Israel’s actual motivation – preventing
From early on in ‘Munich’, the film suggests that
Israel was motivated by revenge in its search for those behind
the massacre. A speech by Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir
gives this impression. Dialogue at different points in the film
among the Mossad team gives this impression. And at one point
one of the assassins admits that the only blood that “matters”
to him is “Jewish blood”.
Israelis involved in the actual events following the massacre
are unanimous in denying that Israel was motivated by revenge.
They maintain that Israel needed to act because it genuinely
feared further atrocities in Europe, threatened by Palestinian
Black September, the group behind the Munich massacre.
David Kimche: In 1972 David Kimche was a senior
Mossad operative. He later became the deputy director of the
organisation. He is currently a liberal Israeli commentator
on Israeli-Palestinian affairs. Kimche explains that Israel’s
response post-Munich was driven by the need to prevent further
“There was a lot of intelligence suggesting that Munich
was just the beginning and that these people were planning more
assassinations of Jewish people and Israelis abroad. We felt
we had to do whatever we could to prevent it….”
(quoted in Jerusalem Report, 9 January 2006)
Aaron Klein: Klein is the author of the recently
published book ‘Striking Back: The 1972 Munich Olympics
Massacre and Israel’s Deadly Response’. Based on
detailed interviews with many Israelis involved with the operation,
“The Israelis were concerned about the possibility of
another, even bigger Munich….. They wanted to prevent
and deter…..” (quoted in Jerusalem Report, 9 January
Israeli journalist Leslie Susser: Susser interviewed
Mossad leaders and academics in 2005 about the assassinations
(see Jerusalem Report, 9 January 2006). Susser observes:-
“Former Mossad operatives and Israeli researchers unanimously
label as “a myth” the suggestion that Prime Minister
Meir drew up a hit list of Palestinians involved in Munich,
with vengeance as her main motive. On the contrary, the Israelis
went after the Palestinians connected with Black September,
or other radical groups, whether or not they had had a role
in Munich. Targets were chosen primarily for operational reasons,
rather than retribution…
…. Under the circumstances, assassination was the only
effective response, former Mossad operatives argue. Appealing
to the host countries in Europe was futile, as they did nothing
to help. The three members of the Black September hit team captured
alive in Munich, for example, were released less than two months
later, in exchange for hostages from a hijacked Lufthansa plane…..”
Susser quotes a Mossad agent on the post-Munich period: “…
Black September terrorists were living in Europe with no sense
of fear for their own safety until we started going after them.
The targeted killings threw them off balance; they began to
fear for their lives. And because there were so few of them,
each hit had a tremendous impact. Mossad operations made it
difficult for them to run offices in Europe, and eventually
the terror stopped…..”
This version of events is completely ignored in ‘Munich’.
The George Jonas book – a suspect source of information
Rather than speaking with those involved in the Mossad at the
time, and providing a historical context, the film-makers use
as their source of “inspiration” a 1984 book by
Canadian journalist George Jonas called ‘Vengeance’.
The book is based on an account by a supposed former Mossad
agent called Yuval Aviv who claimed to have been involved in
post-Munich events. Typical of Israeli comments about the Jonas
book are the following:-
David Kimche: “’Vengeance’
by George Jonas is based on the story of a Mossad faker. That
person [Yuval Aviv] never set foot in the Mossad, never had
anything to do with the Mossad. That account is completely false…”
(Jerusalem Post, 24 January 2006)
Simon Reeve: Reeve, the author of a 2000 book
about the massacre, called One Day In September, states: “I
find it very surprising that Spielberg has selected Vengeance
as the source material for ‘Munich’. There have
always been questions and concerns about that book…. I
have read it and re-read it, and went through the whole process
of trying to establish which bits were true. But, eventually
I turned to other sources.....” (Jerusalem Post, 24 January
Yarin Kimor: Kimor, described as one of Israel’s
leading experts on the Munich massacre, is reported to have
been “surprised” by the decision to use Vengeance
as the basis for ‘Munich’. While disagreeing with
Kimche that Aviv had never been in the Mossad at all, Kimor
says that Aviv was “not very senior” and that he
“hears all sorts of things about him”.
The makers of Munich have relied upon a dubious source of information
provided by a single individual. They did not speak to Israelis
actually involved, and ignored Israel’s perspective.
Below we provide a review of the film by commentator Charles
Krauthammer, which highlights further problematic features of
Spielberg Makes Case for Palestinian Terror:
‘Munich’ contends that Israel is morally bankrupt
13 January 2006, The Washington Post
If Steven Spielberg had made a fictional movie about the psychological
disintegration of a revenge assassin, that would have been fine.
Instead he decided to call this fiction ‘Munich’
and root it in a real historical event: the 1972 massacre by
Palestinian terrorists of 11 Israeli athletes at the Munich
Olympics. Once you’ve done that, you have an obligation
to get the story right.
The only true part of the story is the few minutes spent on
the actual massacre. The rest is invention, as Spielberg delicately
puts it in the opening credits, “inspired by real events”.
By real events? Rubbish. Inspired by Tony Kushner’s belief
(he co-wrote the screenplay) that the founding of Israel was
a “historical, moral and political calamity” for
the Jewish people [These words were used in a speech made
publicly by Kushner some years ago – Beyond Images]
Munich glossed over
It is an axiom of film-making that you only care about a character
you know. In ‘Munich’ the Israeli athletes are not
only theatrical but historical extras, stick figures. Spielberg
dutifully gives us their names – Spielberg’s list
– and nothing more: no history, no context, no relationships,
nothing. They are there to die.
The Palestinians who plan the massacre and are hunted down
by Israel are given – with the concision of a gifted cinematic
craftsman – texture, humanity, depth, history. The first
Palestinian we meet is an erudite poet giving a public reading,
then acting kindly towards his Italian shopkeeper – before
he is brutally shot in cold blood by the Jews.
Then there is the elderly Palestinian Liberation Organisation
man who dotes on his 7 year old daughter before being blown
to bits. Not one of these plotters is ever shown plotting Munich
or any other atrocity for that matter.
But the most shocking Israeli brutality involves the Dutch
prostitute – apolitical, beautiful, pathetic – shot
to death, naked of course, by the now half-crazed Israelis settling
private business. The Israeli way, I suppose.
Even more egregious than the manipulation of character is the
propaganda by dialogue. The Palestinian case is made forthrightly:
the Jews stole our land and we’ve going to kill any Israeli
we can to get it back.
Those who are supposedly making the Israeli case say …..
the same thing. The hero’s mother, the pitiless, committed
Zionist, says: We needed the refuge. We seized it. Whatever
it takes to secure it. Then she ticks off members of their family
lost in the Holocaust.
Director plays on Holocaust
Spielberg makes the Holocaust the engine of Zionism and its
justification. Which of course, is the Palestinian narrative.
Indeed it is the classic narrative for anti-Zionists, most recently
the president of Iran, who says Israel should be wiped off the
map. And why not? If Israel is nothing more than Europe’s
guilt trip for the Holocaust, why should Muslims have to suffer
a Jewish state in their midst ?
It takes a Hollywood ignoramus to give flesh to the argument
of a radical anti-semitic Iranian. Jewish history did not begin
with Kristallnacht. The first Zionist Congress occurred in 1897.
The Jews fought for and received recognition for the right to
establish a “Jewish national home in Palestine”
from Britain in 1917, and from the League of Nations in 1922,
two decades before the Holocaust.
Ancient claim to homeland
But the Jewish claim is far more ancient. Israel was the ancestral
home, site of the first two commonwealths for a thousand years
– long before Arabs, long before Islam, long before the
The Roman destructions of 70AD and 135AD extinguished Jewish
independence but never the Jewish claim and the vow to return
to their home. The Jews ‘ miraculous return 2000 years
later was tragic because others had settled in the land and
had a legitimate competing claim. Which is why the Jews have
for three generations offered to partition the house. The Arab
response in every generation has been rejection, war and terror.
And Munich. Munich the massacre had only modest success in
launching the Palestinian cause with the blood of 11 Jews. ‘Munich’
the movie has now made that success complete 33 years later.
‘Munich’ now enjoys high cinematic production values
and the imprimatur of Steven Spielberg, no less, carrying the
original terrorists’ intended message to every theatre
in the world.
This is hardly surprising, considering that Munich’s
case for the moral bankruptcy of the Israeli cause – not
just the campaign to assassinate Munich’s planners but
the entire enterprise of Israel itself – is so thorough
that the movie concludes with the lead Mossad assassin, seared
by his experience, abandoning Israel forever. Where does the
hero resettle? In the only true home for the Jew of conscience,
sensitivity and authenticity: Brooklyn.