“Some of my critics are asking how Spielberg, this Hollywood liberal who makes dinosaur movies, can say anything serious about this subject that baffles so many smart people. What they’re basically saying is ‘You disagree with us in a big public way, and we want you to shut up, and we want this movie to go back in the can.’ That’s a nefarious attempt to make people plug up their ears. That’s not Jewish, it’s not democratic, and it’s bad for everyone -- especially in a democratic society.”
I don’t think the critics are questioning his intelligence (even though he responds by questioning their Jewishness). They’re questioning his judgment, and his views.
But for some reason, “Hollywood liberals” think that, in a free society, they should be free to present their views without criticism. So Spielberg equates criticism with censorship (“we want you to shut up”), responds to the criticism by accusing his critics of being “not Jewish” (on grounds they are criticizing him?), and suggests this is “bad for everyone” when in fact it is simply bad for Spielberg.
Spielberg tells Ebert that he has been misunderstood:
“There was an article in USA Today by a Los Angeles rabbi, accusing me of 'blind pacifism.' That's interesting, because there is not any kind of blind pacifism within me anywhere, or in 'Munich.'”
Well, maybe not “blind” pacifism, but as Samuel Freedman notes in an article in The Jerusalem Post (that is admiring of Spielberg’s career and that of his screenwriter, but not of his latest movie), the ending of the movie -- with Avner refusing to return to Israel and taking up residence instead in Brooklyn (portrayed as a “refuge designated in part by the pealing of church bells” in the background) -- does suggest pacifism:
On the surface, the anguish of Avner in Munich brings to mind another one of Stephen Spielberg's troubled warriors, the American captain played by Tom Hanks in Saving Private Ryan. As the captain fights his way through Normandy after D-Day to rescue the title character, his hand keeps trembling, every palsied twitch the evidence of all he has endured. But when Hanks completes his duty, he does not decide to move to Switzerland because war is hell.
Ebert reports that Spielberg:
repeated that he was wounded by the charge that he is "no friend of Israel" because his film asks questions about Israeli policies. "This film is no more anti-Israel than a similar film which offered criticism of America is anti-America," he said. "Criticism is a form of love. I love America, and I'm critical of this administration. I love Israel, and I ask questions. Those who ask no questions may not be a country's best friends.”
If criticism is a form of love, Spielberg should be happy: a lot of people seem to love his movie. He should think more about the questions they are asking -- unless he meant his film only to provoke thoughts in others.