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Letters of 01/12/06

January 12, 2006
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No Real Threat to Israel in Spielberg’s Movie

Regarding “What’s Worth Getting Upset About?” (A Matter of Opinion, Dec. 29): Jonathan Tobin is entitled to his view of the film “Munich.” What he should not do is impugn my motives as to why I don’t see the movie as he does.

My opinion of “Munich” has nothing to do with being unwilling to take on Steven Spielberg or some left-wing bias, as Tobin asserts. I have a long record of criticizing individuals or institutions on the left and right, powerful or not, if I deem it important to do so.

I believe Tobin mischaracterizes the movie. There is nothing flattering about Palestinian terrorists in the film, despite one speech defending the Palestinian cause. They are depicted as terrorists over and over, with repeated flashbacks to the Munich horror and clips of other Palestinian terror.

There’s also no denial of Israel’s right to defend itself against terror. Clearly, Israel is depicted as having good reason to do so. What the film does raise is how Israel goes about getting the terrorists, and what the impact is on those involved in such actions. These are legitimate questions asked by many Israelis, and while my answers to such questions might not be the same as Spielberg’s, I don’t find his to be anti-Israel.

Furthermore, to suggest that the film has an anti-Zionist spirit is a stretch. It’s true that it does not present the beautiful Israel we always prefer to see. Still, the notion that in light of brutal Palestinian terror — and with the memory of the Holocaust as a backdrop — that Jews need to be strong and hard (while at the same time engaging in internal debates as to the wisdom and ethics of how they act) is hardly anti-Zionistic. Indeed, without that trait, Israel would have disappeared long ago.

As to Tobin’s view that I should have been more critical of this film than Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ,” the comparison is faulty. It is not a question of saying that terrorism is a greater threat than anti-Semitic canards. Both are threats to the Jewish people. ADL combats Islamic extremism, as well as Christian ideas about Jewish responsibility for the death of Jesus.

Gibson’s film perpetuated and reinforced old prejudices. Spielberg’s work may have raised questions, but it did not engage in anti-Jewish or anti-Israeli storytelling.

Finally, I do not see the film as a defeat for Israel. I strongly believe there is a struggle going on about Israel in the world of ideas, and I like to believe that ADL has long played a significant role in helping Israel win that struggle.

“Munich,” in my view, is not such a defeat. 
Abraham H. Foxman 
National director 
Anti-Defamation League

Editor’s Response: Contrary to Abraham Foxman’s assertion, far from impugning his motives, I wrote not a word about them and stuck to the merits (or lack thereof) of his comments.

Whatever his agenda here might be, his decision to turn a blind eye to the impact of a film whose mainstreaming of anti-Zionism has been denounced by writers from the Jewish right, center and left remains both puzzling and troubling. 

Criticism of Many-Voiced ‘Munich’ — Just Paranoia

All I have to say to Jonathan Tobin is: Get over yourself! How paranoid can you be?

I find it ridiculous that he says “Spielberg even uses an image of a still-standing World Trade Center to punctuate a scene in which Avner rejects Israel to lead us to falsely think 9/11 might have been avoided had America also abandoned the Jewish state.”

I take the closing scene of the New York skyline that includes the World Trade Center to show us that the struggle continues to this day. It’s as simple as that.

I wish I could personally thank Steven Spielberg for making this movie. He did an excellent job of interjecting many voices into the film through its characters.

Bravo to him! 
Rebecca Zucker 
San Francisco 

Thank You for a Similar Take on Spielberg Movie

We saw the movie “Munich” last week and came away feeling very let down.

Then we read Jonathan Tobin’s column on this picture, and he expressed our thoughts (A Matter of Opinion: “Immoral Equivalence,” Dec. 22), for which we can only say thank you. 
Patricia Rubenstein 
Harold Pincus
 
Philadelphia 

Human, Sure, but It’s Really a Question of Evil

For Steven Spielberg to say that Palestinian terrorists are human beings because they have families is absurd (A Matter of Opinion: “Immoral Equivalence,” Dec. 22).

The same thing can be said about the Ku Klux Klan and the rest of the lynch mobs in the South. They had families, too. So did Hitler and the Nazis.

But just because someone has a family doesn’t mean they’re not evil.

There is no equivalence between the terrorists and the people who fight them.

There is more of an equivalence between the Palestinian terrorists, the KKK and the Nazis; all three are cut from the same cloth. 
Stacey Tabak 
Philadelphia 

Been There, Done That: Can’t We Move Forward?

I’m tortured by these critical columns against Steven Spielberg’s “Munich.”

Make no mistake, I have complete sympathy with Jonathan Tobin’s thoughts.

On the other hand, these critical articles play right into the hands of the movie-makers.

The film is now considered “controversial.”

Perhaps this means that Spielberg will be considered a “martyr” in the “just” battle waged by the left against the “neo-cons.”

I think we’ve been there and done that too many times.

Can’t we just ignore these guys? Hopefully, they will die of neglect. 
Elliot Gordon 
New York

 

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