December 18, 2005

Sharon aide markets Spielberg’s ‘Munich’ in Israel

By Dan Williams

TEL AVIV (Reuters) - Steven Spielberg has hired one of
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's top strategists to market
his controversial new film about Israel's retaliation for the
Palestinian attack on its team at the 1972 Munich Olympics.

Eyal Arad, who helped mastermind the recent Israeli
withdrawal from Gaza, said on Sunday he was promoting the film
"Munich" in the Jewish state, where it has already stirred
fierce debate.

"This market is an important market," Arad told Reuters.

"We are talking about a film that has generated a lot of
interest here, and naturally that sort of interest can entail
some negative reactions as well as positive reactions," he

Arad has already arranged a courtesy screening in Tel Aviv
for the widows of two of the 11 slain Israeli sportsmen,
attended by the film's producer and screenwriter. "Munich"
opens in the United States on December 23 and in Israel on
January 26.

There is talk in Israeli security circles of a preview for
veterans of the spy agency Mossad, which hunted down and killed
Palestinians blamed for the Olympics attack -- though with the
ex-assassins keeping a low profile, Arad said this was

Some former agents and diplomats have already ended their
silence on learning that Spielberg's main historical source for
the film was the widely discredited 1984 book "Vengeance."

Purportedly based on the confessions of a Mossad assassin
who broke ranks in protest at his country's aggressive tactics,
"Vengeance" portrays a hit team torn by questions of
conscience, on the run from Palestinian gunmen, and
occasionally inept -- a version of events rejected by
historians in Israel and abroad.

Avi Dichter, a retired head of Israel's Shin Bet
intelligence service who attended a preview in Washington,
likened "Munich" to a children's adventure story.

"There is no comparison between what you see in the movie
and how it works in reality," he said.

But one of the widows who saw Spielberg's film suggested
that the lack of historical accuracy may have worked in
Israel's favor.

Ilana Romano noted that, unlike the book, it overlooks the
most notorious Mossad foul-up -- the 1973 killing of a Moroccan
waiter mistaken for a senior Palestinian fugitive in the
Norwegian town of Lillehammer.

"Had Spielberg wanted to harm Israel's image, he would have
included the Lillehammer affair," Romano, whose weightlifter
husband was the first Olympian killed, told Israeli television.
"Don't let's over-analyze Spielberg's film."