...Devin Faraci, once a fellow writer for CHUD.com, recently posted an opinion piece (linked here) that analyzed X-Men: First Class’ portrayal of Magneto (*) from the point of view as a mirror to Israel. In it, he traces the history of the Jewish nationhood’s establishment from Holocaust to modern day, focusing mainly on the various wars they have participated in.
He connects the mutant’s actions in the aforementioned film to Meir Kahane and the Jewish Defense League, a fringe group among the nation of Israel’s many viewpoints. No one can deny the connection between Kahane and Magneto, which comes down to the use of the phrase “Never Again” in both the recent X-Men film and it being the JDL’s own slogan (Magneto even started his own JDL in the comics- the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants). This is a stark departure from the comic version of Magneto, it should be noted, who in 1964’s X-Men #4 used the phrase “Never Forget”- the slogan of holocaust remembrance from the point of view of education and peace. Magneto’s character is inherently that of a 20th century Jew, whether by his holocaust origins or (in the comics) his will to establish an independent nation for his own kind, where they could be at peace. But as in real life, that peace has consistently been demolished by attackers, whether from inside or outside the nation.
The producer of the initial X-Men films, Avi Arad, himself an Israeli, said of Magneto: “I would look, ideologically, more to Jabotinsky and Begin… Magneto to me is not a villain. But he becomes more like Kahane the more frustrated he is with the way the world is approaching the ones who are different.” In Rabbi Simcha Weinstein’s book Up, Up ,and Oy Vey!,which traces the very real influence Judaism had on the creators of many comic book superheroes, he quotes writer Chris Clarement, who was responsible for creating Magneto’s holocaust back-story. “It allowed me to turn him into a tragic figure who wants to save his People… I then had the opportunity over 200 issues to attempt to redeem him, to see if he could start over, if he could evolve in the way that Menachem Begin had evolved from a guy that the British considered ‘shoot on sight’ in 1945… to a statesman who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1976.”
Looking to the life of Menachem Begin to try to understand Magneto, from his early life of opposing the Zionist leadership’s bowing to British colonialism (much as one could say Xavier does in X-Men), to fighting for independence through any means necessary with the Irgun, one can see the connection. But as Claremont himself said, over the course of decades Begin’s role changed. In 1977 Begin lead the Likud party to take control of the state’s government and allied himself with many smaller fractions of the multi-party system that makes up Israeli politics. Ultimately, peace between Israel and a neighboring Arab state was reached for the first time in 1978, under Begin’s control, when the Camp David accord was struck with Egypt...
The film's website. A trailer.
Magneto was ranked number 1 by IGN's Top 100 Comic Book Villains list, was listed number 17 in Wizard's Top 100 Greatest Villains Ever list, and was ranked as the 9th Greatest Comic Book Character Ever in Wizard's list of the 200 Greatest Comic Book Characters of All Time, the second highest villain on that list.