French Jews oppose Cannes screening of film sympathetic to Munich terrorists

Cnaan Liphshiz

(JTA) — The umbrella group of French Jewish communities objected to the planned marketing at Cannes of a film it said falsely blames German security forces for the deaths of 11 Israeli athletes held hostage by Palestinian terrorists at the 1972 Munich Olympics.

Roger Cukierman, the president of CRIF, made the objection in a May 3 letter to Pierre Lescure, president of the Cannes Film Festival, and to French Culture Minister Audrey Azoulay, CRIF revealed on its website Thursday.

Cukierman said he was “concerned” about the planned screening of the film, “Munich: A Palestinian Story,” at a promotional event for Arab cinema at the Cannes Film Festival.

The film depicts as freedom fighters Palestinians who during the Summer Olympics in Munich in 1972 are believed to have shot and killed at least two of 11 Israeli athletes they took hostage. It wrongly accuses German police of the killings, Cukierman said in the letter.

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Directed by Nasri Hajjaj, “Munich” is part of a partnership between the Cannes Film Festival, which is one of the most important events in cinema, and the Dubai International Film Festival. This year for the first time, the Dubai festival sent a selection of Arab films, including the one about Munich, to Cannes’ Le Marche du Film — a platform for international cinema that takes alongside Cannes.

On Sept. 4, 1972, eight terrorists from the Black September movement broke into the living quarters of the Israeli delegation to the Olympics. Wrestling coach Moshe Weinberg and champion weightlifter Yossef Romano were killed resisting the attackers, according to The Independent. Romano’s body was mutilated. His genitals were cut off, possibly after his death, according to The New York Times.

German police reports were inconclusive as to whether Palestinians or German police officers attempting to break in killed the remaining nine hostages.

The Munich film features narration that claims German police, not Palestinians, killed the Israelis. “Everything ended when German security forces stormed in, killing five Palestinians and 11 Israeli athletes,” the film’s script reads, according to CRIF.

Cukierman called the film a “a scandalous revision of historical facts,” adding that the film’s screening in Cannes is “even more scandalous considering the context of terrorist violence unleashed on our country, which this film indirectly legitimises.”

In November, 130 people died in a series of attacks in the Paris region attributed to the Islamic State group.

In a 2012 article based on new materials from what is widely known as the Munich Massacre, Haaretz quotes from a report by Bavarian prosecutors from the scene of the break-in. “Except for one bullet, that was conclusively pierced from inside, it is impossible to determine the source of the shots. They could have come from the police officers,” the report states.

Five of the Munich terrorists were killed in a gunfight with German police and three were captured. Two of those caught were released later that year after their comrades threatened to kill the passengers of a German flight they hijacked. Israel later assassinated the culprits released and others it suspected of involvement, according to non-Israeli media. Tzvi Zamir, a former head of Mossad, in a 2006 interview with Haaretz denied claims that then-Prime Minister Golda Meir ordered Mossad to track down and kill anyone directly connected to the Munich Massacre.