Adam Curtis

Here is a strange echo from history.

It is a documentary made by the BBC in 1973 about the story of the ship, the Exodus.

It was the ship full of Jewish refugees - many of them survivors of the Holocaust - that tried to break the British blockade of Palestine in 1947. The participants from both sides appear and describe in detail how British soldiers boarded the ship 21 miles off the coast of Palestine killing 3 of the refugees and wounding others.

It caused an international scandal and was a PR disaster for the British government. It is seen in Israel today as one of the most significant events that led to the founding of the modern Israeli state.

The shock was compounded when the British took most of the refugees back to Germany and put them on trains and sent them to internment camps.

Here is a still of the ship after it was captured by the British.

As you watch the film - it raises complex reactions and thoughts in your mind. But it is ironic that, although the two events are in many ways completely different, the Israelis are now preventing Palestinians and supporters of Hamas from doing what the Israeli defence organisation - the Haganah - tried to do over 60 years ago. From 1945 the Haganah, along with the Irgun, had been carrying out a terror campaign against British soldiers in Palestine. Then in 1947 they organised the Exodus operation as an attempt to break the British blockade.

It is full of all the central characters in the story - including the captain of the Exodus, and the commander of the British warship. He uses little models of ships to demonstrate how he came alongside and British soldiers jumped from special platforms onto the roof of the Exodus - and took over the wheelhouse.

For some unknown reason the film starts in colour - then goes to black and white and finally comes back into colour. I'm sorry about this - but it is fascinating.

Tagged with:

Comments

This entry is now closed for comments.

  • Comment number 27. Posted by marharri

    on 6 Feb 2011 10:01

    This comment was removed because it broke the house rules. Explain

  • Comment number 26. Posted by Bob_Martin

    on 22 Nov 2010 16:45

    Adam, you're so often correct and truly brilliant in the way you present your case (on film and in writing) that it's difficult for me to disagree with you. But when you compare the Exodus ship to the Flotilla, you go badly off the tracks.

    Two ships full of people trying to reach Israel is about as far as the analogy can be made. The historical and legal rights, plus the intentions and purposes of the two different sets of passengers couldn't be more diametrically opposed.

    Had the British, during the Mandate period, honored their moral and legal obligation to establish the Jewish Homeland, as is so clearly stated in every legal document related to the enterprise, there most certainly wouldn't have been 6 million Jewish deaths resulting from the Shoah in Europe and North Africa.

    The plans for the Jewish State were in the works long before the Shoah, and it's historically incorrect to claim that we got Israel because of those horrifying years. But what should be repeated again and again is the fact that Jews were prevented from coming to Israel by the very powers who were entrusted with the responsibility of seeing that the Jewish State come into existence.

    It's likely that there'd still be turmoil in this region even if we'd gotten all our rights, to say nothing of realizing our ancient hopes of returning to the land of our ancestors. Owing to Islamic, and to some degree Christian, intransigence and revanchist grudges vis a vis the Jewish people, there probably wouldn't be genuine peace in the region today; but, at the same time, we wouldn't be mired in the slough of false arguments and dehumanizing propaganda questioning our right to live in and develop the land from the River Jordan to the Mediterranean (the 1922 Partition borders, ratified by law and by treaty).

    If our historical and legal rights are somehow taken away (and there is good reason to think this might happen), then this will open a case for denying the same historical and legal rights to every political entity established following the collapse of the Ottoman empire and the two World Wars.

    I'm hoping you'll put your considerable intellectual and research skills to the task of carefully examining the history and legal aspects that led up to the founding of the State of Israel.

    While you might not present things exactly as I and other Jews in Israel and around the world would hope, after having studied most of your documentary films over the past several years I'm certain you'd produce a useful and interesting look at the puzzling false dilemma styled as "The Arab-Israeli Conflict" and its current morphing into world-wide hatred directed at Israel.

    You might even dare to draw out the parallel with what took place in the run-up to the mass expulsion of Jews in Germany and Eastern Europe in the 1930s and 40s. "Hope springs eternal".

    With respect, from Israel...

    • This entry is now closed for comments. Number of positive ratings for comment 26: 0
    • This entry is now closed for comments. Number of negative ratings for comment 26: 0
    Loading…
  • Comment number 25. Posted by Wunderbar

    on 29 Oct 2010 23:09

    @eshklyar: Since the Exodus incident took place in 1947 - after the war - you can't claim these refugees were "fleeing for their lives". At least not those from Germany.

    Just to add a little more historical context, here's what happened to another refugee ship just a few years earlier. I recently read about it in a book by Necla Kelek, a Turkish writer - I'm not sure if it's available in English, but the title should be something like "Bittersweet Home" (German: Buttersüße Heimat). Here is what she wrote:

    On December 7, 1941 the SS Struma, an old cargo steamer, left the harbour of Constanta in Romania, heavily overladen with 770 Romanian Jews, among them 269 women and children. Their destination was Palestine, across the Black Sea, through the Bosporus and the Dardanelles to Haifa. Since 1938, some 21.000 refugees had taken this sea route with the help of Jewish organisations.

    The British started to put pressure on the Turkish Government to stop all refugee transit by land or sea, because they wanted to impose a limit of 10.000 Jewish immigrants to Palestine per year. If the Struma wasn't stopped, they threatened to force it into the nearest Turkish harbour after the Dardanelles. But they didn't have to, because just a few hours after she had left Constanta, the Struma's engine failed and was totally wrecked by an explosion just short of the Bosporus. A Turkish tugboat towed the stricken vessel to Istanbul, where it remained for the next three months while the governments in Ankara and London quarrelled. Neither the British nor the Turks wanted these Jews - nobody was allowed off the ship, there was no electrical power, heating or even enough food. People got sick and desperate. Some jumped overboard into the icy water, but were fished out and brought back aboard. The drama of the ship moored not far from Istanbul's Topkapi Palace could hardly have been overlooked by the international press, but it went unreported.

    Finally, on February 23rd, the Struma was towed out of Istanbul's harbour - back through the Bosporus and into the Black Sea. The refugees panicked. "SOS", "We're Jewish" and "We're all going to die", they wrote on shirts and placards, but nobody on shore took notice. 10-12 miles off shore, the tows were unfastened and the Turks left the powerless, drifting Struma to its fate. She was torpedoed by a Soviet submarine the following night and sunk. One Romanian boy, David Stoliar, survived on a plank long enough to be fished out by men from the Turkish rescue station at Sile - he was put into a hospital and later arrested for illegally entering Turkey.
    Hungarian-born writer/dramatist George Tabori has written a novel about this, "Beneath the stone (the scorpion)" (1945).

    Note the particularly cruel negligence through which these people died. If I was Jewish and had been raised on stories such as this - I don't see how you could avoid hearing them - I couldn't care less about what the world thought of me.
    But there's another parallel to the Palestinians here, too - I don't think Israel would still occupy Gaza and the West Bank if the Arab World wasn't allowing it to. It's just too convenient a distraction for angry Arabs and Western TV cameras alike.

    • This entry is now closed for comments. Number of positive ratings for comment 25: 0
    • This entry is now closed for comments. Number of negative ratings for comment 25: 0
    Loading…
  • Comment number 24. Posted by einarsteinn

    on 24 Jul 2010 11:18

    Thank you so much for this, Andy. Listening to it right now. Truly fantastic music. I also very much enjoyed Copland's Appalachian Spring and will definately check out more music by him. :)

    • This entry is now closed for comments. Number of positive ratings for comment 24: 0
    • This entry is now closed for comments. Number of negative ratings for comment 24: 0
    Loading…
  • Comment number 23. Posted by Andy

    on 20 Jul 2010 22:11

    For Einarsteinn:

    The music towards the start of the film is Fanfare for the Common Man. It's been covered by many but the original is by Aaron Copland. Copland was born in America and of Lithuanian Jewish descent.

    • This entry is now closed for comments. Number of positive ratings for comment 23: 0
    • This entry is now closed for comments. Number of negative ratings for comment 23: 0
    Loading…
  • Comment number 22. Posted by einarsteinn

    on 16 Jul 2010 13:33

    Thank you so much for posting this highly interesting and apt documentary.

    On a bit of a side note, I loved the intro music, played when the title of the film emerges, and thought I recognized it from Star Trek. If anyone could direct me as to how to find this theme and tell me it's name and from which film or series it is, that would be highly appreciated.

    • This entry is now closed for comments. Number of positive ratings for comment 22: 0
    • This entry is now closed for comments. Number of negative ratings for comment 22: 0
    Loading…
  • Comment number 21. Posted by StenkaRazin

    on 16 Jun 2010 16:32

    Think of the children!

    What self respecting propagandist wouldn't stoop to using the 'whelps and dams of murderous friends'. The good doctor, Theodore Dalrymple, writes a different take on the Gaza peace flotilla:

    http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/opinions/this-was-not-a-humanitarian-voyage/article1601665/

    Likewise we can see a similar use of 'innocence' deployed by protest speakers in London; the video shows Craig Murry giving a rather stirring speech regarding the legality of the Israeli raid, declaring it as an act of war; but look at the character to his left, who is waiting to cue the angelic chorus of children, to underline the morality of the protest:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ycg2D5qVm_o&

    • This entry is now closed for comments. Number of positive ratings for comment 21: 0
    • This entry is now closed for comments. Number of negative ratings for comment 21: 0
    Loading…
  • Comment number 20. Posted by Bob Long

    on 9 Jun 2010 12:07

    "The ends justify the means" has always been the favourite slogan of Evil. Goring used it, Stalin used it, Franco used it. It always boils down to the same thing: we're going to kill you because you're in the way.

    • This entry is now closed for comments. Number of positive ratings for comment 20: 0
    • This entry is now closed for comments. Number of negative ratings for comment 20: 0
    Loading…
  • Comment number 19. Posted by lukethelibrarian

    on 8 Jun 2010 13:15

    This comment was removed because it broke the house rules. Explain

  • Comment number 18. Posted by Orthodoxcaveman

    on 8 Jun 2010 09:41

    As for historical parallels, I think the Israeli historian Benny Morris reflects the mindset of the current administration and a large section of Israeli society when he stated in Ha'aretz in 2004 -

    "Even the great American democracy could not have been created without the annihilation of the Indians. There are cases in which the overall, final good justifies harsh and cruel acts that are committed in the course of history."

    I think this statement is interesting because it departs from the standard David verses Goliath narrative cultivated by apologists for Israeli state violence. The reporting by the BBC of the Gaza blockade has been particularly grim with an emphasis on the pronouncements of Israeli officials and military advisors. I wonder what Adam Curtis makes of the role his employers play in the dissemination of state lies and propaganda. Maybe a documentary on this subject is long over due and would test the boundaries of what the BBC proclaims as it's impartiality and objectivity.

    • This entry is now closed for comments. Number of positive ratings for comment 18: 0
    • This entry is now closed for comments. Number of negative ratings for comment 18: 0
    Loading…
More comments

More Posts

Previous

Next