Sun 5 Feb 2006
I’ve seen “Munich” yesterday, the Spielberg’s controversial depiction of Palestine terrorist attack during 1972 olympics and equally terrorist campaign of vengeance killings of Palestine leaders by top secret Israeli commandos. It’s mainly a story of the leader of one such groups, going around Europe and killing Palestinian activists one by one according to a list handed down from the government.
Apart from ethical issues and a fresh look at the Palestinian-Jewish conflict (now almost a century old) I see this movie as a story of human tools. Both Avner Kaufman, the Israeli bodyguard turned hit-man and Palestinian attackers in Munich and other young fighters are just tools used by politicians on both sides to achieve their goals. Whether those politicians think they act for common good of their tribe, country or group or just for personal reasons is irrelevant – they need tools and are in position to have them.
Avner’s life is turned upside down because one old woman who happened to be prime minister decided the only way in which Israel could exert justice was by killing Palestinian leaders. And she remembered him as one of her bodyguards.
It’s harder for him than his Palestinian counterparts – he had a fairly normal life before, they were raised in refugee camps with no perspective in life other than joining a militia or other armed group. So, they don’t have a wife to call, a child to remember nor life to return to. Avner’s masters are also much more humane. When their human tool wore down the didn’t dispose of him nor left him to rot – they allowed him to quit and paid him enough so that he could recoup after mission, love of his wife mending his wounds.
But nevertheless it boils down to the same situation through all armed conflicts over the years – the ones who make decisions and put things in motion are not the ones to die and suffer on the battlefields. And, for the most part, only the decisionmakers get their place in history book. Tools don’t.
Spielberg was accused of portraying Palestinians as too humane – I think by hardline, nationalist Jews. But the point is these were no monsters, no petty criminals but living human beings who, like their Israeli peers, deeply believed what they do is just. They both believed in their cause so deeply that in their minds all means were justified by it. It’s this belief we should be wary of as humans because it turns us into monsters by blinding our conscience.
And that’s what I think Spielberg tried to show his Jewish compatriots many of whom seem to think that them being the Chosen Nation and Holocaust survivors justifies their treatment of Palestinians that is based on denying their equal status as human beings and thus startlingly similar to how Nazi Germany treated Jews.