In a December 25 interview with Roger Ebert, Steven Spielberg answers
criticism of his new film Munich.
Ebert obviously has no political or professional reason to argue with
Spielberg, and so he lets him have his say without fear of
To those who say that Munich makes Spielberg “no friend of Israel,”
the director says:
“I am as truly pro-Israeli as you can possibly imagine. From the day I
became morally and politically conscious of the importance of the
state of Israel and its necessity to exist, I have believed that not
just Israel, but the rest of the world, needs Israel to exist.”
Me: Challenge. I can imagine far more pro-Israeli people than
Spielberg. In fact, I can more than imagine them — I can name them.
How about my friend Larry Miller, who not only cares about Israel, he
says so loudly, publicly, and often. He travels there and performs
there and writes about his trips. Spielberg is a member of the vast
silent majority of Jewish Hollywood who are “truly pro-Israeli” but
never do a damn thing about it.
Ebert goes on to ask Spielberg about the charge that Munich engages
in moral equivalence by portraying Israeli Mossad agents as
guilt-ridden over the targeted assassinations of terrorists.
“Frankly, I think that’s a stupid charge. The people who attack the
movie based on ‘moral equivalence’ are some of the same people who say
diplomacy itself is an exercise in moral equivalence, and that war is
the only answer. That the only way to fight terrorism is to dehumanize
the terrorists by asking no questions about who they are and where
they come from.
“What I believe is, every act of terrorism requires a strong response,
but we must also pay attention to the causes. That’s why we have
brains and the power to think passionately. Understanding does not
require approval. Understanding is not the same as inaction.
Understanding is a very muscular act. If I’m endorsing understanding
and being attacked for that, then I am almost flattered.”
Me: Well, I am one of the people who raised the issue of moral
And if you want to talk about “stupid,” Mr. Spielberg, there is
nothing stupider than suggesting “understanding” is a necessary part
of the response to evil. Did we stop to understand the Nazis? Did we
need to “pay attention to the causes” of Pol Pot’s reign of terror?
And by the way, “understanding” the Palestinian terrorist movement is
very easy — they want to kill Jews and push Israel into the sea.
“But why?” you ask. Who cares?! Your compassionate desire to
understand the motives of killers is a luxury you can afford from the
safe confines of your estate. But for their intended victims, the
question of “why” must wait at least until the killing has stopped.
Ultimately, Spielberg admits he made a movie that asks more questions
than it provides answers. My argument is that the questions aren’t
that hard, and Steven Spielberg is in a unique position as America’s
most popular modern filmmaker to take a real stand on the side of
right and the side of justice. That he didn’t is an act of moral and