The film version of Leon Uris’ epic novel Exodus premiered in New York on December 15, 1960. Fifty years later, Exodus still influences current debates as evident in two recently published books, biographer Ira Nadel’s Leon Uris: Life of a Best Seller, and pollster James Zogby’s Arab Voices: What They Are Saying to Us and Why It Matters.
Through Zogby’s eyes: “…Exodus transferred the American cultural mythology of brave pioneers and cowboys confronted by hostile, savage Indians to the Middle East conflict…” But Arabs are not the main enemy in Exodus; over 80% of its exhaustive 207 minute runtime is devoted to Jews battling the British (first in Cyprus, then in Jerusalem, and finally in Acco).
Ignoring the Jewish fight for independence from the British so clearly depicted in Exodus is part of an attempt to define Israel as a “colonial entity” given to Jews in the Balfour Declaration. (For example, see Gilbert Achcar’s new book The Arabs and the Holocaust: The Arab-Israeli War of Narratives.)
But in Exodus, we see the Jews of the Yishuv becoming “Israelis” by taking up arms against their colonial masters (just as “rebels” in 13 separate colonies became “Americans” in 1776).
No matter how many times I’ve seen it (and yes, I’ve seen it several times in the last decade), watching Exodus always fills my heart with pride!
Click HERE to read more about Exodus in my “Tribute to Paul Newman” (published after Newman’s death on 9/26/08.)