Friday, May 30, 2014

Boaz Yakin's JERUSALEM

Boaz Yakin, New York-based film maker, collaborates here with artist Nick Bertozzi to create a graphic novel for adults.  In a fashion not unlike other American literary narratives like Leon Uris's EXODUS, the underlying notion of Arab nationalism's illegitimacy and de-valuation in contrast with Zionism is the real operating ideology of the story.  The novel does include a re-staging of the Deir Yassin, just as O JERUSALEM! does, but like that film, the narrative is the Israeli vision, as opposed to one driven by Palestinian characters, and so the portrayal looses some power.
In terms of ideology, the book features two brothers, Avraham the Communist as opposed to David the Zionist, who nearly come to blows over posters of Stalin and Herzl, as well as a token Arab Socialist functioning in the same fashion as the 'good secular Arab' typical in these narratives.  In this sense, the book has less guts than the British TV serial THE PROMISE.  And because the only counter to Zionism presented is the obviously inadequate Stalinist ideology, made manifest in the scene when the UN vote includes the affirmation from the USSR, the entire exercise is a straw-man argument at the lowest level.
Gender roles and notions of patriarchy are re-inforced by the presence of the Italian immigrant wife of David, away serving in Rome, who shows up on the doorstep four month pregnant and in need of shelter after loosing everything in the death camps.  The articulation of traditional norms are never challenged either with the presence or allusion to alternative gender or sexual orientation.  Furthermore, the book is laced with imagery of faceless Arab hordes attacking the noble Zionists, and when not simply showing the back of an Arab's head, the facial expressions in battle are quite vicious, barbaric, and rooted in tradition Orientalist notions of the 'Other'.  There is very little about this title that is worth much praise, while the caricatures of Arabs are quite disturbing.

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