinian speaks. Otherwise, Palestinians are portrayed in the usual way: nameless thugs "speaking gibberish" (untranslated Arabic) who commit "senseless" acts of brutality against Jews........
Avner (Eric Bana), the lead agent who serves as our primary lens, ultimately takes his wife and child out of Israel and moves them to Brooklyn. He must visit them in secret, and none of them seem "at home" away from Israel. There is the looming irony that perhaps in attempting to avenge his homeland, it is lost to him forever. But most disturbing to this viewer is that, in the film's final scene, it's still not his own violent acts that apparently haunt Avner, only the Palestinians' slaughter of the Israeli Olympic team. This should mollify Spielberg's pro-Israel critics. In a clumsy, ham-fisted display of propaganda, he saves the bloodiest flashback of all for last, with Avner "remembering" Munich, while having sex with his wife in Brooklyn. It would have made more sense, psychologically, dramatically, and morally, if he had been reminded instead of the blood-spattered, bullet-ridden female assassin they deliberately left naked, or the Palestinian couple they shot dead in bed.

In short, Munich is neither the equal of Schindler's List nor Saving Private Ryan, both of which showed more courage and complexity, with memorable characters entangled in moral ambivalence. It is more interesting than most action movies and is still worth seeing, but Munich doesn't do justice to the Palestinian/Israeli conflict. That's too bad, because Steven Spielberg might be the only American filmmaker able to get both the cash and the audience to put a new perspective before the American people.

A response from a Socialist Site by David Walsh

.......One can find fault with Spielberg and principal screenwriter Tony Kushner (Angels in America) on a number of grounds. Although there are references to the origins of the state of Israel, the film tends to suggest that the history of violence in the region began in Munich in 1972. In fact, the establishment of the Zionist state meant the expulsion of some 800,000 Palestinians. In 1946, Jews owned less than 12 percent of the land in the area that became Israeli territory; that figure rose to 77 percent after the 1948-49 war.

Palestinians fled their land in large measure out of fear of Zionist violence. In the notorious massacre at Deir Yassin in April 1948, Menachem Begin’s Irgun group massacred 250 men, women and children. This widely publicized event was part of a deliberate effort to terrorize the Arabs and empty Palestine of its population. Over a two-year period from 1947 to 1949, the Zionists destroyed and depopulated more than 400 Arab villages, systematically replacing them with Jewish communities. By 1972, then, masses of Palestinians had been living miserably in refugee camps distributed throughout the region for more than two decades. They had only recently taken up arms against their condition.

The killing of the Israeli athletes was an atrocity (how many were killed by Palestinians and how many by German police snipers remains unknown), but the ultimate responsibility for the violence lies with the Zionist authorities and their backers in Washington and elsewhere.

Moreover, it is reasonable to assume, and research apparently backs this up, that the decision taken by Meir was only in part a specific response to the Munich events. These rather provided the moral and political pretext for the Israelis to eliminate a portion of the Palestinian leadership, many of whom had nothing whatsoever to do with the Olympic hostage-taking. Avner raises this issue in the film, but, again, the reference is only a fleeting one........

And a response by Steven Spielberg himself in which he ends all speculation of the movie being pro-Palestinian or at least somehow neutral to both sides:

"I am as truly pro-Israeli as you can possibly imagine ... But there is a constituency that nothing you can say or do will ever satisfy." Spielberg himself admits that the silliest aspect of this whole buzz ball is that one faction is accusing him of "moral equivalency" - in other words, of making like Switzerland and refusing to pick a side. "Frankly," he tells Ebert, "I think that's a stupid charge." The film is meant to be critical of Israel, he says – but in the nicest, gentlest, most puppy-dogs-and-ice-cream, appropriate for a 10 year old's birthday party way possible.