Spielberg and his screenwriter (Marxist playwright Tony "Angels in America" Kushner) not only ignore but also distort this crucial context. Instead, they traffic in the hoariest anti-Semitic stereotypes, showing the coldly calculating Jews computing the cost of their operation in dollars ($352,000 for an assassination in Rome) as they demand their eye-for-an-eye, their pound of flesh, to balance the crimes of Munich. The filmmakers remain so focused on their violence-begets-violence formula, they suggest that Israeli killing of Black September leaders produced even more brutal reactions; "I think they're trying to talk to us," says a member of the Israeli hit team, scanning headlines of some new Palestinian outrage.
The historical record shows, though, that tough responses to terrorist provocation sharply reduce violence. In Striking Back, a new book about the real Israeli reaction to Munich, Aaron Klein (of Time's Jerusalem bureau) reports that pursuing terrorists after 1972 led to dramatic declines in attacks on Israelis. If nothing else, aggressive tactics against murderous plotters keep them busy trying to stay alive, making it harder to develop plots. Recently, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's resolute reply to the latest Palestinian intifada, including targeted killings and construction of an anti-terrorism barrier, served to bring that uprising to an end and to produce dramatically enhanced security in Israel. Similarly, most Americans understand that efforts to kill or capture Osama bin Laden serve to protect all of us, not just gratify a desire for revenge.
The widespread criticism of Spielberg's film by Israelis (including the consul general in Los Angeles) and friends of Israel raises serious questions about its prospects for Oscar nominations. Hollywood Jews make up a significant segment of the Academy's membership, so their reaction to the movie's much-debated themes might impact its chances. After all, perceived anti-Semitic elements in last year's The Passion of the Christ helped ensure that Mel Gibson's successful release received only three minor technical Oscar nominations. While The Passion drew criticism for unflattering portrayals of Judean religious authorities 2,000 years ago, Munich slurs current day Israelis and (in a totally fictitious slam) even shows its main character so disgusted with his homeland that he refuses to return.
If, as expected, Munich wins major Oscar nods, it will reveal far more about the nature of Hollywood than it will about the movie. Despite prominence of Jews in the entertainment establishment, Munich represents the first big-budget, big-studio release centered on the Jewish state since Cast a Giant Shadow 40 years ago. This in itself should rebut the tired mantra that "Jews control Hollywood," but nominations for Spielberg's "prayer for peace" will do even more to show the distance between the thinking of today's Tinseltown and traditional Zionism.
The readiness to embrace a leftist message movie such as Munich- with its implicit critique of the Bush administration's harsh, violent response to terrorism - indicates that it's utopian liberalism, rather than any form of Jewish commitment, represents the reigning faith of the entertainment elite.