"Munich" screenwriter's false premise

Talk about timing.

Tony Kushner, co—screenwriter of Steven Spielberg's film Munich —— about Israel's efforts to track down the planners of the murders by Palestinian terrorists of eleven Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympics —— defended himself in the Los Angeles Times against critics who say he's soft on terror. He's not for terrorists killing Jews, he assures us (and demonstrates this by tossing off words like "mishpocheh" and "matzo balls"), but merely wants to understand the murderers' motivations. 

Four days later, as if in response to his quest, the Palestinians had elections and voted nearly two to one for Jew—hating terrorists of Hamas. (Remaining votes went to Fatah, the other "party" with a Jew—hating terrorist "wing" —— al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade.)

Though Munich gives no hint of the virulent nature of such groups, it does have its virtues. It reminds of a crime against humanity and does so at a time when most of Hollywood shrinks from even depicting terrorists as Islamic. And it portrays Israel as admirably strong, even if guilt—ridden, rather than pitifully constrained in its need to combat existential threats. To hear the film's tough, South African Mossad operative say "Don't f*** with the Jews!" was worth the price of admission. 

But Munich does indeed provide a platform for terrorists' point of view. (This might be a trend. The Hollywood Foreign Press Association just voted the film Paradise Now, told from a suicide bomber's viewpoint, "Best Foreign Language Film.") Kushner argues that this is a good thing because "one aspect of the struggle against terrorism is the struggle to comprehend terrorism." In an earlier interview, he said similarly that you must always ask, "why did this happen?" 

This is a gross conflation of science and morality. Historians and psychiatrists can study, say, Stalin or Saddam, yet their findings have no relevance to the morality of mass murder. Likewise, Kushner can ponder Palestinians but can't justify their detonation of nail—packed bombs in ice—cream parlors filled with children. Not that he claims otherwise. But in attempting to "comprehend" evil, he inevitably diminishes the role of choice. 

Injustice, he writes, "can drive people to do horrible things," reiterating his premise that evil acts must have an external cause. The obvious problem is one of logic: If evil arises only in response to prior evil acts, then those acts, likewise, must have been triggered by still earlier evil acts, ad infinitum. Such thinking suggests a sort of Big Bang theory of evil: that it must originally have sprung from nothingness and then begat an endless chain reaction mere mortals are now powerless to resist. 

The idea that evil acts are "driven" rather than chosen is amoral. But worse, it is unequally applied. It seems to be hauled out most often when victims are Israeli Jews, while quests to "comprehend" what wrongs other terrorist targets committed to bring on their fate —— say, in Indonesia or Denmark —— are notably less frequent.

Still, if you're so inclined, go search for "causes" of Palestinian terrorist crimes. But look to fact, not fantasy. Kushner's fantasy is that the Mideast conflict is "a struggle over territory" and "over home," but the fact remains that the Palestinians declined offers of a "home" before Israel existed —— in 1937 and 1947 —— then again in 2000, because they would not tolerate any Jewish presence. Today, Israel is home to over a million Arabs, while the Palestinians —— as demonstrated by Israel's removal of several thousand Jews from their Gaza homes because they required constant defense —— continue to demand their turf be Judenrein

Anti—Semitism, then, is the reason Palestinians murder Jews, and it is self—generated, not "caused." If this wasn't obvious before, it should be after the electoral victories of Hamas, whose venomous Charter proclaims, among other obscenities, that "Israel, by virtue of its being Jewish and of having a Jewish population, defies Islam and the Muslims." (Article 28.) 

Among the candidates Palestinian voters swept into office is Jamal Abu Roub, a leader of the al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, who prefers to be known simply as "Hitler." What more do you need to comprehend than that?

Steven Zak   2 10 06

Talk about timing.

Tony Kushner, co—screenwriter of Steven Spielberg's film Munich —— about Israel's efforts to track down the planners of the murders by Palestinian terrorists of eleven Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympics —— defended himself in the Los Angeles Times against critics who say he's soft on terror. He's not for terrorists killing Jews, he assures us (and demonstrates this by tossing off words like "mishpocheh" and "matzo balls"), but merely wants to understand the murderers' motivations. 

Four days later, as if in response to his quest, the Palestinians had elections and voted nearly two to one for Jew—hating terrorists of Hamas. (Remaining votes went to Fatah, the other "party" with a Jew—hating terrorist "wing" —— al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade.)

Though Munich gives no hint of the virulent nature of such groups, it does have its virtues. It reminds of a crime against humanity and does so at a time when most of Hollywood shrinks from even depicting terrorists as Islamic. And it portrays Israel as admirably strong, even if guilt—ridden, rather than pitifully constrained in its need to combat existential threats. To hear the film's tough, South African Mossad operative say "Don't f*** with the Jews!" was worth the price of admission. 

But Munich does indeed provide a platform for terrorists' point of view. (This might be a trend. The Hollywood Foreign Press Association just voted the film Paradise Now, told from a suicide bomber's viewpoint, "Best Foreign Language Film.") Kushner argues that this is a good thing because "one aspect of the struggle against terrorism is the struggle to comprehend terrorism." In an earlier interview, he said similarly that you must always ask, "why did this happen?" 

This is a gross conflation of science and morality. Historians and psychiatrists can study, say, Stalin or Saddam, yet their findings have no relevance to the morality of mass murder. Likewise, Kushner can ponder Palestinians but can't justify their detonation of nail—packed bombs in ice—cream parlors filled with children. Not that he claims otherwise. But in attempting to "comprehend" evil, he inevitably diminishes the role of choice. 

Injustice, he writes, "can drive people to do horrible things," reiterating his premise that evil acts must have an external cause. The obvious problem is one of logic: If evil arises only in response to prior evil acts, then those acts, likewise, must have been triggered by still earlier evil acts, ad infinitum. Such thinking suggests a sort of Big Bang theory of evil: that it must originally have sprung from nothingness and then begat an endless chain reaction mere mortals are now powerless to resist. 

The idea that evil acts are "driven" rather than chosen is amoral. But worse, it is unequally applied. It seems to be hauled out most often when victims are Israeli Jews, while quests to "comprehend" what wrongs other terrorist targets committed to bring on their fate —— say, in Indonesia or Denmark —— are notably less frequent.

Still, if you're so inclined, go search for "causes" of Palestinian terrorist crimes. But look to fact, not fantasy. Kushner's fantasy is that the Mideast conflict is "a struggle over territory" and "over home," but the fact remains that the Palestinians declined offers of a "home" before Israel existed —— in 1937 and 1947 —— then again in 2000, because they would not tolerate any Jewish presence. Today, Israel is home to over a million Arabs, while the Palestinians —— as demonstrated by Israel's removal of several thousand Jews from their Gaza homes because they required constant defense —— continue to demand their turf be Judenrein

Anti—Semitism, then, is the reason Palestinians murder Jews, and it is self—generated, not "caused." If this wasn't obvious before, it should be after the electoral victories of Hamas, whose venomous Charter proclaims, among other obscenities, that "Israel, by virtue of its being Jewish and of having a Jewish population, defies Islam and the Muslims." (Article 28.) 

Among the candidates Palestinian voters swept into office is Jamal Abu Roub, a leader of the al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, who prefers to be known simply as "Hitler." What more do you need to comprehend than that?

Steven Zak   2 10 06