Journalist, novelist and poet George Jonas passed away yesterday at the age of 80. No cause of death was given, but he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease a few years ago.
Jonas was born in Hungary growing up under both the Nazis and the Communists. He would flee to Canada in the midst of the Hungarian Revolution of 1956. These experiences would make Jonas into a “classical liberal” who cast a cold eye upon totalitarianism in all its forms.
He would spend most of his adult life at the CBC working as a producer for both radio and TV. For many years, Jonas was a columnist at the Toronto Sun before moving on to The National Post. In 2014, Jonas was bestowed with Canada’s highest civilian honor The Order of Canada.
Jonas’ best known work was his 1984 book Vengeance, an account of the Israeli counterterrorism operation “Wrath of God” which was launched against the perpetrators who massacred 11 Israeli athletes at the 1972 Summer Olympic Games in Munich. The book would later be adapted by Steven Spielberg for his 2005 film Munich with the screenplay written by Tony Kushner. However, Jonas did not care for how Spielberg and Kushner treated his work. Writing in Macleans in January 2006, Jonas summarized:
Over the next few days I try to formulate the difference between the book and the movie precisely. A mirror image? A coat worn inside out? Spielberg’s “Munich” follows the letter of my book closely enough. The spirit is almost the opposite. Vengeance holds there is a difference between terrorism and counterterrorism;”Munich” suggests there isn’t.The book has no trouble telling an act of war from a war crime;the film finds it difficult. Spielberg’s movie worries about the moral trap of resisting terror;my book worries about the moral trap of not resisting it.
Mark Steyn recently said of Jonas’ writing, “His elegance had a magnificent compression to it.”
That compressed elegance is on full display in this video of Jonas talking about his life a few years back. At one point, Jonas quips, “Anyway, Hitler & I agreed on one thing – I was Jewish.”
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