This past Monday I had the chance to see Steven Speilberg's new movie, Munich which I thought it was incredibly compelling and well done. In a nutshell, the film is about The Israeli government's response to the the 1972 Munich Massacre at the Summer Olympics. Known as "Operation Wrath of God," then Prime Minister Golda Meir authorized Mossad to conduct a covert mission to assassinate a group of 11 men involved in the planning of the Munich killings.
What I enjoyed most about this film was its refusal to romanticize any aspect of this true (although somewhat liberally dramatized) story. While very little ink is given to the Arab/Palestinian motivation for the killings - the plight of Palestinians in the West Bank is briefly discussed in an exchange between an Arab terrorist and an Israeli agent - the Israeli actions are in no way glorified. In fact, the assassination efforts are carried out in a very matter-of-fcat manner. In th beginning, the Israeli agents do their jobs because they are ordered to do. Some express a certain bloodlust for vengenace while others have doubts about the morality of it all, ultimately they are servants of the state doing as they are told.
Another interesting aspect of the film is that the violence is neither glorified nor professionally executed. These men are not special forces commandoes or highly trained assassins. The killings are almost clumisly carried out with close-up shootings or shoddy explosives. Each time, the Israelis have to face the reality of what they've done and confront the fact that they are responsible for the death of an actual human being, not a nameless faceless target.
Ultimately the group becomes wary of their activities doubting the significance and moral justification of what they are trying to accomplish. Throughout the film, violence is greeted with violence and the vicious circle of vengance becomes more and more pointless. In the end there is no reward, no hero's welcome, and most importantly no feeling of satisfaction...as if the wrong committed in Munich had been righted.
I think the film serves as not only a piece of commentary but a valuable historical lesson that can be applied to today's foreign policy issues. In hindsight, it would be interesting to see what the Israeli government believes they either gained or lost in the wake of this operation.