Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Spielberg's Munich: ADL's Foxman responds to the Jerusalem Post

In response to this article.

Foxman's response:

Letters to the Editor
The Jerusalem Post

To the Editor:

Jonathan Tobin is entitled to his view of Munich ("Worth getting upset about," Dec. 29). What he should not do is impugn my motives in not seeing the movie as he does. My opinion of it has nothing to do with being unwilling to take on Steven Spielberg, or left-wing bias. I have a long record of criticizing individuals or institutions on the Left and the Right, powerful or not, when I deem it important.

I believe Tobin mischaracterizes the movie. There is nothing flattering about Palestinian terrorists in it, 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 terrorism.

There is 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. These are legitimate questions which many Israelis ask, and while my answers 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. True, it does not present the beautiful Israel we prefer to see, but the notion that in light of brutal Palestinian terror, and with the memory of the Holocaust as backdrop, Jews need to be strong and hard - while at the same time engaging in internal debate over the wisdom and ethics of how they act - is hardly anti-Zionism. 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 of 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 reinforced old prejudices. Spielberg's may have raised questions, but it did not engage in anti-Jewish or anti-Israeli storytelling.

Finally, I do not see Munich 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.

Abraham H. Foxman

National Director