Book and Movie Review: Exodus

by Steve Lancaster2/3/18
This is a book and movie that could not be done in 2018 or anytime in the last 30 years. Exodus by Leon Uris was published in 1958. When it was released it became the largest best seller since the publication of Gone with The Wind in 1939. The book covers the events leading up to and just after the 1948 creation of the modern State of Israel. It is fiction although the events exist in history.

There really was a blockade runner called Exodus, maned by mostly American Jews, Hagenah and one American Methodist Minister. Before the war it was a Chesapeake Bay cruise liner called, SS President Warfield. During the war the ship was converted to a troopship and carried troops to Omaha Beach in June 1944. After the war it was sold as surplus for scrap.

At the end of the war hundreds of thousands of Jews and other peoples were displaced. The Jews sought escape from Europe to America and the British Mandate of Palestine. The British to appease the Arabs restricted the entry of Jewish refugees to 1500 per month.  The Jewish Agency for Palestine purchased steamers and even barges, converted them to handle hundreds of people to run the British blockade of the Palestine mandate.

Pressure was increasing from the US and other nations on the British government to end the mandate. Smaller ships had beached themselves and thousands of Jewish refugees from the camps had made their way into Palestine. The Arab population was outraged, when are they not outraged? There were riots, strikes, and violence throughout the area. The only thing Arabs and Jews agreed on was that the British had to leave. The British brought in a UN High Commission to appraise and make recommendations for partition into Jewish and Arab states. It was during this time that the Exodus set sail for Haifa from France with 4,500 men, women and children.

In the view of the Jewish Agency and Hagenah should the Exodus reach Haifa and unload passengers it was a win. If the British intercepted, boarded the ship and turned it back to Cyprus it was a success. There was even talk, by the British Foreign Office, of returning the passengers to Germany, which would be an even greater PR victory. The intent of the Jewish Agency, and Hagenah was to create a public relations dilemma for Lord Bevin and the British government that would influence world opinion in favor of the refugees and end the mandate. The Exodus was boarded in international waters, the Jews fought the British with potatoes and tins of caned beef. It was as predicted, a PR disaster.

Ultimately, world opinion and their own characteristic good sense prevailed on the British to surrender the mandate. The UN voted for partition and on 14 May 1948 Israel became a nation again after 2000 years of diaspora. The only nation state restored in its historical location with its historical language and the descendants of the original population. One of the great lines in the book and movie, “If I must have a master the British are by far the best, but why have a master at all?”

Exodus, the book and the movie offer a brief glimpse into the history of the Jews in Europe and the Middle East. The movie starring Paul Newman as Ari Ben Canaan and Eva Marie Saint as Kitty Freemont tells the story of the Exodus although it is fictional.

Kitty is an American nurse who falls in love with Ari after her husband dies. Ari Ben Canaan is described as six feet two, with blue eyes. He is a Sabra, native born in the mandate. His father, Barak Ben Canaan (Lee J Cobb) and uncle, Akiva (David Opatoshu) had left the Russian Pale and walked from central Europe to Palestine when it was still administered by the Ottoman Empire. They were inspired by the new idea of Zionism and the writings of Theodore Herzl. They did not consider themselves immigrants but returnees to their native land. Barak is a loose picture of David Ben Gurion as the traditionalist and Akiva is the leader of the Irgun and similar to Menachem Begin.

In the book, and to a lesser extent the movie, the stories of various Jews in Europe during the war are told. There is Dov Landau, (Sal Mineo) a fighter of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising and survivor of the death camps. Karen Hansen, (Jill Hayworth) a child smuggled out of Germany in 1939 at age ten and adopted by Christians in Denmark. General Sutherland (Ralph Richardson) a British officer with a Jewish mother who witnessed Dachau and is now responsible for Jews interned on Cyprus.  Major Caldwell, (Peter Lawford) is a unfortunately all too typical British officer and aid for General Sutherland with strong anti-Jewish sympathies.

In the book and the movie refugees just recently interned on Cyprus are going to be taken off by Hagenah in another ship right under the British. To accomplish this goal Ari and other officers outfit a tramp steamer to run the British blockade. They take the refugees out of the camp using British trucks established as a false transportation organization, HMJFC, short for His Majesties Jewish Forces On Cyprus.

The refugees board the ship. The British trip to the plan and trap the ship in the harbor. The British threaten to board her but stop when Ari threatens to blow the ship up if any soldier steps on board. Stalemate, the ship cannot leave, and the British cannot board. To bring the standoff to a head a hunger strike is ordered. The book gives more information about the planning of the effort and about the hunger strike. However, after four days of intense pressure from the rest of the world, the British give in.

Karen and Kitty have become good friends and Kitty wants to adopt Karen and bring her to the US. Kitty accompanies Karen to Gan Dafna, a youth kibbutz in the Jezreel Valley not far from Mount Tabor. It was on mount Tabor that Deborah, the Judge of Israel, sent her general Barak out to fight the Canaanites. The whole story is in Judges 4 and 5. Wonder of wonder women’s lib in the first millennium BC.

Kitty makes a typical mistake. She fails to understand the restorative influence of Israel. A mistake most of the world still makes dealing with Israel. A people who for 2000 years were relegated to 3rd or 4th class status, could not carry weapons and were persecuted in country after country. Suddenly, the shopkeeper and the camp inmate become fierce warriors, cunning and dedicated to the rebirth of a Jewish state. There is also great escape of Dov and Akiva from Acre prison.

Dov and Karen fall in love, although Dov joins the Irgun to fight the British and Karen trains as a nurse at Gan Dafna. When partition is voted on in the UN the usual round of riots erupt in the mandate. In some areas sympatric British officers assist the Jews to hold strategic positions and in others Arab sympathizers give over police stations and forts to Arab irregulars.

Karen is murdered by Arab guerrillas as is the Moktar (mayor) of a nearby Arab village with close ties to the nearby Jewish Kibbutz and villages. The death of Karen brings Kitty totally into Ari’s arms and in the final scene of the movie, Karen is buried with the Arab friend and Kitty has exchanged her nurses’ clothes for an M-1 and fatigues.

Otto Preminger made the movie and Dalton Trumbo contributed the script. For Trumbo it was his first work in a major production since the HUAC debacle. For Preminger the movie served to reestablish his reputation in Hollywood after less than successful movies. The music is done by Ernest Gold with its main theme became a best seller on its own. Thanks to Ferrante and Teicher.

We often forget that history is composed of real people living real lives. In 1948 we tried to persuade Arabs to stay in their homes, to build a new country. Arab leaders like the Mufti of Jerusalem, who had spent the war in Berlin, promised that they could loot, murder, rob and rape when the Jews were defeated, and the Arabs could return. For over 100 years the Arabs have never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity.

A movie biography by Kirk Douglas, Cast a Giant Shadow cover a similar time period. It co-stars with John Wayne and Frank Sinatra. The first general of the Israel Defense Force was an American Col. David Marcus. I highly recommend it. • (290 views)

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25 Responses to Book and Movie Review: Exodus

  1. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    From time to time, I listen to Montovani’s moving version of the main theme. (Have it on now as I write this.) My parents had that album in their eclectic musical cupboard. A few years ago I digitized many of the choice albums into mp3 format, including this one.

    And that reminds me that I grew up in a household that had no opinion of Jews, blacks, or Catholics. The only disparagement I heard were of the lazy and dirty Indians from my mother. And given that her experience would have been close-hand of life on the reservations in the far Northwest, she was likely expressing an unfortunately truthful opinion if not one offered out of kindness.

    I’l be the first (no…make, that the second, after Mr. Kung) to point out that liberal and Leftist Jews have wrought great destruction upon the West, most notably Marx and Engels. And frankly I can’t remember too many Christians here offering an opinion about the original and existing Covenant between God and Jews — basic respect, if you will. If there is animosity between Jews and Christians, Christians no doubt deserve some of that animosity.

    My doctrine is that Jews (even wayward ones) are the canary in the Biblical coal mine. We must embrace Jews as brothers and sisters who share (in the overall) the same magnificent (often terrifying) view of the transcendent God. Jehovah is not the carpetbagger tribal (if not also sociopathic) god of Islam. He is not the many-faces God of Hinduism (although I have some sympathy for anyone trying to capture infinity in any notion of god…no wonder we often have so many). Jehovah is the God of love, justice, and mercy.

    The Jews’ story is our story. No matter how fallible the players are at times, it is the story of being lifted up from anarchy and degradation toward something better. This is still the Jewish struggle today in the Middle East as barbaric and evil forces work to bring them down — sadly, often aided and embedded by many Jews themselves. But it is a universal struggle, one that has always turned those looking for the light into objects of scorn by the mere animals among us.

    • Steve Lancaster says:

      I grew up in a mixed household, but the ethnic DNA of my Jewish ancestors remains. I cannot even begin to understand how in so many Ashkenazi Jews do not or will not understand our cultural, ethnic, and religious links. I have more in common with the most radical Hasid, then the supposedly pious liberal NY or LA cross dressing/LGBT Rabbi.

      I think for them, Jewishness has become an affectation to be worn, as necessary to support a political agenda. I believe they have ceased being Jews and are willing to be whatever their local closet Jew haters want them to be. Sort of a “lets take the Jew out and play with him. If he’s good we won’t set him on fire”.

      It was the same in Germany in the 20s and 30s. I guess no one wants to believe they have enemies. Even today with all the anti-semitism in Europe there is only a trickle going to the US and Israel. I will not seek to create new enemies but when someone, or some country says they are going to destroy me, my children, grand children and great grand children. I take it seriously.

      • Timothy Lane says:

        I seem to recall MAD Magazine,, in one of its primers decades ago, discussed Jews. They noted that others Jews called the Reformed Jews Christians, though in reality they probably are more like agnostics or deists at most. I get the impression that the Hasidim are Orthodox Jews, and thus social conservatives (and rather likely to be Republican, though they tend to be far poorer than Reform Jews, who seem to include most of the wealthy Jews)

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        I think for them, Jewishness has become an affectation to be worn, as necessary to support a political agenda. I believe they have ceased being Jews and are willing to be whatever their local closet Jew haters want them to be.

        Listen, I just don’t know. I have very little firsthand experience. But reports from people such as you and Dennis Prager paint the same picture

        How do you live the Judeo-Christian religious life (if you don’t mind me munging that all together) so that it’s lived deep down? I don’t know. But I do know that it’s not about spouting bible verses or giving lip-service to Leftist causes. Political Christianity is little better than political Judaism.

        Many Christians want to call Jews “Christ killers.” But it wasn’t a religious impulse that killed Christ. It was purely a political one. And that’s not to say that we shouldn’t mix religion and politics. If our values aren’t derived from the Judeo-Christian system than they will be derived from Oprah, MS-NBC, The View, and Jimmy Kimmel. And these types all use the plea of “Let’s keep religion out of our civic life” as a way to gain a monopoly for their fundamentalist Progressive religion. They are fundamentally dishonest people and more than a little bit evil.

        Man, left to be measured by his own self, is a mere semiconscious, half-moral (if that) animal. We have many Jews who are not religiously Jewish in any meaningful way, living side-by-side with many Catholics (who have a fraudulent pope) and Christians whose idea of religiosity was printed on some vapid greeting card back in the 60’s: “I’m okay, you’re okay.”

        Most things these days aren’t real. We’ve become very good at style over substance, self-serving feel-goodism over good character and virtue. However one wants to order one’s life — and I’m more than okay with someone living the materialist secular life if they don’t become a nuisance — there is no way to live any other way than a materialist secular life if you have faith in nothing other than idiot pop culture and all its vapid derivatives, including the religious derivatives.

  2. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    By the way, they’ve got Exodus available for rental (streaming) on Vudu for $2.99. Vudu is an app/service available from directly inside many, if not most, Smart TV’s. You can find it here at Amazon in DVD or Blu Ray format.

    Cast a Giant Shadow I could find for streaming only via iTunes/Apple TV for $3.99 rental or on Amazon Video for the same price. You can also get “Cast a Giant Shadow” on DVD or Blu Ray from Amazon here.

    Ernest Gold’s orignal soundtrack can be found here (mp3, audio CD, or vinyl).

  3. Timothy Lane says:

    I don’t think I’ve ever read the book, or anything else by Uris except The Haj, which I have reviewed elsewhere (and which does cover the Mufti-inspired 1948 flight of the Palestinian Arabs). I saw the movie when I was a child and remember little if any about it.

    The Israelis had 4 military/paramilitary organizations. The Haganah was Ben-Gurion’s regular army, and the Palmach was an allied force organized from the kibbutzim, and were perhaps their best troops. Then there the Irgun, led by Menachem Begin, and the Stern Group, led by Yitzhak Shamir — the first two Likud prime ministers were both ex-terrorists. Ben-Gurion didn’t like either group. The best Arab force was Jordan’s Arab Legion; they took out the Kfar Etzion block in Hebron when the locals couldn’t, and secured the West Bank (including the key fort of Latrun, blocking the road to Jerusalem).

    One history I read of the Israeli War for Independence (I don’t recall the title) noted that the British often seemed to help whichever side they expected to win in a locale, the idea being to minimize fighting. So they helped the Israelis in Haifa, which was assigned to them in the partition and where they seemed stronger than the Arabs — as quickly proved to be the case. (The Israelis pleaded with the Arabs to stay, but they chose flight in order to come back with the triumphant Arab armies — perhaps the first important example of this.) They also helped the Arabs in Tiberias — allotted to the Jews, but where the Arabs seemed to have the upper hand. (The Israelis won the city despite this.)

  4. Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

    The below link will take you to the recent comments of the ex-Mossad agent who arranged the capture of Eichmann.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      Interesting. It wasn’t hard that his approval would be based on their attitude toward the Muslim invaders. I guess that’s more important their whiff of anti-Semitism. I would tend to agree, but then I’m not Jewish.

    • Steve Lancaster says:

      I would tend to take anything from yahoo news with a grain of salt, even if it reinforces something you may have heard somewhere else.

      In 1973 I was assigned with several other agents to Chile. While there we worked closely with Mossad agents looking for Mengele. One of the Mossad agents was Meir Dagan who became a close friend. He and his team were called back to Israel in the summer of 73. He was later promoted to general after the 73 war and became head of Mossad. We stayed at his home in TA a few years ago. Sadly, he passed away in 2016 from liver cancer.

      My boss James Angleton is often given credit for assisting Israel with the structure of Mossad. I know he had deep sympathies for Israel and he once remarked in a training class that CIA could take lessons from Mossad especially in dealing with the Russians.

      • Timothy Lane says:

        Didn’t Angleton also play a major role in getting Israel resupplied in the later stages of the Yom Kippur War? On the other hand, he was persuaded by Andrei Golitsyn to take a very paranoid view of events during the latter half of the Cold War.

        • Steve Lancaster says:

          Angleton, Kissenger and Nixon all played different roles in the 73 war. My partner and I left Chile after the coup in September flew back to DC, debriefed and left again for Tel Aviv with a war warning for Mossad.

          Golda Meir was PM at the time and was reluctant to pre-emptively strike Egypt and Syria. I left the US Embassy on the morning of 5 Oct for Golan as a military observer. The chief of station ordered me to not get killed as dead Americans were considered an embarrassment to Israel and the US.

          The fighting the first week of the war on Golan was very close. Without help from the US Israel would have had to use nuclear weapons to stop the Arabs. It was Nixon who ordered DoD to supply Israel with the “black boxes” that neutralized the Soviet air defenses and allowed the IAF to achieve air superiority. We, (CIA) also flew U-2 and SR-71 over the battlefields and CIA passed realtime photos along to Mossad HQ on King Saul Blvd.

          Counter intelligence is the most difficult of all tradecraft. When it is done correctly no one knows, and when it fails the whole world knows. CI was and is the heart of intelligence work, but it is soul destroying. CI is an upside down world where up is down, sideways is up, and nothing is as it seems to be. Lies are truth and no-one tells the truth.

          Many in CIA, some my friends, believed that James Angleton was paranoid about moles in the agency and was crazy or on the verge of a breakdown. The arrest of Aldrich Ames I think verified Angleton’s belief in moles in the agency.

          • Timothy Lane says:

            I would expect the KGB to seek to place moles in the CIA and probably have at least some success. Where people really got suspicious of Golitsyn and Angleton (the Angel Jimmy Jesus in Eric Flint’s Joe’s World series) is their belief that everything that happened in foreign affairs, good or bad, was a Soviet plan (including the breakup of the Soviet empire).

          • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

            Counter intelligence is the most difficult of all tradecraft. When it is done correctly no one knows, and when it fails the whole world knows. CI was and is the heart of intelligence work, but it is soul destroying.

            One of the main problems with counter intelligence is that it is generally about negative successes. Checking double-checking and triple-checking is very time consuming, expensive and takes assets away from other areas where positive results are easy to see and measure.

            Counter intelligence is something like the back office in a bank or trading firm. The management sees it as a cost center so they naturally wish to cut it back to the bone. The results of such thinking was seen in bankruptcy of Barings back in the 1990’s.

            Some costs are better absorbed without too much complaint.

            • Timothy Lane says:

              Something similar in terms of cost and necessity is error-checking in programming. A large part of the work of writing a program is making sure it’s reliable. This is similar to the effort put into counter-intelligence, and the result of failing to do so. When a program goes through many thousands of operations a day, simultaneously on a number of computers, even an error rate of one in ten thousand will mean many blow-ups a day, which will be unacceptable to the user.

            • Steve Lancaster says:

              Angleton believed, as do I, that the job of CI is to find a granule of truth in what enemy agencies are doing. Since everything public in diplomacy and politics is some level of lie, then the only truth is to be found inside the intelligence agencies. Thus, the need for moles inside those agencies, and the requirement for CIA to assume there are moles within the organization. It was a hard lesson for Angleton to learn, but the Cambridge three revealed the validity.

              One of the counters to this spying is the creation of dis-information, often and more effectively coupled with some truth the enemy is willing to believe.

              The best example is the current two year long daily drama over the supposed “Trump dossier”. Although, the entire thing is made up of lies, half truths and allegations composed of fantasy. The media in their quest to destroy a president and the democrat party to regain power created a dis-information campaign.

              This was and is a counter intelligence operation planned and carried out by the highest levels of the Obama DOJ and the HRC staff. The use of the FISA courts only give a patina of legality.

              We used to do stuff like this to blackmail Soviet officials and counter the ops the Soviets were running against us. Now we are doing it to ourselves and the FSB/KGB are laughing their frozen asses off without doing a thing.

      • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

        By coincidence, I am presently re-reading, “Spytime: The Undoing of James Jesus Angleton”, by William F. Buckley.

        As to believing Yahoo news, I have to admit I have a little bit in common with Angleton in that I don’t believe a lot of what I read in the news.

        For many years, I have advised people who wish to try and figure out what is actually happening in the world to go to a number of different sources, especially foreign sources.

        • Steve Lancaster says:

          A lot has been written about JJA. As much as I like WFB he was writing for the market and Spytime is fiction and perhaps also dis-information.

          • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

            I never mistake fiction for fact, especially when dealing with such subjects. I am about 2/3rds through the book and am finding it a little better than so-so.

            I said I was re-reading it, but having come this far, there is much which I do not recall. I believe I must have started reading it some years ago and put it down without finishing it.

            Should I run across a bio of Angleton in my local lending library, I will probably check it out and try to find out some facts about the man.

          • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

            Should I run across a bio of Angleton in my local lending library, I will probably check it out and try to find out some facts about the man.

            I have read the first 50-60 pages of “The Ghost” by Jefferson Morley, and I am no nearer to finding out about James Angleton.

            “The Ghost”, purports to be a serious biography of Angleton. I can say it is no such thing. It is simply a horribly written book.

            The author’s style is very jerky and the writing does anything but flow. It’s reads like a collection of thoughts written on post-it notes which were thrown together in a less than organized manner.

            If anyone wishes to read a detailed critique of the book, I suggest they go to the following link to an article by David Robarge which takes Morley’s book apart.


            I came across this as the Washingtondecoded site is maintained by Max Holland the author of “Leak: Why Mark Felt Became Deep Throat” and I wanted to learn a bit more about Holland. What a surprise to find Robarge’s rebuttal of Morley’s book.

            One thing which “The Ghost” did reconfirm in my mind is that the quotes one reads on book covers and the early pages of a book are phony. In the case of this book, either those critics must not have read the book or they are dimwits.

  5. Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

    If it weren’t for conservative Jews, would there be any Jews left? The left in Israel seems as crazy as the left here and in Europe, but Israel has a smaller margin for error than we do.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      If the African refugees are Jewish, then they should be accepted, Otherwise, I can understand why Netanyahu wants to kick them out, especially since so many of the countries they came from are predominantly Muslim.

      • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

        I did not read it that the African refugees are Jewish.

        I knew of “Operation Moses” some weeks before it happened. That and “Operation Solomon” airlifted tens of thousands of African Jews from Ethiopia and the Sudan to Israel.

        • Steve Lancaster says:

          A few may be Jewish, in which case they will get citizenship, however the bulk are either Christian or Moslem.

  6. Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

    Here is a short article which reports that Trump is wildly popular in Israel.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      Well, some have compared Trump to David. Of course, it was Solomon who built the First Temple, but David got it set up.

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