Munich is the story of the Israeli government’s decision to retaliate against the Palestinians that orchestrated the 1972 attack on the Israeli athletes at the Olympic Games. The film was based on Vengeance, the book written by George Jonas using Yuval Aviv, a former agent of Mossad, as a source. Following Avner, the film relays details about Operation Wrath of God, in which a team of secret agents were recruited to dispatch the eleven Palestinians suspected of involvement in the attack. The film attempts to stay as true to the actual events as possible, but because Israel has refused to release any documents on the operation, it has taken some liberties with the details.
To begin with, Munich’s characterization of the PLO is reasonably sympathetic, and it does not favor Israel’s side of the story over Palestine’s as western media is often wont to do. However, the film is very clear about what the PLO did in Munich, that is- to murder eleven Israeli athletes staying in the Olympic Village for the 1972 Olympics. It can be inferred that the PLO’s motive for the massacre was to bring attention to their people’s situation. Kicked out of their homeland and unwanted in every country, the Palestinians were, and still are, bitter that they were forcibly removed from their homeland in favor of the Jews in the aftermath of the Holocaust. Countries all over the globe, near and far, ignored their predicament. Palestine, led by the PLO was desperate for its voice to be heard, resorting to violence to grab the world’s attention. Although we can imagine and guess what actually happened that night and the events before and after, the truth remains obscured. That being said, it is impossible for the film to accurately portray the events that occurred and the people involved, and those watching must remember the line between fact and fiction.
Next, we must consider this question asked by Avner. “Did we kill to replace the terrorist leadership or the Palestinian leadership?” This quote could be interpreted as him wondering if Israel commanded him to kill those Palestinians, not because they were terrorist leaders, but because they were Palestinian leaders. Put simply: did Israel kill them only because Palestine is their enemy? There is a fine line between the Palestinian leadership and the terrorist leadership. The PLO serves as the Palestinian government but has also been known to orchestrate attacks on Israel. Although this does not mean that the PLO is solely a terrorist organization. The PLO is also the sole voice of the Palestinian people. Their leadership does not equate terrorist leadership. I believe that the honest answer to Avner’s question is that Israel wanted both. Israel wanted to avenge its murdered athletes but also wanted to dispatch Palestinian leadership. Nonetheless, I am not Israel and am not able to say definitively what the real reason for the operation was, so do not take my interpretation as fact.
At the beginning of his mission, Avner believed he killed for peace. I do not think that this is possible. Meeting violence with more violence will only escalate the situation. Those allied with those who are killed in the misguided massacre for peace will only want revenge. Israel’s decision to retaliate against those responsible for the Munich only served to anger the Palestinian people. It did not solve a problem, and I would argue that it only perpetuated the violence. Ultimately, violence cannot be quelled by more violence.
Finally, I must address the topic of Golda Meir, the Prime Minister of Israel at the time of the 1972 massacre. Her decision was to take action against the orchestrators of the attack. If I were in her place, it would be a difficult /decision for me. On one hand, Israelis everywhere would be glad that their own were avenged. On the other hand, violence will not quell violence. I do not think I would take violent action against the Palestinians. If I were to take any action at all, I would take it to the United Nations to solve it diplomatically. I think the UN would rule in favor of Israel and would punish those responsible accordingly. In brief, there are many facets of the story of that fateful night in Munich, and I believe that we will never hear it from all sides.