Disagree with me – that’s what I want
The eternal wunderkind of American cinema is tired.
Spielberg clearly felt that as Hollywood’s most prominent and powerful Jew he would be immune from some of the more venomous attacks on him. He has always been a strong supporter of the state of Israel and Jewish causes. He used the profits from Schindler’s List, his Oscar-winning Holocaust drama, to fund the Shoah Foundation, which is compiling an unprecedented and vast audio-visual library of the personal stories of Holocaust survivors.
Deciding not to take the attacks silently any more, Spielberg spoke to The Sunday Times last week, accusing the critics of “political censorship disguised as criticism”.
He was particularly upset by David Brooks, the conservative New York Times columnist, who wrote that “Spielberg allows himself to ignore the core poison that permeates the Middle East, Islamic radicalism. In Spielberg’s Middle East, there is no Hamas or Islamic Jihad. There are no passionate anti-semites, no Holocaust deniers like the current president of Iran, no zealots who want to exterminate Israelis”.
Spielberg retorted that his film “forces the audience to look directly into the face of unmitigated evil again and again, to remind the audience of why Israel had to respond to Munich in the first place”.
“I developed the script based on a number of sources,” says Spielberg, “but it wasn’t until I met the living source, who the character Avner in my film portrays, did I really decide that this was a story that was worth telling.”
“The man we met, on whom Avner is based, expressed that to Tony Kushner and myself quite eloquently and passionately. It’s not uncharacteristic for soldiers in any conflict to be conflicted about what they are doing, although they would do it over again if they had the opportunity.”
“I personally believe that Golda Meir (who was the Israeli prime minister) needed to respond in the way that she did because Israel would have been perceived as weak had it done nothing to attempt to dismantle the Black September network in western Europe. The film doesn’t criticise Israel, it doesn’t even criticise Israeli policy, but it says that there are unintended consequences in everything that has to do with violence.
Spielberg: “It is fascinating to watch people who really only want their assumptions confirmed by what they are taking into the theatre. They go into the film and they shave off everything and anything that challenges their assumptions. They sculpt this movie to be what they want it to be. They are really looking for a simple-minded thesis.
“I think the film is effective because it does what history books really can’t do, which is to ask questions that may not have an immediate answer, and I think this frustrates people.
He said that he and his family “love Israel, we support Israel, we have unqualified support for Israel, which has struggled, surrounded by enemies, ever since its statehood was declared . . . I feel very proud to stand right alongside all of my friends in Israel; and yet I can ask questions about these very, very sensitive issues between Israelis and Palestinians and the whole quest for a homeland”.