Film is anti-Semitic propaganda

Opinion: Letters To The Editor

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We the undersigned are very concerned that on April 25, the Lake Theatre will host a virulently anti-Semitic film: "The Occupation of the American Mind," a film replete with well-worn anti-Semitic canards, which have for centuries been used against Jews and more recently the only Jewish state. This type of anti-Jewish propaganda left unchallenged paves the road for anti-Semitic acts.

This film unambiguously accuses "American Jewish" leaders of involvement in a semi-secret conspiracy with the Israeli government to "occupy" the "American mind." The strong inference is that of an international Jewish plot to direct American foreign policy. This theme of nefarious Jewish scheming is an anti-Semitic trope originally birthed in the infamous forgery called The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. The theme of Jewish control of the media was repeated in Nazi propaganda, making it a warrant for genocide.

The film attempts to convince consumers of American mainstream media that a secretive and disreputable cabal of "Jewish leaders" conspired to manipulate news reporting of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Its central accusation is that "leaders of major Jewish organizations" stealthily met decades ago in Jerusalem where they intrigued to find ways to "occupy" (i.e. control) the American mainstream media, and thus "the American mind." The film's producer, Sut Jhally, darkly intones: "What we've seen really is another kind of occupation, an occupation of American media and what we could call the American mind by a pro-Israel narrative."

His use of the word "occupation" is intentional. In international law, "occupation" means control of a territory by foreign military forces. The filmmakers' use of this word, while coupling it to "Jewish leaders" infers these leaders are foreigners controlling the American mind. To bolster this indictment, the film shows a screenshot of a list of member organizations from the website of the umbrella group Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.

Roger Waters, the film's narrator, speaks of the "lobby's power to shape a pro-Israel narrative" through its control of the U.S. Congress. And Columbia University Professor Rashid Khalidi broadly smears the leadership of these American Jewish groups as "extreme right wing, neoconservatives." 

This sequence underlies the filmmakers' inability to see American Jewish organizations as anything but a monolith. The reality is the list includes a very broad spectrum of American Jewish groups representing a wide range of opinion — from liberal to conservative — regarding Israel, including groups that publicly oppose Israeli government policies in the West Bank (Americans for Peace Now, Ameinu, Central Conference of American Rabbis). Thus, in one broad stroke, the filmmakers portray the entire gamut of American Jewish organizations in monolithic, negative, and conspiratorial terms.

The film is produced by the Media Education Foundation (MEF), whose founder is Sut Jhally. Much of his work portrays Israel as controlling public opinion through its PR campaigns. MEF is itself a multimillion-dollar operation: Between the years 2009-2013, the total amount received from donations was $226,538; total gross from services was $8,034,181. A number of MEF's board members appear in the film denouncing Israel. Some have signed on calls for boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israel, as well as petitions for the Palestinian Right of Return, a euphemism for undermining the right of the Jewish people to national self-determination. MEF is therefore predisposed ideologically to a radical anti-Israel position, and is a politicized and biased funder of anti-Israel projects, such as this film.

Cindy and Effie Banai, Mark Bloomberg, Annette Burke, Kimberly Cobb, Rebecka Fallert, Debra Fulscher, Rabbi Adir Glick, Ori Gottlieb, Courtenay Harris, Ruby and Walter Hilker, Robin Kirby, Tamar Levinson, Irena Levitan, Seth and Lauren Levrant, Victor Mirelman, Alan Peres, Jim Robinson, Phyllis Rubin, Terrie Rymer, Susan and Tim Schiff, Vafa Shayani, Brad and Ellen Shorser, Deborah Spector, Marina and Vladimir Tsesis, Frank Vozak, Richard and Naomi Waterbury and Melanie Weiss

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Ramona Lopez  

Posted: April 28th, 2018 5:01 PM

Mr. Peres. I stand corrected. Thank you for pointing that out.

Alan Peres  

Posted: April 27th, 2018 5:51 PM

Ramona...Please check your facts. Israel did not get $40 billion dollars in 2016. It got $40 billion in military aid spread over 10 years. Afghanistan received far more. And, of the US military aid, 100% has to spent on US military equipment. In 2013, 5 of the 6 largest recipients of foreign aid, according to Forbes, are Muslim countries.

Ramona Lopez  

Posted: April 26th, 2018 9:58 AM

Irena... Even though the pen is mightier than the sword, this film sounds like its full of propaganda. Anyone with even rudimentary knowledge of 20th century history would be able to navigate through the spins and half truths. I respect your perspective, as it differs than mine, but I wouldn't give as much credence to the film as you do. Then again, if you ever read the book "Ordinary Men" by Christopher Browning, one could understand your position.

Irena Levitan  

Posted: April 25th, 2018 8:14 PM

Dear Ramona - thank you! You are making excellent points! I agree that I should have a source for the definition of antisemitism that I used but I believe it comes from the State Department but not 100% sure. I personally feel that it is antisemitic because the authors of the film and the groups who promote it are basically trying to destroy Israel as a Jewish state. They do it under the false premise that Jews always lived happily in the Arab lands and therefore a Palestine with an Arab majority and Jewish minority will be a just society. This not only totally false, it is dangerous. I truly believe that if these groups succeed, we will go back to the awful situation when Jews were persecuted and periodically murdered everywhere in the world. Does that explain better my feelings?

Ramona Lopez  

Posted: April 25th, 2018 1:32 PM

Irena.....If one is anti-Israel regarding their political and military policies, why does it make them anti-semitic? If I dislike the policies of Italy, does it make me anti-Catholic? I think often that line is blurred. Just because one does not agree with Israeli policies, it does not automatically make them anti-semitic. " demonizing Israel by distorting and cherry-picking facts is one of the definitions of anti-Semitism." Please cite your source for that definition. AIPAC is the wealthiest PAC in the United States. They spend a LOT of money to influence congress. In return, Israel receives more aid from the United States than any one else. In 2016 Israel received $40 BILLION from the United States in aid. If one is going to receive that kind of cash and have the wealthiest PAC, they better be ready for some criticism and a lot of questions. I haven't seen the film, so I can't comment on it, but I the distortions and omissions you speak of have been done as well from Jewish filmmakers and other media outlets as well.

Irena Levitan  

Posted: April 24th, 2018 11:18 PM

I thank CJPIP for their response to our letter. I also agree that it is important to hear both sides. Unfortunately this is exactly where the film totally fails. It fails to acknowledge that Jews were violently expelled from Arab lands and the Arab world became virtually Jew-free. Today, half of the Jewish population of Israel are descendants of Jews who had to flee from Arab lands. Instead, the film claims that Israeli Jews came exclusively from Europe. This is not helpful and not honest. There are multiple other omissions and distortions of the truth. It is very unfortunate that the film indeed gained a lot of praise from people who are either not familiar with the situation or prefer to demonize Israel instead of honestly analyzing the situation. Criticizing Israel is not anti-Semitism but demonizing Israel by distorting and cherry-picking facts is one of the definitions of anti-Semitism.

Brian Slowiak  

Posted: April 24th, 2018 10:56 PM

"Occupy" and "American mind". On June 8, 1967 The American spy ship USS. Liberty was 90 miles East of Israel on a bright clear sunny day flying American colors, when the spy ship was attacked by accident six times, 3 by air and 3 by PT boat attack. The modern state of Israel stated the attack was an accident, all six times, mistaking the American ship for an Egyptian horse and mule transport ship. I think 41 Americans died. The theory of the attack was that the USS. Liberty had broken the codes and learned of the proposed invasion of the Golan Hgts. and in doing so, the modern state of Israel was worried that the radio transmissions of the Liberty could be broken by the Russians, who would then tip off the Syrians. Since then I have had no dog in this fight. Side note In 1996, I needed physical therapy, and was sent to a place in OP. . My therapist was a delight secular Israeli young lady who had just finished her JDF military commitment. We talked about military weapons, training and such. I brought this up to her, and she nothing about the incident. A total blank. I asked her if she would go to the web sites or the book. She would have none of it, stating she would talk to her father about the incident. "Occupy" and "American mind" is not the question. The question should be how much "Occupy" and "American mind" Is on hand.

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