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The Mossad could not have made a better film to recruit volunteer agents than Steven Spielberg's most recent film, Munich. That is the conclusion I reached in New York after hearing responses from both Jews and non-Jews who rushed out to see the movie that tells how, according to makers of the film, Mossad agents eliminated senior PLO terrorists and their commanders, one after another, after the abduction and murder of the Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics in September 1972.
At a dinner in an excellent Chinese restaurant on Third Avenue, Shanghai Pavilion, seated at a round table, Spielberg's film was the topic of conversation, after many of the diners had already hurried to see it.
"After that movie," a Jewish friend from New York, a senior executive at a huge brokerage firm on Wall Street, told me angrily, "All that remains for me to do is to give money to the poor Palestinians that the Mossad murdered so mercilessly."
That was the man's emotional response, when in fact, as he told me, he would of course continue to help Israel, and even Spielberg's film, which in his view is slanted in favor of the Palestinians, would not convince him to change his loyalty to the Jewish state.
The tall and beautiful Amanda, who sat at my right, and her younger sister, the no less lovely Hilary, who sat at my left, who are not Jewish, took a completely different view: "You Israelis are not willing to let anyone play with your mind," said Amanda. "If there are Arabs that are murdering you, you get up and kill them. I admire your Mossad and I wish I could join it," continued Amanda, who is involved in fashion planning at a well-known fashion firm in Manhattan. She revealed to me that she prefers to read any novel based on the adventures of Mossad agents. Hilary eagerly concurred.
PERHAPS SPIELBERG'S conscience troubled him because the script represents the conceptual-emotional perversion so characteristic of Jewish filmmakers in Hollywood - they love to represent the Palestinians as being oppressed and bullied by the Jews. Perhaps that is what caused Spielberg to launch an early public-relations campaign in which his spokespeople placed an emphasis on the fact that the film would trigger a controversy because Munich tries to explain and perhaps justify the motives of the Palestinian murderers. And perhaps the entire dispute surrounding the film that began in the media months before the film was first screened this week was no more than spin, a PR ploy to attract worldwide attention.
But it is very possible that the makers of Munich did not take into account that the general mood and prevailing consensus in the United States and other democracies, since 9/11, is that terror should be fought everywhere it can be found. Or as Amanda put it, "Those bastards need to be killed and the Mossad does it very well."
I myself refrained from waiting in the long lines at the theaters that formed in the wake of the early advertising campaign for Munich and the many articles by critics. The reason I am in no rush to see it is that as a journalist I followed the tragedy of the Munich Olympics up close and in real time, as well the determination by the devoted Israelis, the decision makers, to eliminate the terrorists responsible. It was larger than life, larger than any film that even Spielberg could produce and direct.
Naturally, none of those Israelis, some of whom have since died, could appear before a camera and tell the true story of how the Israeli agents crossed every law and continent in order to avenge the death of the athletes.
Only when Mossad agents blundered, such as in Norway in 1973, when they killed the wrong man in Lillehammer, did they pay the price and spend time in a Norwegian jail.
That is why it was so interesting to hear the wife of a former American filmmaker, a former Israeli herself, who came to share that meal with three members of her family immediately after seeing the film. "Extraordinary," she stated. "A film made on the highest level and which caused me, as an Israeli, to feel a special sense of pride - that one cannot kill us without Mossad agents eventually coming to avenge our blood.
And then too, unlike Arab murderers, we make sure to harm only the murderers and no one else."
In light of these responses, those Israelis that seek to make the "real movie" about the revenge for Munich "in response to Spielberg" seem a little ridiculous. I think that the Mossad's commemoration department should give Spielberg a special prize as it already has in the past to other outstanding Jews.