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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