December 16, 2013, - 2:30 pm

Peter O’Toole: The Vast Over-Rating of “Lawrence of Arabia” Pan-Arabism

By Debbie Schlussel


Peter O’Toole would be a nobody if the West didn’t foolishly gush over a movie celebrating the Westerner who pioneered the Arabist Middle East.

Yes, I know, Peter O’Toole was a great actor. But let’s face it: he is known as a great actor primarily because he played a Western Arabist who helped unite the most dangerous forces of Islam together against the Turks. If O’Toole had never played “Lawrence of Arabia,” I doubt he’d be the big deal, lamented worldwide, as he is today, dying yesterday at the age of 81. And the West constantly gushes over O’Toole’s star turn movie, not because of O’Toole, but because the West loves to dabble in the “exotic”–in pandering to Muslims.


I tried to watch “Lawrence of Arabia” many times and struggled to get through it. I don’t understand why it is regarded as a masterpiece (other than, as I said, for Westerners who like to think themselves “sophisticated,” “intellectual,” and better people for helping Muslims acquire power to harm the West in the long run). It is four hours long, boring, and a tribute to, ultimately, the unified power acquisition and radicalization of the Muslim Middle East with the leadership of a noblesse oblige Englishman, T. E. Lawrence. That’s a mistake the West makes over and over again. It isn’t some magnificent tale to be lavished with respect and gushing. (Chaim Weizmann, Israel’s first President, wrote that T.E. Lawrence supported the idea of a Jewish state in Israel because he thought the Jews would help the Arabs advance in various arenas. But I find that doubtful, and others have noted that Lawrence was anti-Zionist. Arabism is inherently anti-Semitic and anti-Israel because a key component of it is that all of the Middle East is Arab land. Regardless of which is the case regarding Lawrence and Zionism, it does not matter because his ultimate contribution–Arabism–was and remains, to date, a disaster for all concerned and for all of us in the West.)

The movie critics and self-appointed cultural observers who applaud “Lawrence of Arabia” are the same ones who have no problem with a Muslim immigration problem and doubling of the Muslim population and corresponding number of mosques in America since 9/11. They are the idiots who tell me and others that 9/11 wasn’t the achievement of Arab Muslims, but some nondescript group of men who may have “hijacked a religion.” They are the Lawrences of America and 10 Downing Street and Buckingham Palace who bend over and let themselves be the carpet that is stepped on by the descendants of Lawrence’s Near Eastern buddies. (That includes the Lawrence of the White House who, today, thinks he is Lawrence of post-Persia and the Ayatollahs.)

Wouldn’t the West be better off today if the Turks had continued their hegemony over the Muslim Middle East (not Israel) to date?

Not today’s Turks of the Mavi Marmara HAMAS Flotilla, but the Turks of Ataturk and the outlawing of hijabs? Yes, I think we’d all be better off. 9/11 and Fort Hood and all the others wouldn’t have happened. And a Saudi billionaire prince wouldn’t co-own and propagandize the West via FOX News. He wouldn’t be a prince, nor would he be a billionaire. He’d be some inbred dude on a camel in the desert somewhere herding goats and ingesting sand. So would the 25% of 9/11 hijackers who came from Saudi Arabia and the other 75% who came from other Arab nations. None of these nations would exist, but for the Arabism spawned by this blue-eyed Western schmuck, Lawrence. They were artificial creations of the United Nations and world community after T. E. Lawrence pioneered the art of Arabism.

Frankly, the only things I think of–other than the disaster spawned by Lawrence’s long-term “contribution” to world geography and politics–when I think of “Lawrence of Arabia,” are the two porn movie names I figure were probably in Bin Laden’s porn stash at the world’s junkiest “mansion” in Abottabad: “Whorence of Arabia” and “Lawrence of Her Labia.”

And so, I’m not among those gushing over Peter O’Toole, mostly because I know his stardom and the gushing mostly come from Lawrence of Arabia, which is a movie I don’t celebrate. There needs to be a reality check here.

Yes, an actor is not necessarily his starring role. But often it is. Or often it is the reason he is sung and glorified by the conventional wisdom. Yes, O’Toole was good in “Good-bye, Mr. Chips” and sundry other roles. But he was also a drunk whose acting career was quickly on the precipice of death not long after it started. He had a kid out of wedlock with some model, well before this was fashionable and accepted. Yup, he was “leading the way!” And so on. Nothing spectacular about that. In fact, his personal life and behavior was the epitome of Western mediocrity.

Some might point out that O’Toole twice acted in Israel for ABC miniseries about Masada. Big whoop. Talk about a tribute to Jewish annihilation. Today, I have no doubt that O’Toole would be among those many English Islamophiles who refuse to perform in Israel. Many of his surviving contemporaries in the English bard take that tack. And those just a few generations behind, like that prune Emma Thompson (who plays the Mary Poppins creator in a new Disney movie debuting on Friday), are proud of their radical anti-Israel chic.

And, so, while I recognize that Peter O’Toole was a masterful British actor, I also recognize that the lifetime of career gushings and now-posthumous tributes are tainted inseparably from his over-rated role in an over-rated movie documenting how one non-visionary man, as it turns out, Lawrence, created an unfriendly Middle East for centuries to come and ultimately a West that will die because of the threats from that Arabism he forged.

An actor who is exalted in life because of glorifying the modern founder of Arabism must be taken down a peg in death for it.

Ask yourself: 50 years from now, will we be gushing over and lamenting the actor who played Osama Bin Laden–or his Western “visionary” Adam Gadahn Al-Amriki–in a favorable film?

G-d, I hope not.

**** UPDATE: T.E. Lawrence a/k/a “Lawrence of Arabia” called for the ethnic cleansing of Jews from Jerusalem and the rest of Palestine and said Jews should be “assimilated” by the Arabs.

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38 Responses

Peter O’Who?

DS_ROCKS! on December 16, 2013 at 2:39 pm

The film is a great adventure story and a study in contrasts between the tribal Arabs and the civilized British who tried to patronize them.

T.E Lawrence discovers being an Arabist is uphill battle because there is no unified Arab nation. That’s a point often forgotten in these politically correct times. When you get to the end of the movie, you discover the Great Arab Uprising against the Ottoman Turks was greatly overrated.

Its kind of an irony that in the prologue to the film is the haunting image of Lawrence symbolized in the goggles by the roadside. We all wonder what is like to die and if a human lifetime really does make a difference.

Debbie – we both know the answer to Lawrence’s question is “no.” The Arabs never lived up to his hopes of becoming a great nation. Like I said, the film is full of sheer visual poetry and it also shows human conflict stripped down to its rawest form. Neither English nor Arab could attain a mutual understanding.

Arab – what’s that? I keep thinking of the famous line in the film in which its said nobody ever heard of an Arab. That’s as true today as it was at the beginning of the British offensive to drive the Ottoman Turks out of the Arab Middle East – nearly a century ago.

NormanF on December 16, 2013 at 3:22 pm

Yes, without doubt the gushing over O’Toole today is because of his pro-Muslim role.

An indication of this is that we have also experienced the deaths of two great actresses, Joan Fontaine and Eleanor Parker in recent days. Suspicion and Rebecca are two of the greatest movies of all time, but Joan Fontaine didn’t get anywhere near the tributes of O’Toole.

Little Al on December 16, 2013 at 3:30 pm

Debbie –

You do make a good point about the evils that pan-Arabism helped to spawn. In a way I agree that if the First World War had never happened, the Arabs would be long forgotten by now.

But then on the flip side, there would be no Israel either in the picture, a reminder of the intricate link between good and evil. We rarely get to pick a good side and there’s usually all the nasty stuff that comes with it.

Keeping in mind, I think Israel has helped to balance things out so while as its not as good as we would like, I have to say the Arabs’ day is behind them.

Islam is another another story altogether. Debbie, I join you devoutly in your hope a move glorifying Islamic terrorists will never get made.

NormanF on December 16, 2013 at 3:37 pm

And let us remember, since we are talking about the English, Kipling’s words about immigration of undesirables — we would all do well to keep it in mind:

The Stranger within my gates,
He may be evil or good,
But I cannot tell what powers control–
What reasons sway his mood–
Nor when the Gods of his far-off land
Shall repossess his blood.

Little Al on December 16, 2013 at 3:48 pm

    How apropos, Little Al. On January 1st we’ll lack power of the incandescent light-bulb (for the far more dangerous, mercury filled f***ers that don’t work as well) and Jolly Olde England is letting in heaps of Romanian & Bulgarian immigrants they know will use their country as a toilet.

    Even their Mooooslim invaders are annoyed at those two groups. What interesting times, indeed.

    Skunky on December 16, 2013 at 4:39 pm

      skunky: “…lack power of the incandescent light-bulb”

      I was an early adopter of those energy-saver fluorescent bulbs (they are subsidized by the State out here in CA to get people to switch) that are shaped in the traditional size until I got one that caught fire about a year ago.

      My youngest daughter came running out of the bathroom to me saying that the light was “smoking” and when I went in to look at it, the plastic base was smoldering black smoke and the glass tube was red hot and melting. Scared the sh*t out of me when I realized that could have happened to any of the lights we leave on when we go out and the house could have burned down.

      I promptly went through our entire house and got rid of every “energy saver” fluorescent bulb and replaced them with incandescent.

      With the new ban I guess I’ll have to go with LEDs.

      DS_ROCKS! on December 16, 2013 at 4:56 pm

    Actually, and ironically, Kipling was talking largely about Jews, who he hated and thought were ruining Britain.

    ibn Abu on December 16, 2013 at 5:35 pm

      Although that was true of T.S. Eliot and others, Kipling was primarily speaking about enemies of the British Empire. I am aware of no documentation to support your Islamic drivel.

      Little Al on December 16, 2013 at 6:00 pm

        LOL. I’m a Zionist Jew who has been posting on this site for years, not a purveyor of Islamic drivel.

        Kipling was a rabid antisemite. He accused TE Lawrence of being “pro-Yid” and believed (among other things) that Einstein’s theory of relativity was a Jewish plot to undermine Western civilization.

        ibn Abu on December 16, 2013 at 11:46 pm

          Yes, Kipling was a genteel antisemite, as were most in England at that time, but he did have the swastika on his works removed when it became known as a Nazi symbol. (before that it was an Indian symbol that had nothing to do with Jews. Kipling had much more of a distaste for Germans, Boers, and those fighting against the British Empire than he did for Jews.

          Kipling’s views on Jews were complex. He visited the Lower East Side of New York in the early 20th century, and expressed great respect for the ability of poverty-stricken Jews to assimilate to America, and salute the American flag. He praised the writing of popular patriotic songs such as those written by Irving Berlin.

          You say nothing specific about The Stranger (I only included one of the five stanzas.) The main point of the poem is that in the early 20th century, it was commonly believed that homogeneous societies were valuable and worth preserving. His comments about his visit to the Lower East Side demonstrates that he thought Jews were capable of such assimilation.

          The idea of assimilation was also believed in the United States until the 60s, and was the basis of the Melting Pot. While we welcomed people of all nationalities we tried to assimilate them to a common culture.

          Your comment reminds me of those who criticize as racists those who favor strong enforcement of immigration laws.

          Finally, I never access links that someone puts on his post. You can never tell where it might lead, or who the person is posting it. You also never know what type of damage a computer will endure if a link is clicked on, so if you have some kind of source, say explicitly what it is, so it can be checked independently.

          Little Al on December 17, 2013 at 12:51 am

I, too, found “Lawrence of Arabia” boring and waaaay too long!

The only films with Peter O’Toole I enjoyed are “The Ruling Class” and “King Ralph”.

Alan on December 16, 2013 at 3:52 pm

I never saw “Lawrence Of Arabia”. I sure wanted to but never got around to it. Then I learned about Islam and Arabs and really, I don’t have the desire to see either of those things lionized.

I was a POT fan without seeing that film, I am happy to say. I know him from “Beckett”, “A Lion In Winter” and one of my fav but long forgotten 80’s films “My Favourite Year”.

I think it was meant to be I never saw LOA. It’s hard enough to get peeps to open their eyes to Arabs and Islam in 2014. A film romanticizing both is the the opposite of what we need.

Skunky on December 16, 2013 at 4:32 pm

    Quote from the film “a little people. A silly people, greedy, barbarous and cruel”

    LG: The quote is irrelevant to the point of this post, which is that Peter O’Toole is remembered fondly mostly because he played an Arabist who helped unite and strengthen the Arab world. The point of the movie was not that quote. The point of the movie was that Lawrence was somehow some great and glorious hero for emboldening Muslim scum. He was not. Nor was O’Toole for playing him. DS

    Lisa Gnas on December 16, 2013 at 4:58 pm

      A classic quote.

      Are the Arabs any different today? It reveals a truth about human nature that never changes. That wouldn’t be true at all if the Arabs have changed. They haven’t.

      There’s also the motto of the desert: the strong survive and the weak perish.

      As Lawrence finds out, Western compassion is of no help in a harsh world.

      NormanF on December 16, 2013 at 5:15 pm

      He was not necessarily the hero, but the protagonist of the film. He was a complex character. The quote was something he was indeed feeling for part of the film. One 5hing I do know, however is that there is a direct link between the rise of the Saudi and Bin Laden families, as the Sauds contracted the Bin Ladens to build the cities of Jeddah and Riyadh.

      Lisa on December 16, 2013 at 8:45 pm

    “Lawrence Of Arabia” doesn’t romanticize the Arabs. It shows us their war-like, harsh, cruel and fanatical nature. You cannot avoid looking at the differences between them and our Western civilization. I hardly consider it a compliment to them.

    Now its true – people are fascinated by the freedom of the desert nomad and the life the under the glittering stars. I like the scenes in the film that show the night beauty of the desert. One is brought back down to earth in realizing that its a tall order indeed to convert marauders into the settled inhabitants of the city. And the film doesn’t gloss over the difficulty.

    The other thing I want to point out is that no matter how much we put ourselves in the shoes of those alien to us, their ways and ours are fundamentally irreconcilable. And the truth is – nothing speaks to us more clearly than home. The stuff of adventure is why I am engrossed by the movie. Its politics, feuds and infighting hold no appeal to me.

    We will never see so grand an adventure epic on the big screen again, for good reason. What I take away from it in the end, is that while the world is a beautiful place full of wonder and marvelous sights – I don’t find attractive everything in it and I consider myself a person of more discriminating taste and good judgment than Lawrence.

    NormanF on December 16, 2013 at 5:29 pm

If you really want to vomit watching a movie from the same era, watch Spartacus. It’s all lies. Spartacus was a murderous bastard and Sulla was a great roman leader.

“My Favorite Year” is great and if you have a warped sense of humor, like me, you’ll like “What’s New Pussycat”

Rick on December 16, 2013 at 5:11 pm

    Yes, Spartacus was one of the most disgusting movies ever made.

    Little Al on December 16, 2013 at 5:31 pm

I think “Becket” is his most underrated film – he co-starred in it with Richard Burton about King Henry II and his gradual estrangement from his friend Thomas Becket – and the chain of consequences that leads to the murder of Becket and the subsequent humiliation of the king. Its well worth watching – beautifully acted and crafted with the two leading lights of the day playing the main roles.

NormanF on December 16, 2013 at 5:39 pm

I remember watching this dreck in high school drama class my junior year. Our teacher thought that she could broaden our horizons my making us watch Lawrence of Arabia and various other old movies. We had quizzes throughout so we had to pay attention. Even broken up during several class periods it was long
and boring. O’Toole was an ok actor but to me this movie stank back then and any movie that romanticizes Muslims will not be on my viewing list. Especially one this freaking long.

Ken b on December 16, 2013 at 5:56 pm

And then there was Tom Laughlin, who’d also died over the weekend; he was the one who foisted all the “Billy Jack” movies unto us. Compared to him, O’Toole was truly Oscar caliber – but only comparatively speaking. At least there wasn’t the excessive gushing over Laughlin’s death that there’d been over O’Toole’s, despite how many on the Left went ga-ga over “Billy Jack” and its mountain of sequels.

ConcernedPatriot on December 16, 2013 at 6:17 pm

    “I’m going to take this foot, and whop you on that side of your face, and you’re not gonna be able to do anything about it.”

    One Tin Soldier was a great song, too.

    Okay, I guess I’m not a true conservative. I saw Billy Jack in 534 B.C. and don’t remember much but the above line. He was all about clean air, clear water and “equality,” right?

    My mother took me to see Lawrence Of Arabia when I was about six. All I remember was a lot of desert scenes, and how much my mother thought Peter O’Toole was an incredible actor.

    I’m Sgt. Schulz, I know nothing.

    Alfredo from Puerto Rico on December 16, 2013 at 10:47 pm

A little too much. Pan-Arabist? Well, certainly not pro-Turkish, who were shown as incompetant homosexuals. The Arabs were shown as the “little people” that was mentioned in the movie. Remember, the Arabs were at each other’s throat at the end of the movie, depicted as the Arabs are; violent, argumentative, and disloyal. The British were of course depicted as devious, but that is what they were when playing the colonial game. I thought it was a great movie. Just recenlty watched it again on cable and enjoyed it.

Federale on December 16, 2013 at 6:41 pm

Have you read “Setting the Desert on Fire?” Much of the book portrays Lawrence as a liar.

I do not know if Peter O’Toole was an anti-Semite. I have no evidence one way or the other. Before he got a nose job and played “Lawrence of Arabia,” he played an extremely sympathetic version of Shylock. For those of you who have read the book, Shakespeare was not sympathetic towards Jews, and was a typical English anti-Semite (anti-Semitism can be found in Dickens, Chaucer, etc). Ironically, Shakespeare had never met a Jew, as Jews were not allowed to live in England at that time. It was only in more modern of times that directors have turned Shylock into a sympathetic figure; Shakespeare had portrayed him as less than human, which is how most English viewed and still view Jews.

Jonathan E. Grant on December 16, 2013 at 7:06 pm

    I’ve seen the proof of that, JEG, on the British papers comments sections. Not that I ever doubted it but it is indeed troubling how many Brits hate Jews.

    Skunky on December 16, 2013 at 7:33 pm

Another name that deserves to live in infamy is the person who actually helped make T.E. Lawrence a household name, veteran “journalist” Lowell Thomas. It was Thomas, long before he became the “voice” of Fox Movietone News (and a radio commentator on NBC and then CBS), who single-handedly created the whole “Lawrence of Arabia” narrative, thus he is as much culpable as Lawrence himself in spreading the entire “Arabist” movement that now threatens us all. In a sense, Thomas is a progenitor of all the “news” frauds who now wield disproportionate influence on public opinion, and have from the time of Huntley/Brinkley, Cronkite et al., and before them Murrow and so on.

ConcernedPatriot on December 16, 2013 at 8:26 pm

Lawrence is a complicated character. You’re never really comfortable with him but at the same time you go on a journey along with him. The opening scene alone is enough to make it a memorable film.

Does it help romanticize Arab nationalism? Probably.
The BBC is running pieces on key moments of the Arab Spring as if it all turned out like some kind of monumental step forward.
They don’t actually say that. They just kind of leave the impression dangling because the consequences have been pretty horrendous.
Wisely they don’t seem to do much analysis on that.

In many ways the media helped create the momentum behind this disaster.
For progressives everything is ultimately as step forward. Especially the bloody set backs.

Frankz on December 16, 2013 at 8:30 pm

I don’t know that Suicide bombing and 9/11 and OBL was because mostly because of helping Arabs. Just finished the book the Myth of Martyrdom which points out that most suicide attackers are only doing it due to their own personal problems but committing suicide would be considered evil but if they could wrap it in a cause then their suicide won’t be seen in the same light. Is that a creation by arabs. Not so sure. Japan had their Kamikaze pilots. MA the lead mastermind of 9/11 was deeply disturbed and he never got anywhere in teaching other Muslims as they found him too lacking in humor or any enjoyment in life.

In fact OBL wanted him to do this in July but MA wasn’t ready yet to commit suicide. Thank God though most Arabs don’t want to kill themselves and do value this world or we would have real problems. THe increase in family instability is another big cause of people who want to kill themselves and you could blame many people for that.

Wasn’t OBL exiled from Saudi Arabia as well. Afghanistan was who gave him shelter which maybe we shouldn’t have used them to fight the Soviets. So there is plenty of blame to go around although arabs will generally not like Jews because they feel that it is wrong for God to have favored Issac who was the younger son.

adam on December 16, 2013 at 8:53 pm

O’Toole was Irish, not British, for the record.

Again, show me that he was an anti-Semite. I don’t think he made any comments about Jews, one way or the other.

Jonathan E. Grant on December 16, 2013 at 10:57 pm

I’m no homophobe, but wasn’t TE Lawrence of Arabia gay?

Not that it ever mattered. Maybe it should have all along.

The Reverend Jacques on December 17, 2013 at 12:31 am

Could you explain please this notice?

Spirit of Israel FACEBOOK

Ontem ยท Editado.

Peter O’Toole (who passed away yesterday) was a strong supporter of Israel. He spent some six months here making the TV series Massada. But the real connection came while filming “Lawrence of Arabia” in Jordan. The producer was the late Sam Spiegel of blessed memory who helped to “educate” the cast and crew about Israel, and indeed TE Lawrence’s connection to Zionism.
(The Hebrew University Film School is named after Mr. Spiegel)

silene balassiano on December 17, 2013 at 9:40 am

    Aha!!! That would explain the post under another name on the T.E. Lawrence article extolling Mr. Spiegel’s virtues. Calling on the knowledgeable, methinks we’re under attack by revisionists.

    Alfredo from Puerto Rico on December 17, 2013 at 10:09 am

      Yes, Alfredo, I’ve noticed that too.

      Little Al on December 17, 2013 at 10:57 am

I don’t take issue with anything DS is saying here. However, I do think O’Toole made up for Lawrence of Arabia when he played the Roman general in the wonderful Masada mini-series in 1981. This mini-series was unabashedly pro-Jewish, pro-Israel, and anti-Roman, even to the point of white-washing some of the Jewish protaganists in the story. It’s on DVD and highly recommended. (Make sure you watch the full 6 hour version, not the 2-hour edited version that doesn’t make much sense.)

phillip slepian on December 17, 2013 at 10:15 am

The suggestion that the Turks should not have the Ottoman Empire extinguished is interesting. But for its break up Israel would not have been resurrected and very likely would have resulted in more Jewish victims of the Holocaust. Comments please

R: Maybe. Maybe not. While you raise a good point, we don’t know what would have happened for certain. Ultimately, the Ottomans were replaced by a new ruling government in Turkey that was more liberal (until recently). The United Nations might have gotten involved anyway. You never know. DS

rjkatz on December 17, 2013 at 4:54 pm

My condolences on being too dense to finish a mentally exhausting film. It must be so hard to go about your daily life.

Lawrence of The Prairies on September 2, 2014 at 5:57 pm

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