The documentary film “Peace, Propaganda & the Promised Land — U.S. Media & the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict” was shown last Sunday, Mar 1, by Current Events Theater at the El Cajon Library, California. The event was organized by the East County Democratic Club, and was moderated by Raymond Lutz, the club Immediate Past President. There was a panel open to public questions after the film. Palestinian side was represented by Dr. Nasser Barghouti, the Executive Director of the Arab American Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) / San Diego Chapter. I represented the Israeli side.
The film, 80 min long, presents a very biased, one-sided and misleading picture of the US media coverage of the Israel Palestinian conflict. It interviews only pro-Palestinian voices and well-known Israel critics. There is not a single voice presenting Israel’s point of view. Ironically, one of the interviewers says that “public relations works not only by controlling the content of media reports, but also by making sure that some voices are never heard”. That’s exactly what this film does all through itself.
Built in several chapters, it starts with the premise of illegal occupation = popular resistance = desperate acts of terror. Then it tries to portray the US media as a part of a well oiled political machine controlled by pro-Israeli organizations headed by AIPAC. Among its manipulations, the film plays the Anti-Israel = Anti-semitism note and Jewish self hatred theme, presenting them as methods that Israel uses to intimidate and silence its critics.
It was interesting to find out that people in the audience did not perceive the film as one sided or biased. Some giggled at the ridiculousness of self-hatred accusations, and nodded during an argument that Gilo should be called a Jewish colony rather then a neighborhood in Jerusalem.
In the Q&A section, in my response to the film I tried to undermine the premises of its anti-Israeli arguments, refusing to get into debate about the role of the US Media or whether Israeli Hasbara serves truth or distorts facts. If people think US Media is biased, I said, it is a free world and with today’s Internet everyone can access and watch European or other sources. I did convey personal experiences related to the three short scenes of terrorist bombings that happened near our home in Jerusalem. But the main point was that the film is totally outdated. Even though it is relatively recent, the history already showed where the logic of resistance = terror leads. Israel is out of Gaza, overtaken by Hammas. There is not a single Israeli or Jew left in Gaza besides sergeant Gilad Shalit. I read from the Hamas covenant, article seven “The hour of judgment… fight the Jews and kill them” and made the argument that the Nakba narrative, regardless of questions about its historical factuality or cultural role, is being cynically used to produce more hatred with no positive direction.
The Palestinian debator tried to stick to what he called “scientific facts” since he is a Dr. of Science. These facts amounted to telling about a theatre in Arab Haifa that was demolished or how British colonialism brought Jews to the Middle East as an alien element to perpetrate west domination over the Arab world. He did present interesting questions about the amounts of monetary and military aid to Israel and differences between low support among Democratic party members versus high support of Democratic senators towards Israel in the last Gaza operation. His point was that Israel manages to manipulate US politics in the same way it manages to distort US media, taking this argument to the next level of advocating an overall divestment from Israel. So in order for the US not to be perceived as the villain in the world it must distance itself from Israel, the number one enemy to world peace according to European polls.
It was an over hour long discussion with quite emotional audience responses. One peron walked out of the room in rage, others were periodically silenced by the moderator. On the overall I must say that despite the unpropitious film opening and very eloquent and well prepared Palestinian debator, the Israel impression left at the end was quite positive. Important part in this played a surprisingly large turnout of Israel supporters in the public, who managed to ask questions that tripped the Palestinian presented. One of these questions allowed exposing Barghoutti’s words about “justice” and “peace” as being just another camouflage for establishment of a bi-national Palestinian state with Arab majority over all Palestine. “Most Palestinians have no problems with Jews in Palestine” in Barghoutti’s words made the distinction between Israelis and Jews clear and revealed his true intent, which is a fundamentalist campaign for delegitimizing and dismantling of the Jewish state.
I would like to thank Jean-Jacques (“J.J.”) Surbeck and for helping prepare for the debate and Eyal Dagan for providing most valuable information and contacts.