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Imagine a US president taking Iran’s side in conflict with Israel, and you get Maguire’s thriller ‘Exodus Betrayal’

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Gil Maguire has lately published a thriller titled “The Exodus Betrayal: A President Confronts Israel” as an answer to Leon Uris’s 1958 novel “Exodus” that along with the movie version by Otto Preminger starring Paul Newman was so important in shaping American attitudes towards Israel in the 1960’s. If “Exodus” dramatized the liberation of Jews from European persecution, “The Exodus Betrayal” imagines an American president freeing this country from its slavish support for Israel. President Hailey Hannagan refuses to cater to Israel and its domestic lobby when it attacks Iran, to the point that Israel and the U.S. exchange hostilities and the president’s life is threatened. The alternative narrative goes on to envision real negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians, brought about by ultimatums to Israel. But we won’t give too much away.

Maguire has contributed articles and comments to our site; I asked him a number of questions about his story and he responded by email.

Q. Like me you think the only way out of Israel support is a reverse Exodus story, to get the people out the same way they got in, through a fantasy of rebirth and power, but this time about American rebirth and power. Why do stories matter so much when it comes to issues of international law and politics? 

Maguire: For me, the reverse Exodus story is less about American rebirth and more about using our power to force Israel to change, to be reborn; it’s more about we (the US) realizing we’ve been conned into supporting and enabling a brutish little country that should be pretty insignificant to us in the greater scheme of things. And doing something about it which is the hard part. It’s about exposing the falsity of the narrative and the harm the relationship is causing the US, and about Israel’s denial of the right of Palestinians to self determination and basic freedoms, contrary to American values.

Stories (fiction) can have a major impact on political issues as did Exodus, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, and a few others. They do so by appealing to the emotions of readers rather than the appeal to logic and reason of dry nonfiction.  If a reader becomes emotionally committed to fictional characters and their story, he or she can also become committed or at least sympathetic to the story’s narrative, whether true or untrue.

My goal and hope is that enough readers will become engaged, attached to, and empathetic with my characters and their story to see Israel and its narrative in a different light.

Why did Exodus work in the first place? Did you see the movie/read the book when you were young? 

It worked because it told a story through the eyes and experiences of engaging fictional characters that readers could identify and empathize with. Through these characters, readers were taught and bought into a largely fictional Zionist narrative.  Art, in this case fiction, persuades through emotional engagement which can be far more effective and lasting than dry, rational/logical attempts to persuade.

Exodus came out during the era of the epic novel, the late 50s. It caught on and put Israel and the Zionist narrative myth on the map. I read it in high school. I think back then most people didn’t know much or care about Israel. Exodus changed that.  Suddenly we saw Israel as a noble David fighting off the hordes of savage Arabs. Instead of just another squabbling Middle East country, it now had a unique identity that we cared about because we became emotionally engaged by its characters and the story or myth they told us.  And it stuck. We feared and cheered for Israel in 67 and then again in 73.  We supported our massive airlift of supplies and then blamed the Arabs instead of the Israelis for the immense harm caused by the oil embargo.

The movie Exodus and the Ferrente and Teicher musical theme added more emotional cement to that narrative. It was an artistic triple whammy: an engaging work of fiction, a dramatic movie, and a stirring musical theme. I think the myth stuck at least until the 82 Lebanon war when Israel’s excesses began to create some doubts.

When did you get interested in the question? When did it “take over your life,” as it has many of us?

My father’s role in flying thousands of Jews to Israel in 1949-50 was part of our family history, so that was always there. I remember the 67 war as a big deal. I was in college and Jewish friends were going to enlist in the IDF which made me jealous.  Then, a few days later, it was over. What a miracle, except turned out it wasn’t.

I think my father’s disillusionment with Israel before his death, and the Iraq War were turning points for me when I began to discover how much the Neocons were beholden to the lobby and Israel. Coming to Mondoweiss provided me a forum to write about the issue but I can’t remember what brought me there.  I started by doing a lot of comment postings then started writing articles which you were kind enough to publish.

A few years back, my best friend from high school (a Jew) told me I should try writing fiction because I’d had such a weird, convoluted, interesting life.  I was skeptical but gave it a try and loved it. I loved how fiction brought out the emotional side of me, how it created and developed my characters and drove my plot in unexpected directions. That emotional side of fiction captures both the writer and the reader.

I then got into a UCLA fiction writing program, wrote a lot of short stories and then my first novel, all unrelated to Israel. Then one day it occurred to me that I could write a reverse Exodus and that it might have a lot more impact than my non-fiction Mondoweiss efforts were having.  This was in early 2008 when we expected Hillary to be elected which is why I decided on a female president protagonist.  I think both my non-fiction Mondoweiss writing and my reverse Exodus novel took over a good part of my life about then.

What are the myths you are trying to undo/create of your own in order to undo the special relationship?

I wanted to write a good story with engaging characters struggling to deal with a tiny little country with powerful domestic lobby that was doing great harm to our national interests by getting us into wars of choice that really weren’t ours to fight. While the story is centered on Israel/Palestine in the 1940s, my novel is centered in a modern White House. The main myth I was trying to undo was the Israel as a poor little David besieged by powerful savage Arab Goliath states myth.  This was never true, even in 1947-48. I was also trying to show how dysfunctional and harmful our relationship with Israel had become and how the so-called special relationship itself was based on a myth of Israel’s importance.

When did your focus on the lobby begin, and why didn’t you call AIPAC AIPAC?

It was inevitable I focus on the lobby. The lobby exists as Israel’s handmaiden or army of handmaidens.

I can’t pinpoint when I became aware of a formal Israel lobby but I can remember stories I heard around my parents’ bridge table about how Jews were asked to donate to Zionist causes and threatened if they refused. This was mid-50s Los Angeles when I was in my early teens.  Jews were a huge presence in our city and in our lives back then. I knew they were influential but also knew they earned their influence. The lobby is certainly a form or outgrowth of Jewish influence but it’s not universal.  I think I first became aware of the lobby’s power when it prevented George Bush Senior’s efforts to force a two-state solution after the first Gulf War.

Why USIPAC instead of AIPAC? I suppose because my story is a work of fiction and, as I say in my preface, while my novel is historical its characters are fictional even though they may resemble actual historical figures. Same with USIPAC.

There are a lot of implausibilities in any good story, and no one really cares if the story moves. That being said, President Hannagan sits in Nationals Park without much security and no one recognizes her! But let’s move on to some of the big plot points. Her speeches repeatedly taking on Israel and the lobby. Do you think it’s merely a question of personal will? Is that what drives your story?

There was security in the bleachers. In fact a bunch of fans lost their seats because of it.  And it was a random, spur-of-the-moment event which tends to be pretty safe. Actually, she is recognized as the commotion builds around her and she leaves the stadium with bloodied knees [having caught a ball] and to great applause (I just love that sappy scene).

I think events allow President Hannagan to take on Israel but she’s also a strong character with a solid moral core (and a great arm). She comes into the office by an act of fate, knowing nothing about being a head of government, leading a nation. She is expected to rely on advisers but quickly realizes she and the country’s foreign policy are being manipulated by interventionist Neocons. So she fires her secretary of state and brings aboard an elderly Realist, Blakeslee Whitamore, who guides her in bringing the country back to sane foreign policy choices. She surrounds herself with solid, experienced figures who detest our serial interventionism: Janet Murphy, Mike McCord, Tom Murray, her chief of staff, and several others.  These folks have witnessed the carnage caused by the Neocons and work to help her change the nation’s direction.

Events generated by Israel and its lobby both force and allow President Hannagan to take on Israel and the lobby in her speeches. She knows the risks to her presidency but she decides the nation’s interests are more important than saving her own political skin. So yeah, it’s a matter of will and ultimately a matter of character.

Her speech excusing Iran for its hostile behavior as an understandable error…. Could she get away with this?

It would be difficult today but this all happens in a post-attack environment so in that context it might work.  Still, she’s bucking a narrative that is so pervasive that it has captured all the focal points of power: Congress, media, think tanks, talking heads, etc. Nobody is willing to explore the Iranian (or Russian) point of view out of fear, incompetence, lobby pressure; who knows? The safest route is to stick to the bullet points you are handed, stick to the accepted narrative. But here, she and her national security team know it was a rogue actor that gave the orders to sink our ship.  It wasn’t an “understandable error”, it was an attack order by a rogue commander that the Iranian government warned her about in advance.  Rather than risk a wider war by attacking Iran, she tells the American people what happened while also preparing for a massive attack on Iran should it become necessary.  She gets away with it because she is honest and forthright with the American people.  What a concept.

You seem to invoke a lot of old stories, subtly. Like the USS Liberty attack in 1967, of which there are several sequels here. What are the big real life models for you?

The Liberty affair is old news but it was important and intentional yet immediately covered up by a false narrative. The various espionage cases, Pollard, Franklin, etc. show a real disdain for their most important ally. The theft of nuclear materials and secrets is also well-documented. The undermining of the Iran nuclear agreement is another example of Israel and its lobby acting against the national interests of our country and its allies.  I create my own examples of similar Israeli behavior in the novel.  As bizarre and outlandish as some of these are, they’re not without historic precedent.

Ed Koch said he would be on America’s side when there was a war between the US and Israel. I.e, he’d never have to choose. You say that choice will come.. Right?

It does in the novel but under pretty extreme circumstances. I don’t know if it will ever come to that but in some ways, American Jews are already facing that choice: ‘How can I continue to support Israel when it acts contrary to American values by refusing to grant external freedom or internal equality to the Palestinians?’ That’s become a big issue separating American Jews.  Israel’s actions under Netanyahu are forcing US Jews to make a choice.

What about the argument that Americans love Israel because it’s us, reenacting a God-centered story of chosenness exceptionalism, domination….

There’s an element of that but I think it’s limited to conservative Christians, Evangelicals, and those who are attracted by simple, black and white narratives. Plus, how much of this is due to clever narrative creation, Exodus, hasbara, and the pressure put on politicians to support that narrative? That’s what Exodus was all about, making Americans believe Israel’s narrative mimics our own. The opposite argument, that Israel’s influence is bought with Jewish donor money and lobby arm twisting, is also bogus.  All of these elements are present to some degree. I think, deep down, most Americans want Israel to be one of the good guys, to reflect our values but they are also subjected to a lot of propaganda and political manipulation to reinforce that hope.

Many of the policymakers understand the lobby completely in the book and know that Israel treats us with contempt and love bucking that.. The ultimata to Israel, and of course, spoiler alert, the war with Israel. Do you think this betrayal of Israel will come to pass? How much hatred of Israel is there in the political class and the people? Hannagan’s speeches are very popular. You think there’s a reservoir of rage?

What betrayal of Israel? Isn’t it more Israel betraying us, our national interests, our values? The only betrayal I see in the novel is betrayal of a right wing Israeli government that ignores our advice and demands. And that’s not really betrayal; it’s tough love. Israel ends up much weaker as a result of President Hannagan’s actions, but it also gets a new start that allows it be the liberal democratic state some of its founders and supporters envisioned while remaining under the protective umbrella of American power.

Nor is hatred of Israel a factor.  Annoyance, anger at Israeli policies and actions is a lot different than hatred. I think the public support Hannagan receives is a reaction to the outrageousness of Israel’s actions, and justifiable rage against those actions.  It’s certainly not about hatred of Jews or ingrained, repressed antisemitism, for God’s sake, it’s about the actions of a right wing Israeli government run amok.

Re Iran and Israel and Trump, do you feel prescient? When did you write this book?

I started thinking about it in 2008 but I see nothing prescient about a fictional tale in which Israel attacks Iran.  Netanyahu has been pushing for it for decades.  What’s happening today seems to be Trumpish posturing exacerbated by Neocon efforts to fan the flames and get the war they’ve always wanted.  Hopefully Trump will keep back from the brink and restrain his Neocon advisers much as he did in Syria.  I’m just hoping he doesn’t cut it too close in the hope that he’ll be able to maintain the deep pocket support of the Adelsons while avoiding an actual war.  I think he’d love to have a sit-down with the Ayatollahs a la North Korea and if they’re smart, they’ll humor him and maybe even make some progress.

If the IRGC is behind the ship attacks, as a kind of rogue action, that does closely mirror the rogue IRGC Strait of Hormuz commander in my novel. If so, that would make me prescient. But I’d cheerfully trade accolades for prescience for a false flag Israeli attack on the tankers that suddenly is revealed for all the world to see. That could lead to some genuine outrage against Israel. Or, better yet (fictional plot-wise) if the false flag operation is revealed only after the Middle East explodes in a war between the US and Iran, that would again mirror some of what takes place in my novel.

Will the lobby be defeated in real life? Will a president ever give a speech as baldly blaming as Hailey Hannagan’s?

Nope. Only in extraordinary circumstances where an action by Israel is so outrageous sympathy for Israel evaporates.  That’s what I was trying to create in the book. An action or actions like that would also make it easier for a president and other politicos to speak out against Israel and its lobby. Hard to imagine this happening outside the unlimited scenarios afforded by fiction. Even annexation of the West Bank might not engender enough outrage to defeat the lobby. The hasbara is too good, too well-funded.

One of the ironies of my novel is that I found myself forced to look at and use extreme solutions to the I/P conflict because none of the reasonable ones seemed credible.

Walt and Mearsheimer called the lobby a loose coalition of groups and individuals. I always liked that because it was a bit amorphous but also not conspiratorial, and truly descriptive. Your lobby seems a bit more shadowy and we don’t see that many individuals, right? How do you define the lobby? And what are the roles of Jake Levin and Sam Perlman in the story?

I agree with the coalition part but I think it’s more organized and held together by the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.  That keeps everyone (all 51 Jewish organizations) on the same page.  Disputes over goals and means can be ironed out internally while they present a unified front and message to the general public. I don’t see the lobby as particularly loose or amorphous.  I’d say organized, dedicated, well-funded, single-minded.  Conspiratorial? No, but it is the only major US lobby that’s dedicated to promoting and supporting the interests of a foreign country even when those interests conflict with our own. That poses a dangerous situation in my mind and the outcomes in my novel reflect that.

Jake Levin is a Marine medic or corpsman who treats Shana Levy, a CIA officer wounded in an op in Baghdad. He enlisted after 9/11 and ended up with PTSD after too many scary special ops.  He and Shana both have doubts about Israel and its US lobby and know first hand how Israel’s oppression of the Palestinians creates a great deal of antagonism toward the US in the Middle East. Shana ends up working undercover for the CIA and FBI at the USIPAC headquarters. Both are disaffected American Jews as is Sam Perlman, Hannagan’s long time campaign manager. Sam explains to Hannagan why Jewish tribalism prevents many Jews from openly discussing or even dealing with controversial issues involving Israel and its lobby. A couple of lobby big wigs make minor appearances in the novel.

I would have liked to flesh out the lobby more as well as some of the Palestinian characters, and certainly Sam Perlman, but the book is already too long for a modern novel.  The ending leaves open the possibility of a sequel.

Do more Israeli soldiers kill themselves than are killed by Palestinians, as you say in the book?

Pam Olson gave me that tidbit and the source for it.  Actually,the numbers of Israeli soldiers killed by the Palestinians is pretty small to begin with so it’s probably not that surprising if suicides exceed that number. It’s not a meaningful statistic to me.

Do you think presidents and politicians fear Israel to the extent that Hailey comes to fear it in this book — though she has character, of course…

GM: I don’t recall her expressing fear of Israel. More frustration at not being able to moderate its actions. I suppose the fear is of Israel’s lobby and the power it wields. It’s certainly quashed the political careers of lots of ambitious and promising politicos who dared tread on its sensitive toes: Carter, Bush the Elder, Chuck Percy, Pete McCloskey, William Fulbright, and the list goes on. That power does strike fear in the hearts of our political class. They’ve learned the lesson of Percy, Fulbright, and Carter.

That whole mess certainly has a prominent place in my novel.  Wouldn’t it be nice if one of them would show the courage of Hailey Hannagan and publicly oppose and expose the Lobby (as did Eisenhower, sort of). It’s always amazed me that no member of Congress  or the Executive Branch has been willing to stand up to the Lobby bully from the pulpit. The key to defeating the Lobby is by going public, by using the power of the bully pulpit. Ultimately, that’s what Hailey Hannagan does and why she triumphs in the end.   Leave it to a strong American woman to save our nation’s bacon while our craven male politicos diddle around searching for their missing pair.

Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is senior editor of and founded the site in 2005-06.

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54 Responses

  1. John Douglas on June 21, 2019, 10:39 pm

    Thanks for the recommendation. I look forward to the book. Recently I read Richard North Patterson’s novel, “Exile.” It gives an unusually good account of how each side in the Palestine/Israel matter argues the case, but assumes a deeper understanding of the history than most Americans have. Not great writing and accepts that that Iran is the demon of the ME. But it’s an improvement over other American’s novels about Israel.

  2. Citizen on June 21, 2019, 11:58 pm

    Does this new novel have any promotion dollars behind it?

    • irishmoses on June 22, 2019, 12:22 pm

      Nope. Haven’t really explored that. Cart before donkey (or maybe mule).

  3. RoHa on June 22, 2019, 12:08 am

    Hollywood is going to leap on this. It will be made into a blockbuster movie, and then a TV series. The theme song will be heard everywhere. Academy awards all round. Logies, Grammies, and a chat show for Maguire.

    You wait and see.

    • irishmoses on June 22, 2019, 12:40 pm

      Thanks RoHa, and you haven’t even read the book yet.
      Phil asked who would play Paul Newman, I said none of my male characters’ roles were significant enough for such a big name. It’s my female character, Hailey Levitsky Hannagan, that will need star talent.
      I’m thinking Natalie Portman but does she have a good arm? That’s critical. Scarlett Johansson? Definitely not. Gal Gadot? Good God no, although she likely has a good arm. Personally, I think Elizabeth Moss, of Handmaidens’ fame would be no-joke perfect. I can picture her in the Oval Office.

      • echinococcus on June 22, 2019, 4:01 pm

        Perhaps Hollywood will be, to its discredit, a tad more sluggish than predicted by RoHa, but I have to thank and congratulate Irish Moses after 100-some pages: it is a thriller that thrills, undownputtable. At least, to them people of our persuasion. One has to fervently hope that it works that way on the uninitiated. Also, getting the Jewish lobby to start screaming bloody murder about books actually encourages their diffusion and increases general curiosity, and you’re almost sure to be a target of such screams. Congratulations and Good Luck.

      • Citizen on June 23, 2019, 9:12 am

        RE: “Phil asked who would play Paul Newman”–that was my first question too. You see Moss’s character, Hailey Levitsky Hannagan, as a blonde or brunette, picturing her in the Oval Office?
        Who do you see playing her key consultants, and playing Israel lobbyists?

        RE: “I see nothing prescient about a fictional tale in which Israel attacks Iran.” Lindsey Grahm just spelled out Iran War would come about by Israel attacking Iran & US immediately jumping in with its military to support Israel.

        “Her speech excusing Iran for its hostile behavior as an understandable error…. Could she get away with this?”
        Trump just did. OTOH, he appointed Bolton.

      • irishmoses on June 25, 2019, 8:00 am

        Thanks for the kind review (at least up to page 100), Echinococcus.
        “Undownputtable”, I like that turn of phrase.
        Interesting to note the total silence so far on MW (40 comments so far) on the part of those who would strongly disagree with the novel’s premise. I think your comment is spot-on as to the motive behind the silence.

    • RoHa on June 23, 2019, 2:51 am

      Sarcasm aside, unless you can find a way to make it an absolute mega-smash-hit-best-seller, Hollywood and the rest of the usual suspects will work very hard at pretending it doesn’t exist.

  4. tamarque on June 22, 2019, 9:35 am

    This is an interesting idea– a counter Exodus narrative. It might have some impact on the reading public. It would have to be a massively successful book to capture Hollywood attention for the bulk of the public especially since Hollywood is so controlled by the Lobby and the government narrative.

    More importantly I do not see any mention of the following central isssues in the Israel phenomena in the US. First is that Israel was always a tactic of the US and Western Europe. It was perceived as a white european philosophically based venture and served the US interest to have a spy in the woodwork of the Arab states. I don’t think it was accidental that Israel became one of the biggest spy/surveillance/assassination industries in the world and serves the US very well in that capacity. It also serves as proxy for US goals of creating divisiveness in that region.

    And never mentioned here (maybe it does in the book) is the core racism of the situation. Israel is and always has been a racist settler colonialist venture. Early documents of the Zionists, way before 1948, clearly state the attitude about the Palestinians. They were seen as an inconvenience to be removed. Israel also treats its darker skinned Jews almost as badly as they do the Palestinians. The Ethiopian Jews that migrated there suffered horribly as did other darker hued Jews.

    I would expect/hope that the story line creates highly sympathetic and courageous Palestinians with high moral and ethical standards and lots of bravery. if not then this story is all about white American supremacist values and would be horribly disappointing.

    • LiberatePalestine on June 22, 2019, 2:28 pm

      → Early documents of the Zionists, way before 1948, clearly state the attitude about the Palestinians.

      For that matter, plenty of Zionists from that time showed a similar attitude towards Jews (especially Ashkenazi Jews), whom they regarded as panty-waisted, good-for-nothing parasites.

    • irishmoses on June 23, 2019, 11:22 am

      My novel has some very righteous Palestinians: Hanan Abbadi, Ghassan Nashashibi, his daughter, Amira, and his granddaughter, Rashida. There are also some very righteous Israeli Jews: Dov Peled and Chaim Levitsky are two. There also some less-righteous on both sides. It’s all there. Pick your poison.
      Incidentally, my father flew many Ethiopian, Yemeni, and even Shanghai Jews to Israel in 1948-49. Many were welcomed in the new Jewish state but many were ill-used.

      • tamarque on July 31, 2019, 9:02 am

        In 1948 the goal of the Zionists was to bring in as many Jews as possible to populate the region and begin creating their infamous ‘facts on the ground’ basis for their policies.

        You must also have come across the practice of stealing Yeminite Jewish babies of darker skinned Jews and basically selling them to white european Jews. Very similar to the enforced assimilation of Native Americans in the US. This was also done in the 1940-50’s during the push for a white jewish state in the ME!

        Darker skinned Jews were seen like Black people–good for lower level laboring jobs. Middle-class Jews needed their own servants!

        My understanding that even today darker skinned Jews, even those of fundamentalist beliefs are discriminated against. Have read recently of these Jews not being allowed to send their kids to the fundamentalist religious schools. Racism is racism and it never goes away without being exposed, confronted and fought.

  5. Misterioso on June 22, 2019, 10:22 am

    I am looking forward to reading Mr. Maguire’s book.

    In the not so long run, America will have no option other than to set Israel adrift. It is an ever increasing financial and geopolitical liability rooted in 19th century settler colonialism and as predicted, a rapidly growing burden for Jews:

    Then Secretary of State for India and the British cabinet’s only Jewish member, Lord Edwin Montagu’s response to Prime Minister Lloyd George following issuance of the illegal 1917 Balfour Declaration: “All my life I have been trying to get out of the ghetto. You want to force me back there.”

    Henry Morgenthau Sr., former U.S. Ambassador to Turkey, 1919: “Zionism is the most stupendous fallacy in Jewish history…. The very fervour of my feeling for the oppressed of every race and every land, especially for the Jews, those of my own blood and faith, to whom I am bound by every tender tie, impels me to fight with all the greater force against this scheme, which my intelligence tells me can only lead them deeper into the mire of the past, while it professes to be leading them to the heights. Zionism is… a retrogression into the blackest error, and not progress toward the light.” (Quoted by Frank Epp, Whose Land is Palestine? p. 261)

    Asked to sign a petition supporting settlement of Jews in Palestine, Sigmund Freud declined: “I cannot…I do not think that Palestine could ever become a Jewish state….It would have seemed more sensible to me to establish a Jewish homeland on a less historically-burdened land….I can raise no sympathy at all for the misdirected piety which transforms a piece of a Herodian wall into a national relic, thereby offending the feelings of the natives.” (Letter to Dr. Chaim Koffler Keren HaYassod, Vienna: 2/26/30)

    Lessing J. Rosenwald, president of the American Council for Judaism, 1944: “The concept of a racial state – the Hitlerian concept- is repugnant to the civilized world, as witness the fearful global war in which we are involved. . . , 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.”

  6. Somervillein on June 22, 2019, 12:03 pm

    BRAVO, Gil Maguire! Thanks, tamarque, for the vital reminder that the U.S. ruling class government uses Israel for its nefarious purposes just as the Israeli ruling class government uses our government for its purposes. Check out John Spritzler’s book, “The Israeli Ruling Class Exposed.”

  7. wondering jew on June 22, 2019, 12:16 pm

    Leon Uris was a best selling author (and a hired screenwriter) before he was hired to write Exodus. His product seems to be the most important work of political propaganda since Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

    • Mooser on June 22, 2019, 3:59 pm

      .“His product seems to be the most important work of political propaganda since Uncle Tom’s Cabin.”

      So “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” was a work of “political propaganda”?

      Maybe it was the “propaganda” of Uncle Tom’s Cabin which got African-Americans the privilege of Emancipation and Civil Rights. Privileges and rights which were never extended to the Jews in America!

      • LiberatePalestine on June 23, 2019, 12:37 am

        Uncle Tom was a servile flunkey who fawned on his Yankee masters.

        Perhaps the analogy to the Zionists isn’t so bad after all.

      • Mooser on June 23, 2019, 9:46 pm

        “Uncle Tom was a servile flunkey who fawned on his Yankee masters.”

        His “Yankee” masters?

    • echinococcus on June 22, 2019, 4:11 pm

      “Leon Uris was … hired to write Exodus… the most important work of political propaganda…”

      Now that’s a brilliant feat, Reb Feldman! Acknowledging propaganda while one is still fully under its influence, still sleep-walking in the selfsame propaganda hypnosis. Should one call this crepuscular state hyperconscious or hyperunconscious? A situation so unusual I’m totally at a loss for appropriate terminology.

      • Mooser on June 23, 2019, 12:19 pm

        “A situation so unusual I’m totally at a loss for appropriate terminology.”

        In that case, just call it “the Ziocaine Syndrome.”

    • irishmoses on June 23, 2019, 12:10 pm

      Polemic fiction is propaganda to some extent. Atlas Shrugged, Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle are other examples. Judging from the millions of copies sold of these books and some of the social changes that resulted, it clearly can work as a form of persuasion.
      My favorite part of Uris’s Exodus is his rendition of the Balfour Declaration in which he omits the clause, “it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine.” Oops.
      I had read Uris’s first novel, Battle Cry, loosely based on his WW2 experiences as a US Marine. I also enjoyed Exodus, but who knew back then. Dorothy Thompson knew, but that’s another story.

      • Citizen on June 24, 2019, 4:22 am

        It sure is.

      • Citizen on June 24, 2019, 8:04 am

        The Great Journalist Dorothy Thompson Speaks From The Grave With A Most Relevant Question For Americans in 2019: Do Israeli Ties Conflict with U.S. Citizenship? America Demands a Single Loyalty via @commentary

      • irishmoses on June 25, 2019, 7:54 am

        Thanks for the kind review (at least up to page 100), Echinococcus.
        “Undownputtable”, I like that turn of phrase.
        Interesting to note the total silence so far on MW (40 comments so far) on the part of those who would strongly disagree with the novel’s premise. I think your comment is spot-on as to the motive behind the silence.

      • irishmoses on June 25, 2019, 8:21 am

        Thanks for the link to the Dorothy Thompson piece which I don’t recall seeing before. She is one of my heroes. I wrote a longish article on her in MW a few years back [I can’t figure out how to link to it}. Its title is searchable and well worth a read judging by the 170 comments(said he modestly):
        “Obama’s role model to journalists — Dorothy Thompson — turned against Zionism and was silenced:

  8. MHughes976 on June 22, 2019, 2:31 pm

    There’s a counter-Exodus narrative from ancient times – Josephus attacks it – in which ‘Moses’ was the name adopted by the scoundrel Osarsiph, who was responsible for the invasion of Egypt by the Hyksos, marauders from the wild and woolly North.. I don’t think Hollywood will take that up.

    • annie on June 22, 2019, 2:50 pm

      I don’t think Hollywood will take that up.


    • irishmoses on June 23, 2019, 11:56 am

      There’s also a counter-narrative in the Book of Mormon where God gets pissed off with the Jews and sends the Mormon elders to the New World. I’m neither religious nor Mormon so this tidbit is based on a brief flash of memory. Best to check with a Mormon for details. Then again, how could God have chosen Mormons over Jews? Who are we to believe, the books of the Torah, the Old Testament, or the Book of Mormon? Me, I chose atheism; a pox on all their houses.

  9. Elizabeth Block on June 22, 2019, 2:51 pm

    I hope it has some impact. For the impact of “Exodus,” the book and the movie, see Amy Kaplan’s “Our American Israel.” It was massive. It still is.

    • Nevada Ned on June 23, 2019, 12:00 am

      FWIW in the latest edition of The Nation, Rashid Khouri (Prof. at Columbia) gives an enthusiastic review of Amy Kaplan’s book.

      • dianab on July 11, 2019, 2:15 am

        Nevada Ned, I think you mean Rashid Khalidi at Columbia, not Rashid Khouri.

  10. Somervillein on June 22, 2019, 11:41 pm

    Kudos and thanks to Philip Weiss for this newsletter and to mensch Maguire for his engaging novel of our present political predicament with its imaginative solution of “The Accidental Presidency of Hailey Hannagan” ! That main character of “America’s first woman President” should be a winner. For the sake of most people, I hope the book will be a bestseller.

    Until now, I have read only to Chapter 8. Chapter 6, “Bloody Monday,” was a shock. I’m sorry to see a Palestinian woman portrayed this way. Such fanatical attacks occur everywhere in the world; but my Nablus-born, Palestinian nationalist, ex-wife would never do such a thing, no matter how passionately she feels about Israel’s injustices). I look forward to meeting more representative, peaceful Palestinians in this novel. May this novel win a widespread readership and achieve the greater sanity, peace and justice in our world that it wants to see!

    • irishmoses on June 23, 2019, 11:42 pm

      That was written when the knifing attacks on Israeli security posts were starting. There were more than a few Palestinian woman, some quite young who attempted to kill Israeli soldiers with secreted knives and even scissors. Focus on the history of that character in the Bloody Monday scene which I think is revealed later to Hailey by her FBI Director, Pete Dimaggio. Often, the only way you get freedom is to fight for it. There’s a longish section in the Appendices about the history of terrorism that’s worth plowing through. You will find many Palestinians in the novel. Hanan Abbadi is my favorite. No, it’s Rashida Nashashibi, no it’s her sister Amira. I’ve lived with these characters for more than a few years. Glad you’re enjoying the book although you may have gotten hold of an earlier printing when the title was Existential Threat: The Accidental Presidency of Hailey Hannagan. If so, you may not have the appendices in your version. If so, I’ll send you the newer version if you leave an address on my blog, in the comments section at the bottom of the My New Novel… article. Or, I can get you the Kindle version if you prefer.

      • Somervillein on June 24, 2019, 11:13 am

        Thanks for these tips, truth-teller Maguire–and, again, immense thanks for writing this imaginative novel. I DO have the current version of it (Kindle), and the print version is in the mail; but I wondered about the earlier title, which appears on but is “Currently unavailable.” A copy of the terrific new collection of 40 testimonies, “Reclaiming Judaism from Zionism” has interrupted my reading of your novel. I hope you will read it, too. These admirable testimonies give great hope, although today’s Mondoweiss listing of horrible Israeli abuses seem to far outweigh it. Best wishes with your own efforts toward “repair of the world/tikkun olam” !

  11. John Salisbury on June 22, 2019, 11:46 pm

    Fascinating interview.

    Like so many others my first contact with Israel was by Mr Uris via Paul Newman.Agree with Mr Maguire that it was hugely influential.Needless to say I have totally changed my perspective. Re-read the novel last year.It is truly awful.

  12. brent on June 23, 2019, 2:51 am

    Trump just stood up to the Lobby, said “No” to his warmongers and our war state. He says he wants to meet with Iran to make a deal. Netanyahu has to be worried and if he couldn’t count on the PA’s sense of victimization, pride and inability to understand American politics to block Trump, he could be crapping in his pants. Could be Trump is still determined to make a deal of the century.

    • Mooser on June 23, 2019, 9:55 pm

      Damn, the stuff I’m smoking is pretty mediocre. I want some of “brent’s” stash.

  13. Citizen on June 23, 2019, 10:00 am

    I just bought the book off Amazon here:

    Can’t wait to see what the author did with his chosen subject matter–a gutsy move on his part, for sure.

    • irishmoses on June 23, 2019, 11:54 pm

      I’m glad to hear you bought the book, Citizen. It would be interesting if you (and other MW readers who’ve also bought it) did a nunning commentary/review as you plow through it. It would be a lot more timely than waiting until you finish the entire thing.
      The novel structure is unusual. My desire to shoe horn as much of the history and internal debates by Hannagan’s national security team made it necessary. Please be candid in you review and comments. I am thick-skinned.

  14. irishmoses on June 23, 2019, 11:41 am

    Thanks Misterioso for all of your apt historic factoids. You are a fountain of knowledge. Morgenthau is a fascinating character. He convinced Pres. Wilson to send him to Turkey in 1917 to try to convince the Turkish head of state (whom he knew personally) to switch sides and perhaps help bring a early end to the Great War and bring a stop the burgeoning Armenian slaughter. This of course would have put an early end to the Zionist project. Brandeis got wind of it and convinced Wilson to add Frankfurter to the delegation. They eventually caught up to Morgenthau (in Gibralter?) and convinced him to abandon his effort. What might have been had Morgenthau’s mission not been interfered with?

    • dianab on July 11, 2019, 2:31 am

      irishmoses, I’ve read 200 pages so far and am captivated. Congratulations on this extraordinary endeavor. I will read through to the end, including all the appendices. Much admiration and gratitude to you for this amazing contribution to our understanding of the role Israel plays in the world.

      That Morgenthau abandoned his prospective meeting with the Turkish/Ottoman political hierarchy was a tragedy of incalculable proportion. Brandeis and Frankfurter turned out to be traitors, as Alison Weir describes in “Against Our Better Judgment”. Morgenthau also, in not sticking to his guns and not honoring the task that he, himself, created.

      • irishmoses on July 11, 2019, 6:22 pm

        Thank you, dianab, for your kind comments about my novel, The Exodus Betrayal. I hope you and others will provide comments on the book’s Amazon page (, whether positive or negative, to give prospective readers an idea of what they might be getting into.

        I disagree with your characterization of Brandeis and Frankfurter as “traitors”. Both were eminent jurists who contributed much to the body of US jurisprudence. Brandeis could be characterized as the preeminent US jurist and was one of my heroes in law school. I suspect both thought of themselves as patriotic Americans and likely were in all areas except those involving Zionism and the creation of the Jewish state of Israel.

        And there’s the rub. They both had divided loyalties over that one matter. While it can be argued that their actions to convince and prevent Morganthau from getting the Ottoman Empire to switch sides prevented the early conclusion of the Great War, the US’ involvement in that war, and the termination of the Armenian genocide, that’s really speculation or counterfactual history. Both probably thought nothing so dire would occur. The real fault lies with President Wilson who allowed himself to be duped by Brandeis who clearly had ulterior motives in the matter.

        I think Brandeis’ conduct in support of Zionist goals in Palestine provides a perfect example of the dangers of dual loyalty. Brandeis undoubtedly felt he was doing no harm to US interests in his actions in support of Zionist goals but in reality he was doing immense harm and creating a near permanent conflict in the Middle East that has had devastating effects on US interests not to mention on the Palestinian people.

        Brandeis is a complicated character, as is Morganthau. I’d like to read more about both.

  15. Ronald Johnson on June 24, 2019, 9:35 am

    Watch and see the Amazon reader reviews. It will produce what I call the “two lobe distribution”, heavily weighted at “5” and “1” as the polemicists rush in with aspersions to counter the praises received.

    Or, Mr. Bezos may be prevailed upon to display a picture of a charming show dog, with a denial of the book’s availability, when we click upon “BUY NOW”, or “BUYING OPTIONS”.

    • irishmoses on June 24, 2019, 4:39 pm

      Re Amazon reader reviews. I hope all readers will review, even if briefly and even if negatively, my novel, The Exodus Betrayal, on Amazon. The book page is has a place near the bottom for reviews.

      To encourage Mondoweiss readers to read and review the book on Amazon and Mondoweiss (whether negatively or positively) I am offering a free Kindle version of my novel for the next three days (June 25, 26, and 27). I apologize to those who have already purchased the book. I made the decision to offer free Kindle versions only about an hour ago.

      Please take advantage of this offer and tell your friends, family, and even enemies. Let the discussion begin!

      I particularly urge readers to make comments about the novel on this MW thread as you read, particularly factual errors, but also comments on style, form, or whatever. One of the advantages of publishing on Amazon is that they make changes and corrections very author-friendly. Kindle changes are normally approved in a few hours after submission and take place almost immediately. Paperback changes get approved in about the same timeframe but printed book changes don’t get mailed out for a few days which is still pretty impressive.

      So let me know where I’ve screwed up.

      I particularly want to hear opinions from those on the opposite, pro-Israel side, So far, I’ve had only one such comment (from Wondering Jew) and that was a neutral comment about Leon Uris, the author of the original Exodus novel.

      I’m mystified why I haven’t engendered more, either about the interview of me by Phil, or about my novel itself. Hopefully the enticement of a free Kindle copy will loosen their tongues.

  16. rwicks on June 24, 2019, 6:35 pm

    Pshaw. Here let me give you a realistic synopsis if this ever happened.

    Hailey Hannagan would be accused of being anti-Semitic by the US “media” endlessly. Televangelists would claim she’s the anti-Christ. Congress would attempt to remove her through the 25th amendment, or whatever.

    If that all failed, she’s be assassinated, by somebody. probably on July 20th, and if it were successful, it would be hailed as a good thing that the United States stopped Hitler 2.0.

    Anybody seriously doubt this is what would happen?

    • irishmoses on June 24, 2019, 10:42 pm

      Again, it depends on how severe Israel’s actions are. Public opinion can be fickle. In any case, you’re foreshadowing part of the plot. I’ll leave it at that.

    • Citizen on June 25, 2019, 8:46 am

      Not me.

  17. wondering jew on June 25, 2019, 2:31 am

    Irishmoses- good luck on your book!

    The reality of Israel making a big splash in US foreign policy is distasteful to me and when I idealize Moshe Sharett’s attempts to reach a peace with Nasser it is with the idea of retroactively cancelling Netanyahu speaking to Congress in 2015 to reject the sitting President Obama’s Iran treaty. With such a glaring reality there seems little need for fiction. and furthermore particularly at this Trump “moment” (may it be ended on January 20, 2021, may it so be His will) with a fictional situation- reality tv star, failed real estate mogul, bullshit artist becomes president, there really is little need for fiction. Our reality is too stark to be served by an imagined situation.

    Since I was really into the leftovers on tv, i read Left Behind (only the first book) and it deals with a fictional geopolitical situation that i felt was really extraneous at this moment of time, trump as president, we don’t need no fiction that does not help us deal with the current president.

    after 9/11, it now is clear that even something as momentous as that only has the weight of history on its side for a few years and the long wars against afghanistan and iraq are really not a wise undertaking in the forms that they took, in an expectation of prolonged support based upon an event almost 18 years ago.

    particularly regarding the war against iraq, and the so called axis of evil, it seems certainly from israel’s point of view that the primary danger on september 12, 2001 was from iran and not from iraq. but the presence of saddam hussein kicked out of kuwait, but still playing games ten years after, plus the fact that he had tried to kill bush’s father, made him the clearest target for the bush administration and the neoconservative movement. any move against iran would have required pressure rather than going to war and the neoconservatives wanted to go to war, so iraq was the most natural target.

    it is difficult for me to assess iran’s strategic role vis a vis the west and israel without being biased by my support for israel in the confrontation with hezbollah for example and thus i certainly do not share the general positive attitude one reads in the comments in mw regarding iran’s role in the region. the eruption of the arab spring and its short term failure is a question as well, but the mullahs in iran do not inspire my hope for the future and it is the youth of Tehran that have my empathy rather than the regime of the mullahs. How long it will take before they are overthrown is not known. I was surprised when de Klerk gave south africa to the majority. i was surprised when the berlin wall fell, so i certainly do not know when iran’s mullahs will follow a historical path out of power.

    i find the democratic party inner battles regarding zionism interesting and since the democrats have won 6 out of the last 7 popular election votes for the presidency, one figures that eventually the electoral college and eventually even the senate will reflect the will of the american people (unless trump and/or the populism that he reflects will break the democracy) and thus the foreign policy of the democratic party will eventually be the country’s foreign policy and thus the attention being paid by democratic presidential candidates to this issue is quite interesting.

    • irishmoses on June 25, 2019, 11:15 am

      Thanks W-J for the kind words and for your long and thoughtful post (in the wee hours). While I disagree with some of your premises (no surprise there), I won’t belabor you now with a long response.
      I would be interested in your take on my novel, THE EXODUS BETRAYAL: A President Confronts Israel. The Kindle on-line version is free today through this Thursday. You don’t need a Kindle as you can download the Kindle app for free on any device: computer, laptop, tablet, or smartphone and read the book on any of those platforrms. It is truly a remarkable product.
      Again, thanks for the kind words.

    • eljay on June 25, 2019, 1:44 pm

      || wondering jew: … the mullahs in iran do not inspire my hope for the future … ||

      Similarly, the Zionists within and without Israel do not inspire my hope for the future.

      || … How long it will take before they are overthrown is not known. … ||

      I hear ya. Although some Zionists predict that the regime in Israel will last a Thousand Years! (and maybe even forever).

      || … I was surprised when de Klerk gave south africa to the majority. i was surprised when the berlin wall fell, so i certainly do not know when iran’s mullahs will follow a historical path out of power. … ||

      Ditto the Zionists.

    • Citizen on July 9, 2019, 4:19 pm

      Most particularly Tulsi Gabbard.

  18. Jackdaw on June 26, 2019, 12:38 am

    What a shame nobody reads books anymore.

    Let’s cast the movie.

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