The Corner

Answering Spielberg

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

contradiction.

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.

Spielberg says:

“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

equivalence.

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

artistic cowardice.

Warren BellWarren Bell was nominated June 20, 2006, by President George W. Bush to be a member of the Board of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting for the remainder of a ...

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