Saturday, May 23, 2015


By Mansor Puteh

‘The Haj’ is an epic novel by Leon Uris, who had earlier come up with ‘Exodus’, a novel I have not yet read which I will do once if I can get hold of a copy of the novel.

I had seen copies of ‘Exodus’ in the bookstores many years before but did not feel necessary to check it out. And not too long ago, I found a used one in a charity store at a hospital but give it a miss.

Then when I decided to buy it I realized that the copy which is a hardcover was gone.

So I went around Kuala Lumpur to try and get a copy of the book, especially at the secondhand bookstores, but found ‘The Haj’ instead.

And this is how I managed to check what its author Leon says in it, which I found to be very interesting; it tells more about him than the Arabs or especially the Palestinians when they were starting to be displaced, although the Arab word for it which is ‘Nakba’ is never mentioned or used in ‘The Haj’.  

I will endeavor to get a copy of ‘Exodus’ soon to check what Leon has in it.

This novel is fiction but based on facts which Leon took great pains to paint it in order that no one can dispute that fact, on the facts surrounding the creation of the Zionist state of Israel and the displacement of the Palestinians from their land.

If it was written by an Arab or Muslim, it would probably not found a publisher in America and encouraging criticisms by some in the country.

Leon writes as though he is Arab, but with the soul of a Jew, because he has all his characters, men and women, young and old to be very expressive and extroverts to be true, even if they are so which Leon further amplified to create a daytime soap opera setup for easy reading.

And he uses the backdrop of the fragmentation of the Palestinian people and forcing the Arabs to feel guilty in the process, while the western world looks elsewhere at the persecution of the Zionists and the Jewish economic refugees from Europe to flock to land that their leaders had grabbed from the Palestinians using the excuse that it was once where their ancestors in ancient times had lived, and so said their lines in the Jewish ancient manuscripts.

It is like these texts are still valid today, and how the Zionist Elders did not know why the Jews were displaced and fracture since ancient times, for a purpose and discounting altogether what the more pious Jews of the World Hassidim had to say on this matter, then and even to this day.         

For me and mostly likely those who read this novel, it is difficult trying to tell or guess which are facts and which are not, and why was this novel written in the first place, so that the author can manipulate the facts and created new ones, to confuse his reader.

I was confused when I was reading it.

And I was also not greatly impressed with the way he profiled some of the main Arab characters, especially the indiscretions that they are said to commit, including drinking liquor, having extramarital sex and killing close relatives without much basis for them to do so.

But the worse act which I can relate to here is how Leon described a Palestinian man who could put a wad of cash in a plastic bag and then swallowed it in order to smuggle the money, and the next morning retrieve it when he moves his bowel.

There is a European character called Per, whose first wife was a Jewess whom he divorced, and they did not have any children. He then got married with a Muslim woman who bore him three children.

But Leon did not say if Per reverted to Islam as it was mandatory for him to do so.

Maybe he didn’t know that, and his researchers also did not point that out to him and how Per who felt close to the Palestinians became so because of his wife and conversion. No one knows.

There are many bad Palestinian and Arab characters in this novel, but the worse seems to be Prince Ali Rahman of the Al-Saud Clan.

Worse of all is the climax which sees Ishmael killing his father, Haj, over some petty but highly unusual family disputes or matters, when Nada admitted to having extramarital sex with Ibrahim, who Ishmael personally caught in the act.

The novel however, thrives using the typical western-style drama influenced by Jewish storytelling style that was used in the ancient manuscripts that brings out bedroom indiscretions into the fore and in the pages of novels and later on in the theater and also films.

And he would do it again and again in order to hide his money from the authorities or anyone, he feared might want to confiscate it from him.

One can never physically swallow such a large amount of cash that is wrapped in a plastic bag like one cannot swallow what Leon writes, without being confused.

If Leon is not Jewish, ‘The Haj’ could not get the kind reception that it got when it was published, or it might not even be published in America in the first place.

One does not know if he wanted to show compassion for the Palestinians whose land was being stolen from them and the Arabs for not being able to keep the land of their ancestors despite their sheer size, with the Zionists being small in population size, but larger in terms of their brain and intelligence or cunningness, or the length they could go to cheat the hapless Palestinians and all the Arabs especially their leaders who could be fooled by their personal and narrow-mindedness.

He chose to describe the Arab characters in more details than the Jewish ones, and makes the story come from the point of view of the Arabs and not of the Zionists who appear only to torment the Palestinians and Arabs, who in the end could outdo them as the Zionists finally manage to destroy Arab armed forces to seize and control much of their land which still remains in their hands till today.

The Palestinians and Arabs can be manipulated because they have their in-built hatred of each other and worse, their tribal mentality can be used against them.      

What Leon says in this novel of the Palestinians and Arabs is still true, especially at this time when many of the Arab countries that are mentioned in the novel that are now destroyed.

Just look at what is happening in the Arab World today from March, 2011 when the Arab Spring, Part I happened to today, especially after Arab Spring, Part II was thwarted, and one can see how Leon’s prophecy is so true of the Arabs and Palestinians, not that he had warned his readers that it would happen.  

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