Hollywood mogul Steven Spielberg’s latest film “Munich” focuses on Israel’s efforts to avenge the tragic killings of its athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympic Games. Although the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is ripe with great ideas for potential blockbuster films, Hollywood flicks about the conflict have tended to remain formulaic and dehumanizing.
Spielberg hopes “Munich” will be different, and claims he didn’t want to make “a Charles Bronson movie – good guys vs. bad guys and Jews killing Arabs without any context.” Critics say Spielberg is too pro-Israel to make a fair film about the conflict.
Imagine for a second it is Opposite Day. Imagine we’re in some kind of Twilight Zone parallel universe in which Hollywood gives Arabs, Muslims, and Jews a fair shake and peace a fair chance. What kind of movies about the Middle East would we then be chomping Goobers, Junior Mints, and popcorn to at the local twenty screen multiplex?
Maybe these movies might actually be made by some of the 125 Palestinian kids Spielberg is giving video cameras to document their lives. Perhaps a talented few will go on to become big-time Hollywood directors. Here are ten potential films – all inspired by actual events – that are just waiting for the magic of Spielberg & his wannabes:
1. King David Hotel: The bombing of the King David Hotel, which served as headquarters of the British administration in Palestine, killed 91 Arabs, Jews, and Brits in 1946. Two future Prime Ministers of Israel, David Ben Gurion and Menachem Begin, masterminded the attack. Disguised as Arabs, members of Begin’s Irgun placed 350kg of explosives inside the building. In this action-packed thriller, David (Pierce Brosnan) a British officer ordered to hunt down the killers falls for Margaret (Uma Thurman), an American journalist working for Life Magazine. But is Margaret really in love or is she a secret Zionist assassin out to stop David in his tracks?
2. Nakba: A story of innocent love in a time of war and tragedy. Layla (Penelope Cruz) & Salam (Orlando Bloom) are a Romeo & Juliet against the backdrop of the 1948 Nakba, the Palestinian national catastrophe. During the Nakba, over 700,000 Palestinians fled voluntarily & involuntarily their homes. Can their love survive conflict?
3. USS Liberty: When Israeli boats and fighter jets attack the US Navy intelligence ship USS Liberty in the middle of the 1967 Six Day War, 34 US servicemen are killed and 173 are wounded. The official word from Washington and Tel Aviv is that the attack was a mistake. But Brad Pitt & Tom Cruise, who play surviving officers from the Liberty, swear vengeance after discovering that the attack was actually part of a plot to start World War III.4. Sabra & Shatila: It’s 1982 and the war in Lebanon rages on. British war correspondent Robert Fisk (Star Wars star Ewan MacGregor) hides in the camps of Sabra & Shatilla, while a Lebanese militia aided and abetted by Israel slaughters thousands of Palestinian refugees. Sahar (Sandra Bullock) is a Palestinian mother determined to protect her family at any cost.
5. Vanunu: A political thriller set in Israel, Australia, Thailand, England, and Italy. “Syriana” star George Clooney plays Mordechai Vanunu, the nuclear technician who exposes Israel’s nuclear weapons program and pays the ultimate price. Nicole Kidman plays Cheryl Bentov, the American Mossad agent who seduces and kidnaps him.
6. Hebron: A story of tragedy and torn loyalties. In 1994, Brooklyn Jewish doctor Baruch Goldstein opened fire on Muslim worshippers in Hebron, killing 29. Palestinian American Mazen Khalili (Tom Hanks), a State Department official assigned to investigate the massacre, struggles with his job responsibilities and his roots. Leah Rabinowitz (Meg Ryan) is a Jewish American journalist who discovers a dark family secret that will change her life forever.
7. Qana: On April 18, 1996, Israeli shelling of a UN Compound that shelters Lebanese refugees kills more than 100 & injures over 300 men, women, and children. Jessica (Angelina Jolie) is a UN worker determined to let the world know what happened after witnessing the atrocity. Yossi (Robert De Niro) is a Mossad agent assigned to kill Jolie.
8. Gaza: Chris Hedges (Harrison Ford), a New York Times correspondent in Jerusalem, files stories from his hotel room. Hedges reaches a turning point when he witnesses Israeli soldiers killing young Palestinian boys for sport, then defies his editors by writing stories that humanize Palestinians. David Schwimmer & Sarah Jessica Parker make cameo appearances as the parents of Muhammad al-Durra, the 12 year old Palestinian boy killed by Israeli troops in 2000.
9. Rachel: Rachel Corrie (Gwyneth Paltrow) is the idealistic young American activist crushed to death by the Israeli army with a Caterpillar bulldozer. Sally Field, well-known for her role in “Not Without My Daughter”, plays Rachel’s mother.
10. Refuseniks: When a fellow soldier commits suicide after killing an unarmed pregnant Palestinian woman (played by Natalie Portman) in cold blood, two young Israeli soldiers (Matt Damon and Ben Affleck) decide that the occupation and the killing of Palestinians is immoral and unjust.
Mas’ood Cajee lives in San Joaquin County, California.