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Former Mossad Chief Shavit: 'Any Similarity Between Film Munich And True Events Is Purely Coincidental'

Former Mossad Agent Yonatan: 'I Took Part In Tracking Down The Terrorists And Couldn't Recognize Myself In Any Of Film's Characters'

Former Mossad Agent Yair: 'It's A Hollywood Movie Portrayed Through American Spectacles'

Steven Spielberg's controversial film 'Munich', about to be viewed in Israel, is sparking a firestorm. Former officials of Mossad, Israel's secret service, have lambasted the movie from start to finish. Former Mossad chief Shabtai Shavit accuses Spielberg of basing the film on a bogus book that bears no resemblance to what actually happened. 'Yonatan', a former Mossad agent, who actually took part in the operation to execute all the Palestinian terrorists involved in the murder of the eleven Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics, said there is nothing authentic in the film. That included the portrayal of 'Avner' the main character.

Former 'Mossad' Chief Shabtai Shavit

'There is no similarity whatever to the film Munich and the Mossad operations to track down the Palestinian terrorists' - that was the reaction of former Mossad Chief Shabtai Shavit after viewing Steven Spielberg's movie. The film depicts the Israeli operation to track down and execute the Palestinian terrorists responsible for the murder of eleven Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympic games in 1972. Shavit launched a scathing attack on the film charging: 'There is absolutely no similarity to Mossad methods, personnel or the mission's objective'. And Shavit adds: 'The reality was a thousand times more dramatic than the film'. What also irked Shavit was that the film was based on a book by a 'charlatan' journalist who never served in the Mossad. Then 'Munich' is presented with pretensions of showing how the Mossad operates and the moral dilemmas of its agents. Interview on Israel Radio, Shavit said a movie producer of Spielberg's caliber could not evade responsibility for the result of a false moral symmetry between the Palestinian terrorists and the Israeli agents who brought them to justice.

A spokesman for Steven Spielberg has contended that 'Munich' was not intended to be an authentic documentary. Viewers should watch it as a 'fictional drama'. However, if 'Munich' also includes authentic footage and sound from the Munich massacre this creates a false impression that the film itself is factual. This is an aspect criticized by Yonatan, a Mossad agent who participated in the operation.Interviewed by the Israeli daily Maariv, Yair said: 'I could not recognize myself or any other Mossad agents in the film. We identified completely with our mission after what the terrorists did to our athletes in Munich. (One report said the Palestinians later castrated two bodies of the Israelis who were killed when the terrorists burst into their quarters.) He categorically denied that the Mossad agents acted as a rogue unit, totally on their own after being told by the Mossad chief they would never be recognized or aided by the Mossad if caught. And Yonatan says: 'I never asked myself, like Avner in the movie, if I was doing the right thing. Our mission was clear and self-evident'.

Question: 'What were the least truthful aspects of Munich?'

Yonatan: 'It is preposterous that a Mossad agent would be told that he is on his own, the way the Mossad chief tells Avner in the movie. Second, the information about the terrorists' whereabouts came from Israel and not a European source, who was paid $200,000 per address. There was no such thing'.

Stills from 'Munich' (imdb.com)

Question: 'Were the technical details accurate?'

Yonatan: 'Not one of them.'

Question: 'Munich portrays a closely linked Israeli team living in one apartment and eating dinner together'

Yonatan: 'Each of us lived in a separate apartment, or at most two together. None one knew where the others lived. I lived with another guy and we never really chatted except when I asked him how much sugar he took in his morning coffee. There was no such thing as a 'safe apartment'; we lived in operational flats.'

Question: 'Did the team members know each other?'

Yonatan: 'Not at all, we were recruited from elite combat units. I came from the IDF's naval commandos'.

Question: 'The film depicts a sloppy Israeli explosives bomb expert who builds bombs for killing the terrorists. Was there such a person?'

Yonatan: 'It is well known that the Mossad has an efficient explosives unit that makes and sends bombs where they need to go. Whoever has to plant it trains on a model in all the details before the operation. There were no last minute improvisations'.

Question: 'Munich depicts all the Israelis who executed the terrorists as also being eventually killed. Is this true?'

Yonatan: 'No, none of the Israeli team were killed. No one was even injured'.

Question: 'The film depicts a five or six man team. How many of you were there?'

Yonatan: 'The number depended upon the mission and the location. We were from 12 to 17 members in the team'.

Question: 'Was there anything really authentic in Munich?'

Yonatan: 'There is one element that is nearly authentic and that's Prime Minister Golda Meir's involvement. But she did not take the decision on her own as depicted in the movie. Golda met with her kitchen cabinet that included Defense Minister Dayan, Mossad Chief Zamir and cabinet ministers Allon and Galilee. Every case was considered on its merits and approved or canceled. Under no circumstance, did the team take out a terrorist on its own'.

Question: 'Let's leave aside all the technical aspects and look at the film's apparent thesis: That the attempt to eliminate terror by violence has only lead to more terror and more violence. Therefore, perhaps the approach was wrong from the start?'

Yonatan: 'Maybe. But what could we have done after the Munich massacre? If we had given in, the Palestinians would have thought that they were stronger and then carried out even worse attacks. We tried many ways, which I didn't always agree with, but they only understand the language of force. Clearly the author of the book, the movie is based upon, is a left-winger who wanted to create a balance between us and the Palestinians. The movie tries to show violence only begets more violence. Let's assume that he's right and that we're all to blame - what option does he present instead?'

Question: 'After you completed each mission, did you talk among yourselves? Was there any soul-searching?'

Yonatan: 'After every mission there was a debriefing with the Mossad chief. It was a totally professional-technical debriefing, where each agent presented a detailed account of what had been required of him. There was nothing else.'

Another former 'Mossad' agent 'Yair' summed up 'Munich' this way: 'It's a Hollywood movie, seen through American spectacles, that distorts what really happened in nearly every way.'

David Essing

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