In the reviews I've read or heard of Stephen Spielberg's new film, Munich, the standard media line is that the book on which the film is based - Georg Jonas' Vengeance - is itself a great literary artifice that strayed far from the facts of the events that unfolded in the wake of the Munich Massacre. In other words, Spielberg and screenwriter Tony Kushner are simply taking literary license with a story that is already licentious with the truth.
Now read this letter to the Wall Street Journal:
Truth Is There, Hidden, in a Book on Munich(Hat tip: VFR)
Bret Stephens’s excellent “Editorial Board: Munich,” Dec. 31, repeats a canard: “ ‘Vengeance,’ the George Jonas book upon which the film is largely based, is widely considered to be a fabrication.”
George Jonas is a colleague and my former husband. I’m well aware of the research behind this book. Further disclosure: the book is dedicated to me.
One of the most unfortunate and ironic aspects of the “Munich” affair is that those who rightly disapprove of Steven Spielberg’s film and wish to attack him are doing it in part by attacking Mr. Jonas’s book. Perhaps you were unable to get the new edition of “Vengeance” with Mr. Jonas’s essay, “Notes On a Controversy,” which speaks directly to the book’s authenticity. I would urge you to read that essay as well as the 1983 Epilogue to “Vengeance.”
• In 1985, a film of “Vengeance” was made called “The Sword of Gideon.” It adhered to the book closely, except that it was pro-Israel and had none of Mr. Spielberg’s moral equivalence. The Israeli government did not object to it being shot in Israel and shown on Israeli television.
• At the time of the book’s publication in 1983, Israeli intelligence officials were widely quoted (e.g., in the New York Times) unofficially confirming the existence of hit squads after the massacre at the Olympics, even as they officially denied them. Their stance remains the same today.
Verifying an intelligence story through official channels is a contradiction in terms. Official statements in such circumstances are all but useless. Agencies wishing to discredit an ex-employee who tells tales out of school will steer journalists to the ex-agent’s cover or “legend”—say, a job at El Al—to show that he’s only a disgruntled security guard or baggage handler.
I cannot stress too highly the care and effort that went into this book as well as George Jonas’s lifelong commitment to the values clearly expressed in “Vengeance” that are now all but reversed in the film.
For some discussion of Sword of Gideon, see comments towards bottom of this RLS post