It remains to be seen, literally, if Steven Spielberg has switched sides, from kosher ("Schindler's List"), to treyf. His movie, "Munich," will be opening in a few days and early word has it that he has indeed gone "Hollywood." This means that he's joined the trend to the Left, and that's the way to go if you want to do lunch in that town again.
If advance screenings prove accurate (the movie is set to open December 23), Spielberg has used the Olympic Massacre of 1972 to send a message that brings to mind the words of MGM tycoon Louis B. Mayer: "Movies are for entertainment. If you want to send a message, send a telegram."
Regardless, Spielberg's message is that the bad guys who murdered 11 Israelis are not all that bad, and that the Israeli secret services that pursued the killers, the good guys, are not all that good. They're troubled by second thoughts. There isn't much difference, according to Spielberg's telegram, between killers and avengers.
Observers of our culture may conclude that Spielberg has bought an even bigger script than the one at hand, featuring moral equivalency as a sub-title.
No doubt Spielberg is serious, and that's the problem. People aren't buying popcorn as much as they used to and altogether box office numbers are down. People want to laugh, or cry. They don't want to be sold. I know this from experience. I still get questions about "Indecent Proposal." Why did I let Hollywood make those changes?
Well, when you sell a novel to Hollywood it's gone with the wind. Hemingway suggested that we (writers) throw our novels over the Hollywood border, grab the money and run. That's more or less what I did.
The interior voice of my novel - "what would you do for a million dollars – would you sell your wife for a night?" - was the Arab-Israeli conflict, mostly on the side of Israel. For Paramount Pictures, that was too much of a message, so they made changes, and guess what, I agree.
What about Exodus?
Or rather, I agreed then, not so much now. For some time I've asked this question - would Leon Uris get "Exodus" to the screen in this climate? I keep coming up with the same answer. No! Things have changed and not only for movies but for books as well. Again, personal experience, as with my latest, "The Bathsheba Deadline," that's running as a serial on Amazon.com. Lucky for me that Amazon.com came along, the largest of them all put together.
But not so fast. The novel was turned down by a dozen New York publishers for being too pro USA and much too Jewish, too pro-Israel. One top publisher said it plainly, or half plainly: "I really got caught up in your novel; enjoyed it very much; powerful stuff. But I will not make an offer, and I think you know why."
Yes, I knew why and I know why.
Don't look at me. A thousand other writers of my persuasion have had similar brush-offs from New York and Hollywood. Tom Clancy writes a novel that features Arabs as the bad guys, but Hollywood, for reasons of sensitivity or box office, conveniently changes these villains to neo-Nazis. "The Sum of all Fears" may well have been titled "The Fear of all Sums."
French-Israeli filmmaker Pierre Rehov travels deep into jihad territory, exposes the universe that indulges and glorifies terrorism, and he's been getting some attention, but he is struggling to find a major distributor for his eye-opening documentaries.
Spielberg has no such problems, first because he's Spielberg, and second, in the case of "Munich," he's produced a baby that Barbra Streisand, Vanessa Redgrave and Oliver Stone could love - and these people can do lunch in Hollywood any time they want, and maybe that's what it's all about.
Telegrams should go back and forth
In Hollywood today, where David is Goliath and Goliath is David, you never want to be labeled a conservative or a fan of Israel. Hollywood is all about being trendy and Israel is not the trend. You won't get invited to the right parties and you won't win any Oscars if your heart bleeds for a nation that is always on the verge of being wiped off the map.
My problem? If Uris could not get "Exodus" funded in an atmosphere that still reeks of "Durban" (and where is the movie about all that, Steve?) then Spielberg should not be green-lighted for "Munich." Sure, Hollywood, go ahead, make your day. Show us their side of the story, but what about our side?
Where is the counterpoint? If you are trending toward political themes, yes, that is your right, but where is our Right, in which decidedly I mean the Right side of politics that has us walking with a target on our backs, meaning those of us who differ on moral equivalency and other trends?
Jews pioneered Hollywood. If, as our enemies say, we own Hollywood, well, here's the plot twist - we have lost Hollywood, and we have lost Spielberg. Spielberg is no friend of Israel. Spielberg is no friend of truth. His "Munich" may just as well have been scripted by George Galloway.
Yes, Hollywood, send a telegram, but, to communicate and to get the message fair and straight, telegrams should go back and forth.
Jack Engelhard is the author of the bestselling novel and movie "Indecent Proposal"