Many Jews are up in arms about Steven Spielberg's new movie, "Munich". And rightly so. The most common emotion is outrage. How dare he suggest any moral equivalence between the terrorists and their victims?
He is, of course, not the first to do so, nor do I imagine will he be the last. That he has done so in such a grand, presumably effective way is to his everlasting shame.
But he is not alone. During the recent intifada, Newsweek linked the stories of a 17-year-old suicide (read: homicide) bomber with that of an innocent 17-year-old Israeli victim shopping for groceries for her mother. The list is endless. The phrase "cycle of violence" has insinuated itself into our consciousness and dialogue until no one even questions its validity anymore. Frustrating doesn't even begin to describe it. Destructive? Immoral? Evil?
Not only have I heard the argument that all killing is equal but I've heard the equally audacious point of view that all dying is the same. Hence posits the pundit, the American solider who falls on a grenade to save the lives of his fellow officers is as morally culpable as an insurgent blowing up members of the new Iraqi security forces and their American counterparts. It's enough to drive a girl mad.
But what disturbs me most about this point of view is something other than the intellectual dishonesty and the dangerous moral relativism espoused.
Under the guise of caring, there is actually a doctrine of indifference. Whenever someone in Hollywood attacks the behavior of Jews in Israel, two thoughts spring to mind:
Do they really believe that security guard who sacrificed his life to prevent an even larger catastrophe is their brother?
1. Why is their opinion given so much (any) weight? Why do we believe they are credibly informed on the subject and thus more qualified to address these complicated issues than the rest of us?
And more importantly: 2. Do they really care about other Jews? Do they really believe that security guard who sacrificed his life to prevent an even larger catastrophe is their brother? That the Jews blown up at the tragic Seder in Netanya were their aunts and uncles, cousins and grandparents? If they really cared, they wouldn't be so cavalier, so quick with the glib -- and heartless -- response. If they really cared, they wouldn't be so dismissive.
If you woke up daily to a world where someone was trying to murder your wife and children, where their goal was your ultimate destruction, would you really feel that the philosophy of "turning the other cheek" was the appropriate answer?
Only those who don't identify with their fellow Jews around the world would treat their murders with such apathy and their murderers with such compassion.
Likewise, only Americans who don't know anyone fighting in the United States military can be do scornful of the bravery of these young men and women. It is not concern for their lives that motivates the critics but a fear for their own, a cowardice that defines their actions and shapes their philosophy.
The Land of Israel belongs to the Jewish people. Many have sacrificed their lives. They are our sons, husbands and fathers; daughters, wives and mothers. They've sacrificed their lives because they believe in something bigger than themselves -- a People -- with a relationship with the Creator.
If it's only about you, then it's okay to batten down the hatches and ignore the outside world. If it's only about you, then it's okay to build a mansion in Beverly Hills with high fences and round-the-clock security. If it's only about you, then there's no need for war, there's nothing to fight for. If it's only about you, it's a sad, thwarted and wasted existence.
But if we want to be expansive, if we identify with the pain of our brethren across the globe, if we rejoice in their successes and cry with their losses, then not only are our lives enriched but we know there are ideas and values that transcend our personal concerns, people and morals worth fighting for.
We all have to die eventually. Some think that the best death is a quick and painless one. I think the best death (hopefully after 120 years) is to die as you live -- fighting for a cause and a people you love and believe in. The battle can be fought in America, in Israel, or in any country where our brothers and sisters are threatened. I want a life of caring, a life of belonging to the Jewish people, a life of the joys and yes the pain of Klal Yisrael.
Because it's a privileged life. It's a rich life. It's a meaningful life. It's a life about relationships -- with my God, with my people, with my land. Perhaps it's a safer life behind the walls of the mansions. Perhaps life is easier. But it will have the pain of opportunities missed... like Spielberg who has unfortunately just missed his.