Munich

The Steven Spielberg film "Munich" is, in my judgment, as good as any film Spielberg has ever produced. I went to see it with very mixed emotions, thinking it might unfairly represent Israel’s position regarding swift response to terrorism. I am quite sure that I am not able to appreciate every political nuance, or the intricate issues of intelligence as carried out by the Mossad, Israel’s equivalent of our CIA. Several related issues raised by the film struck me as well done. In the end I saw Munich as a brilliant film which powerfully posed the very hard questions raised by modern terrorism.

For those who do not know, or were not alive in 1972, the film Munich is about the story of the suicidal assault undertaken by eight Palestinian terrorists who captured and killed eleven members of the Israeli Olympic team who were living in the Olympic village in Germany in September of 1972 during the summer games. The killings, and the way the Germans handled this assault in particular, all led Israel to a harsh and determined policy of retaliation. One-by-one an undercover team systematically killed nine of eleven targets (Arabs who were believed to have been behind the killings of the Jewish athletes). Israel believed each of these was directly responsible for the Munich massacre even though later intelligence has raised serious doubts about several who were targeted and killed.

Under the stern and confident (one could easily say "arrogant") leadership of Prime Minister Golda Meir Israel, coming off a number of military successes in the 1960s, took a very hard line approach to such killers. This is the story Spielberg tells in Munich. And it is a complicated and gut wrenching story told very well. It leads the viewer down a two and a half hour road that allows you to see the human results of killing and retaliation graphically and powerfully portrayed. Parts of this film were very hard to watch, much as Spielberg’s famous "Schindler’s List" was difficult to watch, at a number of points.

The leadership of Israel plainly embraced a "hit squad" approach to such killers. It had no real reservations about the consequences or the possible mistakes that could follow. The goal was to deter future acts of terrorism as well as to carry out justice. No one can seriously doubt that this approach did nothing to stop terrorism and killing over the last thirty years.

While I have no doubt that the political state of Israel has every right to exist, I do not believe everything the state of Israel does is part and parcel of God’s revealed will. I also have to wonder what some evangelical Christians, who promote Zionism so uncritically, would do if they allowed themselves to see Spielberg’s artistic success and then seriously ponder the lessons that he draws from this real life tragedy.

This movie is rated R for sexual scenes and violence. I do not recommend that young people see Munich. Most adults, however, would do well to see this powerful film and discuss it with others who admire Israel for many good reasons. To admire Israel, however, is not to conclude that all the decisions this very secular state has made, or still makes, are always right.

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