"Flatten all of Gaza! The Americans didn't stop with Hiroshima – the Japanese weren't surrendering fast enough, so they hit Nagasaki too. There should be no electricity in Gaza, no neighbourhoods, no gasoline or moving vehicles, nothing!" - Gilad Sharon
"The essential nature of Judaism resists the idea of a Jewish state with borders, an army, and a measure of temporal power, no matter how modest." - Einstein
The early 1960s saw the release of a number of Zionist flicks. These films typically portrayed brave Jews working in tandem with world leaders to set up the modern State of Israel. Standing in the way of our heroes are always various "evil Arabs", all hell-bent on killing Jews and destroying Israel (Israel "officially gained independence" in 1948). Two of the more famous films in this wave were Otto Preminger's "Exodus" and Melville Shavelson's "Cast a Giant Shadow", the latter co-funded by John Wayne, everybody's favourite psycho patriot.
Most of these films are racist, propagandistic, demonize "Arabs" or selectively ignore the various atrocities and/or massacres committed by Britain and Zionists during the early 20th century. Unsurprisingly, they also adhere to Stuart Kaufman's famous 7 rules of nationalism. One: if an area was ours for 500 years and yours for 50 years, it should belong to us - you are merely occupiers. Two: if an area was yours for 500 years and ours for 50 years, it should belong to us - borders must not be changed. Three: if an area belonged to us 500 years ago, but never since then, it should belong to us - it is the Cradle of our Nation. Four: if a majority of our people live there, it must belong to us - they must enjoy the right of self-determination. Five: if a minority of our people live there, it must belong to us - they must be protected against your oppression. Six: our dream of greatness is Historical Necessity, yours is Fascism. Seven: our cultural continuity and purpose matters, yours does not.
Regardless, Israel was illegally formed in the late 1940s, the result of the by-passing of the UN Security Council, and the violent ejecting of some 750,000 Palestinians from their land before any lawful international consensus was reached. While there is nothing inherently wrong with the idea of "Israel", the sheer speed and tactlessness at which she was created would lead to decades of conflict. Lessing Rosenwald, president of the American Council for Judaism, would prophetically say in 1944: "The concept of a racial state – the Hitlerian concept - is repugnant to the civilised world. I urge that we do nothing to set us back on the road to the past. To project at this time the creation of a Jewish state or commonwealth is to launch a singular innovation in world affairs which might well have incalculable consequences." But nobody listened. In an instant, 55 percent of Palestine (85 percent of Palestine was controlled by "Arabic" Palestinians) was taken by a Jewish minority who had previously controlled 7 percent. The Palestinian majority, and their right to self determination, was ignored. Over the years Israel would acquire more land, which it would dub "disputed territory", though international consensus and international law deems these territories illegally occupied and in breech of the Geneva convention and numerous UN resolutions. Zionist mythology likewise portrays itself as the victim of several key wars (the Six Day War, the 1973 war, the Suez conflict, the 1947 war), when historical fact tends to state precisely the opposite.
Bizarrely, most of these films use the Holocaust as the sole justification for the creation of the State of Israel. But Zionism predates the Holocaust, and really gained steam in the mid 1800s. Indeed, even the six million number – the official number of Jews who died in WW2 – has been around before WW2, the figure used in the 1800s and early 1900s to sanction various Zionist movements.
The irony is, Palestinians and Jews are genetically virtually identical, they have the same paternal ancestors, and the whole concept of "Palestinians" was cooked up and propagated by the Roman and British Empires to scatter and rename Jews for the purpose of strengthening their own rule and destroying cohesiveness in the region ("Philistines", from whom the term "Palestinian" is derived, were originally the enemies of ancient Israelites). A further irony is that many ancient Jews simply converted (most were forced) to Islam and thus eventually became "Palestinians". Many Jewish customs themselves stem from an effort to assimilate to prevailing Muslim customs. And of course Palestine, under the Ottoman empire, was packed with Jews, Christians, Druze, Gypsies and Muslims, all living together.
Some view Zionism as a religious movement (Israel is becoming increasingly atheist), others insist that "tribes" should be allowed to return to where they came, though it is unlikely that persons living in the year 1948 have any kind of memory of, or connection with, life in 1200 BC Jerusalem. Today, Israel is virtually an offshoot of the US military, no longer a state with an army but an army with a state. A common view is that she is a "tiny nation" in the middle of "aggressive Arab nations", but the northern and north eastern rims of Africa are virtually controlled by the Western Empires, along with Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan and Pakistan further south and east. It is Syria and Iran who are surrounded by Western Power.
"Exodus" eventually degenerates into preachy speechifying. It is reductive, does no justice to any position and, as is typical of such films, casts Gentiles for most of its Jewish roles. Unsurprisingly, the films pander to American and Christian egos, the "Jew" rehabilitated for Western audiences after decades of Western persecution. Hollywood did a similar thing with the Japanese following WW2.
2/10 - See "Paradise Now", "Lemon Tree", the masterful "The Time That Remains", Justine Shapiro's "Promises" and Yoav Shamir's "Checkpoint". Worth no viewings.