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July 11, 2003 - Image 91

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2003-07-11

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The

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however, is a political revolutionary
tionship between American culture and
who wants to bring down the stagnant
U.S. Mideast policy, argues that when
Arab system, too, and he worries that
the novel came out, "most Americans
in battling against the enemy, he's
still knew little about Zionism or Israel,"
defending a system he hates.
and that the Uris story was "a foreshad-
It's apparent that however much
owing of what Israel was to come to
such a work might have resonated
mean to Americans."
with conflicted left-
Author Edward
wing Arab intellectuals
Tivnan called Uris' novel
of the period, it was
"the primary source of
AtI,NrialkN RIMAIESMNI
not a mythmaking cry
knowledge that most
Sit111\10
of resistance.
Americans had about
Novels that offer an
Jews and Israel."
alternative to Uris' nar-
Yale University's
rative have emerged
Deborah Dash Moore
from within Israel as
has even argued that
well, including a body
Exodus not only gave
of fiction written in
Israel its positive per-
Arabic by Sephardic
sona but provided the
Jews from Syria, Egypt
narrative used by the
and Iraq. These works
U.S. media to cover the
have challenged the
1967 Six-Day War.
wrowirg and 6ax>13,:
"righteous refuge"
Yitzhak Rabin, notes
story with tales of
Moore, was identified
The film version of "Exodus,
unrewarded sacrifice
by both Life magazine
on the part of such
and the New York Times directed by Otto Preminger
immigrants.
as the prototype for the and starring Paul Newman,
is available on DVD.
In these works,
novel's protagonist.
Sephardic families that
Moore's thesis is that
were once secure, prosperous, and
Uris borrowed his essential dramatic
happy have been undone by their
elements from the American Western.
experiences among Israelis of
As recently as 2001, Columbia
European origin.
University Professor Edward Said was
Such Sephardic works were never
still complaining that "the main narra-
intended to replace the dominant
tive model that dominates American
thinking [about Israel] still seems to be Israeli narrative established during the
so-called "time of consensus" of the
Leon Uris' 1950 [sic] novel Exodus."
1950s and 1960s.
Said's ultimate complaint, in that
However, the rise of Post-Zionist
2001 piece, was the failure of Arab lead-
revisionism among intellectuals and
ership to counter Israel's case effectively,
historians has resulted in a bitter
at least for an American audience.
debate over Israel's understanding of
That's a debatable premise, since by
its origins and past.
then Israel was often on the defensive.
Thus, while Israel's critics never gen-
But the larger point at which he
erated a counter-myth to the Exodus
hints in his derogatory reference to
story, some other Israelis have been
Uris is perfectly valid: No one, neither
involved in a continuing effort to chal-
Palestinians nor other Arabs nor any
lenge that narrative.
of their allies elsewhere in the world,
The issue of Exodus metamorphos-
had managed to generate a narrative
ing into a template for perceiving
myth powerful enough to counter the
Israel was contentious even at the time
one that Uris had helped generate.
of the novel's release.
Not that there weren't counter-
No less than Otto Preminger, the
Exoduses, as it were, to emerge from
director of the film version, regarded
the Arab world. There were numerous
the book as unfair to both Brits and
anti-Israeli novels and films that
appeared at more or less the same time Arabs, though he believed that his film
had avoided the novel's weaknesses.
that Uris' work did.
Uris, for his part, accused Preminger
The best of these political novels,
of ruining his book.
according to a contemporaneous 1967
For all that, the book and film are
review of Arab fiction by the critic
George Sfeir, was a work titled Six Days, invariably regarded as a single phe-
nomenon that managed to displace
by the Lebanese author Halim Barakat.
the history that inspired it, and pro-
That novel treated the Zionist
vided a context for events that fol-
enemy as both ruthless and treacher-
lowed. No small achievement. 0
ous: It had given the inhabitants of a
© 2000-2003 Featurewell.com,
Palestinian village six days in which to
all rights reserved.
surrender or be killed. Barakat's hero,

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