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
‘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 Shabti 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
atheltes 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’.
‘What were the least truthful aspects of Munich?’
’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)
‘Were the technical details accurate?’
‘Not one of them.’
’Munich portrays a closely linked Israeli team living in one apartment
and eating dinner together’
’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.’
’Did the team members know each other?’
’Not at all, we were recruited from elite combat units. I came
from the IDF’s naval commandos’.
’The film depicts a sloppy Israeli explosives bomb expert who
builds bombs for killing the terrorists. Was there such a person?’
’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’.
‘Munich depicts all the Israelis who executed the terrorists as
also being eventually killed. Is this true?’
’No, none of the Israeli team were killed. No one was even injured’.
’The film depicts a five or six man team. How many of you were
’The number depended upon the mission and the location. We were
from 12 to 17 members in the team’.
’Was there anything really authentic in Munich?’
‘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’.
‘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?'
'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?'
'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 destorts what really hapenned
in nearly every way.'
David Essing, ISRACAST,