Nandakishore Varma's Reviews > Exodus

Exodus by Leon Uris
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Oct 08, 11

bookshelves: historical-fiction

Even though I was caught up in the book when I first read it, I had to leave it halfway through... and when I went back to it some years later, after learning more about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (not the American-Israeli fiction, but real history), I felt I couldn't read it, it was so nauseating. Now I work in the Middle East, and see the conflict more close at hand. I could talk with many displaced Palestinians, and hear their side of the story. And the aversion to the book has increased.

The story of "Exodus" could be summarised in one sentence: "Brave godlike Jews defeat cowardly, evil Arabs and build the beautiful country of Israel."

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Comments (showing 1-22 of 22) (22 new)

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Liam Yeah, you're right, but Uris was a brilliant writer; I'm willing to cut him a little slack with this one because, as he was Jewish, he presumably wanted to believe that particular myth very badly. Also, I would point out that over the last 40 years or so the level of culpability on either side of the Palestinian/Israeli conflict has shifted markedly away from where it was, say, in 1970. It's not my war, and I try very hard not to pick a side, but having said that I will state that I have much less sympathy for the "Israelis" (in quotes because so many of the vicious right-wing settlers are actually spoiled & arrogant racist scum from the U.S.), and more for the Palestinians, than I did in the 1970s...

Nandakishore Varma Liam, the Palestinians who have been displaced are a people without a country now: the same people who still continue to write volumes on the Holocaust and the mistreatment of the Jews in East European ghettoes turn a blind eye on these people whom nobody in the world seems to want. Moreover, they are pictured as "terrorists" murdering "innocent" Israelis. Sickening, IMO.

Liam Nandakishore wrote: "Liam, the Palestinians who have been displaced are a people without a country now: the same people who still continue to write volumes on the Holocaust and the mistreatment of the Jews in East Euro..."


Please, read what I actually wrote- I was defending the late Leon Uris as a writer, not defending historical revisionists of any kind. Also, I tend not to read books about the holocaust as such. In addition to that, as a son of the six counties (so-called Northern Ireland) born in exile, I obviously have a certain amount of sympathy for the Palestinians (I was going to refer you to my review of Professor Nusseibeh's recent memoir, but realised I have yet to finish writing it. I'll have to rectify that soon...). I simply feel that it is not my place to pick a side in a war that is not my own, and in which, according to my own research (see my Middle East/North Africa shelf) it seems as though there is plenty of blame to go around & none of the parties involved have completely spotless hands.

Liam I should also mention that, like both you and Robert Fisk, I find the attempted justification as "operations against terrorists" by the Israelis of their callous slaughter of civilians to indeed be sickening. However, I still contend that the Israeli/Palestinian conflict as a whole cannot be reduced to simply the question of who committed the most egregious crimes against the others' people in the last however-many-years. It is, as I am sure you are aware, far more complex & nuanced an issue than that. Have you read David Fromkin's "A Peace To End All Peace"? Notwithstanding the author's ethnic background, you might find it interesting.

Nandakishore Varma Liam, I was not arguing with you. What irks me is that there are many in the West who can easily see the Israeli's point of view, but very few see the Palestinian's.

Liam Nandakishore wrote: "Liam, I was not arguing with you. What irks me is that there are many in the West who can easily see the Israeli's point of view, but very few see the Palestinian's."

Regrettably, you are quite right about that...

message 7: by Stephanie (new)

Stephanie Not everyone in the U.S. believes what is fed to us. Well, at least not me.

SubterraneanCatalyst -Censorship is for the Weak Nandakishore: I'm with Stephanie on this one. As an American, I can say the Holocaust was horrendous and wrong and I can also say in the same breath that the disenfranchisement and wholesale marginalization of the Palestinian people is also wrong. Those are not mutually exclusive ideas. Not everyone in the US is Jewish and nor do I believe for example the stupid rhetoric that I'm anti Semetic because I do not agree that the Israeli nation should ever have been founded. I think its creation was wrong in the first place and misguided to say the least. I just want you to know- there are plenty of people here who think as I do. It is hard to speak my opinion on these matters because it is a highly controversial subject. I don't spout off about this around Jewish people- because very few of them have anything to say that isn't defensive. As a disclaimer, I shall admit that I'm an atheist. I just do not believe in shoving one's ideas down someone else's throat or furthermore doing it militarily. And yes, I'm against war in general.

message 9: by Nandakishore (last edited Mar 03, 2012 11:05PM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Nandakishore Varma Stephanie and SubterraneanCatalyst,

I am very much aware that not all People in the West are anti-Palestinian. But the myth of the founding of Israel has been there for quite some time, and it was a myth which even my family believed during my childhood (we are Hindus, we do not have a dog in the fight, even then...) - so you see how widespread it is. Of course, India was officially on the Palestinian side of the fight but that was seen as pampering of the minority Muslims. It was the general opinion that Israel was a poor country, besieged by marauding Muslim despots. This is one of the novels that fed the myth.

Uris may be a fine writer, but I can't stomach his politics any more, especially after seeing the victims of the conflict close at hand.

Vinay Joshi Seeing this book on current perspective will not actually do justice to the whole event. I think this book was written during the time when Jews were the victim of holocaust and had to find a place to live in. I cannot empathize with either Palestines or Jews for that matter as I have never lived a life of refugee nor a life after holocaust. I will give Jews the benefit of doubt in this case since the atrocities on them were just enormous and never happened in the history of known world.

Nandakishore Varma Vinay wrote: "Seeing this book on current perspective will not actually do justice to the whole event. I think this book was written during the time when Jews were the victim of holocaust and had to find a place..."


The persecuted Jews belonged to various nations. They were not "displaced" people - that is the Biblical myth. The real solution would have been to end the persecution in the respective countries, and allow them a life of dignity. But they all wanted to "return" to Israel as part of the Zionist myth. The only way to do this was to kick out the Palestinians.

There was a thriving community of white Jews in Jew Town, Cochin in Kerala (in India). They were living happily there. They have built a synagogue on land ceded by the Maharajah of Cochin. Jews were welcomed there with open hands when they were persecuted all over the world. Even now, Israel considers the Royal family of Cochin as their friends.

Well, even those Jews "returned" to Israel. Now only two families are left, I understand. This proves (at least to me) that the Jews' return to Israel is more to fulfill a mythical need than because of a real requirement.

Vinay Joshi See I did not know this perspective at all. Any book you would recommend which gives the factual information on the whole event

Nandakishore Varma There are a host of books highlighting both points of view. In Search of Fatima: A Palestinian Story highlights the Palestinian viewpoint. Noam Chomsky, Ilan Pappe etc. have also written books on the subject. Wikipedia also gives a largely impartial account.

My views have been formed largely by stories of Palestinians who have been displaced, many of them heard at first hand. These people had no hand in the persecution of Jews. The only thing they did against Jews were to protest against the formation of Israel.

There are rights and wrongs on both sides, IMO. My only problem with this novel is that it is patently one-sided.

Ksorb The Arab refugee situation would not BE a situation if they had been treated as welcome newcomers in their adopted countries. If they were treated humanely by their brother Arabs, given full citizenship, full access to education, jobs, health care, et al. It is in the Arab leaders' interests - those who still hate the nation of Israel and don't want it to exist - it is in their interest to keep the refugees as impoverished and pathetic as possible. It is a shame and a crime. The Jews WERE displaced and in exile and fleeing pogroms, the holocaust, persecution mild and severe. They have a small amount of territory. The Arabs have unimaginable amount of land and resources in which to welcome any fellow Arabs who would like to live in Arab lands. Let those countries fully welcome and bless their fellow Arabs, not make them pathetic pawns in an International war game, tools to drive Jews into the sea.

Nandakishore Varma It does not change the fact that the Palestinians were driven out of their land by Jews. Many of the Jews who settled in Israel are not even from the region. Israel is continuing with colony building, squeezing the Palestine nation even more. If Palestine does not want Israel to exist, then neither does Israel want Palestine to exist. And currently Israel is winning because of brute force.

What this novel does, IMO,is to demonise the Arab and deify the Jew. It makes nice reading for Israeli partisans,but it is worthless as history.

Ksorb You forget that "Palestine" was very large, and filled with Palestinian Jews, Palestinian Arabs, and Palestinian Christians. Few of the Middle East countries existed at all except as individual tribal entities with local leadership, some benign, some oppressive, until Palestine was carved up by foreigners. The Arabs were given a lot of land, the Jews given more than they currently have. The nation of Jordan didn't exist and TransJordan was created as a homeland for the Palestinian Arabs. It was everything east of the Jordan River. The boundaries kept getting smaller in "land for peace" treaties. You are right that the Jews there were mostly not from the area. That was the whole point! They were being killed and persecuted all over the world and had no where to go. They were pretty much unwanted by the whole world, long before WWII. Read about the coffin ships that nations of the world - including the USA and its allies - refused to allow to land on their shores. Everyone died. Unwelcome. Even the UN agreed a homeland needed to be created. That's why Palestine was divided. It has been a 2-state solution all along, but because the Arab regions were given other names - as was the Jewish region - the demand for a new Palestine was enabled. There WAS an Arab state formed. It was called Transjordan, now expanded across the Jordan to be renamed simply JORDAN. The Palesinian Arab 1/2 of a two-state solution. The Arabs weren't satisfied.

Nandakishore Varma Of course the Arabs weren't satisfied! Their lands were grabbed by foreigners. The solution to end the persecution of Jews were not to transport them to some foreign country, but to give them dignity in their home country. The whole idea of Israel as the homeland of all the Jews is mythical and not historical. For your information, many Jews who are not at all persecuted in their home country also went to Israel. Zionism carries a lot of mythic power.

What actually happened: land was grabbed from indigenous Arabs by settlers. Britain gave away land it had no right to give. This happened because of the money power of the Zionist lobby.

It is happening even now with illegal colony building. Israel and USA, it seems, can ignore UN.

I'm sorry, I am on the side of the underdog, be it Arab or Jew. And this novel romanticises invasion, which I don't accept.

message 18: by Maureen (last edited Sep 11, 2014 02:22AM) (new)

Maureen nandakishore:

i appreciate that you cannot love a book that feels partisan and revisionist to you. i am much of the same opinion regarding the conflict myself. i was reading josephus' the jewish wars on the bus to work many years ago, and somebody inquired about it. i explained that it was teaching me that the various semitic tribes that traditionally lived in the middle east were already so blended by the time of herod the great that he could not be considered strictly jewish, but had lineage from several different tribes of the middle east. eventually i married that knowledge with the fact that many jews chose to find new homes in europe and left the area. they were then terrorized, murdered and marginalized by the nazi regime. there were very rich and socially prominent people, particularly in britain and the USA who were very interested in paving the way to the second coming by returning the lost tribes of israel to their home. only with that return would the new christian era dawn. there were also jewish zionists who believed after all they had suffered, it made sense to find a place to call their own land again, and what better than the one they left behind. the lobbyists were so powerful that when the US and associated allies tried to figure out a solution to help the (now) displaced jews, it seemed a good choice to return them to their promised land.

then i remembered that when the US freed the slaves, some people thought they should go back to africa. they sent them to liberia. liberia has never been anything but a poor and war-torn country.

then i remembered that the US kept bargaining "in good faith" with the multitude of bands, the various indigent native peoples over and over, promising they could keep that piece of land if they just gave up that one and they could continue their way of life and they wouldn't have to fight anymore, continually repeating the same things as they reduced their land over and over again and eventually took away their traditional way of life. what is a small patch of land to a nomad?

then i remembered i was born in canada and my own nation's record regarding its first nations people is also dirty and dishonest.

then i think about going back to the old country and demanding that i get back land that used to be my family's because of the pain and deprivation i have suffered. and i can't even get behind it when it's for myself.

the very fact you've initiated this conversation and pointed people in useful directions, even the easiest, wikipedia (the editors there must have a time with that one, trying to make sure it remains relatively impartial) is a good thing, i think. almost the opposite of what you feel uris was doing (except for writing the whole novel part.)

recently, in discussing this frustrating and challenging situation i made two points.

they were:

what if somebody came to me and said, "yes, we know you were born in canada. you are second generation but your family has seen the birth of a third and a fourth in this country. but this land was somebody else's before, at least sometimes it was, and now, seventy years later, we don't care if you have a family here, or traditions here, or new roots. we are going to take it away from and you have to go.

i'd probably fight. this is my country. i was born here."

and then i said, if it's okay to just deus ex machina countries into existence on land that has been traditionally peopled by nomadic and migratory tribes, why not do it again?

since the US has always believed in its own manifest destiny (this is practically the first distinction i can ever recall being taught in my own history lessons of the two neighbouring nations from the canadian perspective) and they have continually interfered in the business of other countries for their own gain and presumably also for people who have suffered, why don't they just do it again? go back and say:

"all right. it's been too long. the fighting has not stopped for as long as anybody can remember. we're going to try this again. no more nomadic tribes business because it's too complicated for us to understand (not to mention not economically viable) but we will split the pie again. but this time you have to both agree and stick to this agreement. you have to accept that both people have claims to this land. we will make new borders to try to make this better. wouldn't you want to make some concessions and have peace? and stop all this insanity?"

and i get really sad when i can't make myself believe both sides would agree to that. and the people who believe that christ will not return until the lost tribes are returned wouldn't either (though if they were correct, and this was the thing necessary for the second coming one would have thought it should've happened by now, hm?) i am despondent because i don't believe that it will ever stop. and it just seems very pointless and awful to me. nobody is winning here, even when they think they have balanced the score again. and cousins fight cousins.

Nandakishore Varma Maureen, first of all, nice to hear from you. We have not conversed for a long time.

Let's for a moment forget the facts about nations and get to people. My CEO here is a Palestinian who is a British citizen. He is totally westernised and nobody would take for an Arab. I don't think he has any Pan-Arab feelings at all.

One of our colleauges, an Christian from India, visited Jerusalem. When he heard of it, my boss called him up asked him eagerly about the country. I happened to be present. After the discussion, my CEO said: "I was born there. I hear from visitors that my father's ancestral home is still standing. One of these days it would be taken over by an Israeli, and I would like to see it before that. But I would never get a visa to Israel."

He said it in a flat voice, without anger, without sorrow... only with resignation. And that touched me.

This is just one story.

Where Israeli propaganda has succeeded in the West is in their total dehumanisation of Palestinians. They are just "terrorists" who bomb peaceful Israelis from Gaza. People do not see the pictures of Palestianian children killed and Palestinian homes razed to bits. I do, every morning with my coffee (of course, vested interests in West dismiss these images as staged, many a time).

For me, I cry with the hurting human being, whether he is an Israeli or a Palestinian.

message 20: by Maureen (new)

Maureen hi nandakishore!

i have spent a long time in a limbo away from goodreads but i'm hoping i can spend a little more time and energy here. your post reminded me of the frank discourse i missed when i was away.

by all means, focusing on people is important i was attempting to swing back and forth from nation to personal perspective in my own comment. my response to your discussion was really framed in that way. i saw people responding who are individuals -- they may also be citizens but that doesn't mean they are the people who are individually responsible for what we speak of governments and what havoc they wreak. that said, it's important to be open to understanding both sides of the conflict even if you aren't on a high level making decisions and i'm glad you've encouraged people to seek out a more balanced view of that nightmare.

your colleague's story is a very sad one -- i can't think the last time i heard a beautiful story in relation to this conflict. i can assure you that people *do* see many many pictures of palestinian casualties and the destruction they suffer here in the west though i agree the corporate news reports is not always where you will find them accurate: for this there are many other alternative news sources. at this point, i'm not sure pictures are enough: many people have seen too many pictures and have become desensitized to the violence, or turn their heads away because they can't bear to look at any more. and some people harden their hearts and put on black hat over there, and one over here because it is easier to hate when you demonize or dehumanize a people into an enemy.

i think getting the message out about the fact that this conflict is a little more complicated than it is portrayed is important but i don't know if we're ever going to get to a point where the world decides it's worth it to interfere, as we saw with the economic sanctions that were imposed in south africa prior to the dissolution of apartheid. as i said in my message, i often despair that there will ever be peace because whether you speak of it in terms of nation and history or in human and personal terms there seems to be too much interest in not being able to finding a common ground on this very conflicted one. i suppose all we can do is share information and hope that eventually they decide to take a chance on peace -- it's just at such a staggering human cost.

do you know of the documentarian, adam curtis? he has done a lot of very edifying documentaries that i think have helped get the message of different perspective out to a number of people in the west. "the power of nightmares" where he compares the rise of neoconservatism in the united states with the politicization of islam is a fascinating one. though i should underscore he does not discuss the palestinian/israeli conflict at all. it just makes connections and asks people to think about them.

anyway, thanks again for your review and your post. i hope some day we will look back on this and realize how quickly everything changed and how wrong i was about how willing people are to stop killing each other.

Nandakishore Varma BTW, Maureen, let me point you to my review of In Search of Fatima: A Palestinian Story which has had a lively comment thread. The debate was polite, though passionate.

Indranil why is everyone reviewing the book as history? Can someone please review the book from the perspective of a great rollicking story. For history, please refer history books - not something called 'fiction', historical or otherwise. there's a reason why it is called fiction, you know ! would not have commented, but the first two reviews are both from the historical accuracy perspective. dunno why !!

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