By Dexter Van Zile/JNS.org
A new anti-Israel movie—“The Occupation of the American Mind: Israel’s Public Relations War in the United States”—is making the rounds.
Released in 2016, the movie has already been shown in a number of venues, most notably liberal Protestant churches, local libraries and college campuses. If history is any indicator, the film will generate animus toward Jewish sovereignty that will manifest itself in one-sided resolutions at church-wide assemblies of liberal Protestant denominations during the next few years. Anti-Israel activists can be expected to use the film to motivate BDS campaigns on college campuses and to incite hostility toward pro-Israel Jews.
This is no innocent peacemaking documentary, a reality underscored by the film’s choice of narrator—Roger Waters, a well-known Israel-basher and Jew-baiter—who displayed a balloon of a giant pig emblazoned with a Star of David at a concert in 2013.
The overall argument of the film is that Israel is singularly responsible for its continued conflict with the Palestinians, who are hapless and innocent victims of Israeli oppression. Israel gets away with its crimes because of American support for the Jewish state rooted in a distorted view of the conflict promoted by pro-Israel propagandists, who lie and misinform the American people.
Ironically enough, the film’s producers engage in a number of deceptions of their own.
In an effort to portray Hamas as a pragmatic organization that can be negotiated with, the film’s executive producer Sut Jhally appears on camera to report that the terrorist organization’s charter—which calls for Israel’s destruction—is an “obscure political document written in 1988 by a small group of ideologues,” and that Hamas leaders “effectively disavowed” the text “a long time ago.”
Unfortunately for Jhally, Hamas leaders have regularly called for Israel’s destruction over the years. Just last month, Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar told a group of Palestinian youths, “Gone is the time in which Hamas discussed recognition of Israel. The discussion now is about when we will wipe out Israel.”
To buttress the notion that Hamas is a pragmatic organization, the film invokes an obscure document issued by a small group of officers in the U.S. military in 2010. It was a “Red Team” document written by officers at the Central Command of the U.S. military. The document, highlighted in a 2010 article in Foreign Policy, was akin to a minority report intended to provoke discussion, not set policy, but Jhally characterizes the report as representing the opinion of the “U.S. military” as a whole.
The film also approvingly highlights a now-notorious report about Palestinian Christians produced by “60 Minutes” in 2012. The report falsely reported that Israel’s security fence along its border with the disputed territories fully surrounds Bethlehem. During the segment, Bob Simon stated that “the wall completely surrounds Bethlehem, turning the little town where Christ was born into what its residents call ‘an open-air prison.’”
But in Jhally’s deceptive movie, the quote is presented as follows: “Israel has occupied the West Bank for 45 years, turning the little town where Christ was born into what its residents call ‘an open air prison.’”
It’s a sneaky, but crucial edit that removes any reference to the CBS network’s false assertion that the security fence completely surrounds Bethlehem. By removing any reference to the error broadcast by “60 Minutes,” the film protects its depiction of Simon and the program as credible sources on the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Imagine that. In a movie about pro-Israel propaganda, anti-Israel activists engage in a bit of propagandizing of their own, going so far as to deceive their viewers with a sneaky edit!
Ironically enough, the film, which devotes much of its screen time to proving that members of groups like Hamas are not terrorists intent on depriving Jews of their rights, is dedicated to Juliano Mer-Khamis, an Israeli-born playwright who was murdered by a masked gunman in Jenin in 2011.
His murderer hasn’t been caught, but there’s little if any doubt that he was killed by a Palestinian terrorist offended by his criticism of Palestinian society and politics. Before his death, Mer-Khamis himself predicted—on camera—that he was going to be murdered by a Palestinian gunman who believed that he was “corrupting the youth of Islam.” A video of this prediction was posted on the internet after his assassination.
It’s just another sad example of a truism about the discourse surrounding the Middle East. Offend the sensibilities of the Jewish community, and you’ll get some pushback in the form of letters and articles. Offend the sensibilities of gun-toting jihadists, and you might get shot.
All this helps explain why we can expect another version of this mendacious movie to be produced in a decade or so.
Some things never change.
Dexter Van Zile is a Christian media analyst for the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA). His opinions are his own.