Sunday, December 25, 2005

Munich's Fatal Flaw

Roger Ebert loves Steven Spielberg's Munich and in his glowing review he, unintentionally, identifies the film's fatal flaw. Ebert says, "Spielberg's film has been called an attack on the Palestinians and he has been rebuked as "no friend of Israel." By not taking sides, he has taken both sides." It is in this that Spielberg reveals his fundamental misunderstanding of the Arab/Israel conflict. There is no moral equivalence between the two sides.

A brief history lesson is in order. In World War II the civilized nations of the world, along with the Soviet Union, had defeated one of the two greatest evils to arise in the 20th century (the other was the Soviet Union). In the closing days of the war the advancing allied armies discovered the Nazi death camps which were inhabited by the living skeletons of those Jews lucky enough to avoid death by disease, starvation, overwork and the gas chambers long enough to be liberated. The magnitude of the horror with which they were confronted caused the world to (briefly) shake off the reflexive anti-semitisim which is its normal position.

The United Kingdom gave up its control over the land which the Romans had called Palestine and allowed the newly created United Nations to assume control. The UN came up with a partition plan which gave most of the land to the Arabs in one contiguous land mass. The Jews received three plots of land, most of it located in the Negev desert. The Jews agreed to this, the Arabs did not. In 1948 the armies of six Arab nations invaded Israel with the full support of the Palestinian Arabs*. The outnumbered and outgunned Jews defeated the invading Arabs then and in two other invasions (1967 and 1973). As a result of the first invasion around 650,000 Arabs fled the area at the urging of the Arab governments with the promise that they could return when the Jews were exterminated or driven into the sea.

The failure of the invading Arabs to eradicate the nation of Israel left the Palestinians with a problem. The Jews were in possession of their land and the fact that they had sided with the invaders meant that they had renounced any moral right to return and reclaim their property. The moral duty to care for the displaced Arabs fell to the Arab nations which launched their
war(s) of aggression. It was their obligation to integrate the displaced into their populations (from whom the "Palestinians" had come and with whom most still identified). They did not do this.

Instead they isolated the Palestinians in squalid festering refugee camps. They gave them a minimal existence and fed them on hateful propaganda. The purpose of doing this was twofold. First, the refugees made ready recruits for terrorist organizations like the PLO. Second, the highly visible camps became an easy pretext for the world's Jew haters. The recruitment of terrorists was especially important because the Arab nations had finally internalized the fact that they could not defeat Israel in an open confrontation of arms (multiple humiliating defeats will do that for even the most dense). The war to end the Jewish homeland became an attempt to inflict a death of 1000 cuts as terrorist attack followed terrorist attack.

This brings us to the 1972 Munich Olympics where terrorists from the PLO kidnapped and murdered Israeli athletes. Israeli Prime Minister Golda Mier ordered the formation of an elite team of operatives to hunt down and execute those responsible (they eventually got 9 of the 11). In Spielberg mind the two events exist on the same moral plane. They are just part of a tit-for-tat "cycle of violence" which will continue to block peace in the Middle East until and unless men of courage on both sides rise above the violence and negotiate in good faith.

The problem with this approach should be obvious to anyone who isn't a moral leper. The Israeli and Palestinian sides are as "equivalent" as the allied and axis were in WWII. The land-for-peace scheme which is the centerpiece of all the attempts to reach an equitable settlement of the conflict is exactly the same as the plan that Rudolph Hess flew to the UK to lay before Churchill and Roosevelt. The Nazi government remains in power and Germany retains its territorial gains. In exchange Germany stops fighting.

There is an answer. As Rush Limbaugh has pointed out on any number of occasions wars end when one side or the other achieves victory. World War One ended with the German Army and most of the German people not feeling that they had truly been defeated. After all the German military was on foreign soil and seemed to be holding its own. This fact, as much as anything else, made World War Two inevitable. Israel must be set free to do what it must do to secure a true peace by defeating its enemy. They must start killing their enemies and keep killing them until they internalize their defeat. Until they come to the Jews not on their knees, but flat on their faces and beg to be spared. When they are ready to say and mean with absolute conviction "we will do anything you say, we renounce our claim to any land within Israel's borders; we will rewrite our religious doctrines any way you tell us to if you will just please stop killing us so that our race does not disappear from the face of the Earth".

You think that is too harsh? Japanese cites were made of wood and paper and we napalmed them in one massive nighttime air raid after another until we developed atomic bombs and started nuking them. We piled up hundreds of thousands of incinerated corpses to bring the Japanese to the point of surrender and when they came to the peace table we forced them to renounce a fundamental tenant of their religion, that the Emperor was a direct descendant of and living manifestation of the Divine Sun. And to this day Japan is not only peaceful and prosperous but was an ally in the Cold War.

An end to the fighting, the cycle-of-violence is possible but it will only come when one side gains an unambiguous victory and the other side admits its defeat to itself and the world.

*In Palestine before the formation of Israel in 1948 the Arab population did not call themselves "Palestinians". They referred to themselves as Arabs or by the nationality which they or their families originated from. The term "Palestinian" was a derogatory term applied to the Jewish population of the area. It was only when the need to find a single name for the displaced Arab population (for propaganda purposes) that the name was applied to Arabs.