Palestinian-Canadian Robert Massoud provides a review of a new documentary that explores the relationship between American media and the Israeli Lobby, and how this has helped shape America’s sympathy towards the Israeli narrative of the conflict.
The word “occupation” not only describe physical space as in “Occupied Palestinian Territories” but also emotional or intellectual space as in other parts of the world most especially in the United States. For many people who follow Israel-Palestine, the US represents the single power than can make or break “peace in the Holy Land.” Yet after a steady reality for 50+ years, the record has been solidly “break” with barely the faintest whiff of “make.” Why is America not acting for peace? A recent documentary from Media Education Foundation offers an answer.
A new documentary about Israel-Palestine is making the rounds – albeit – smaller rounds than it deserves as it is proving to be too successful at proving its point – “the occupation of the American mind”. The documentary featuring a galaxy of well known commentators and analysts and narration by Roger Waters (of Pink Floyd fame) is simply “too hot” and is being turned down by American film festivals.
The film argues that Israel and the Israel Lobby have waged a very successful public relations war on the American people to keep them from understanding Israel’s role and actions in keeping the conflict on high heat while blaming the Palestinians for the failure to achieve peace and even for their own destruction. A classic case of blaming the victims and the powerless.
The film shows this has been achieved through the Lobby’s mastery of propaganda techniques via the corporate media and almost exclusive access to US media personalities. The net effect is to embed the desired narrative or frame to automatically define the reporting or analysis. Over and over again, it shows how Israel Lobby or spokespeople are allowed to simple make baseless claims or exaggerated statements without being challenged.
The result is an American population what has more or less accepted the line that Israel is simply exercising its right to defend itself against bloody Palestinian terrorists bent on killing Jews or “wiping Israel off the map,” and other like assertions. This even in the face of brutal exercise of near total destruction in all out attacks on Gaza in 2009, 2012 and 2014 where the exact opposite happened, Palestinians are killed and Palestine is getting wiped off the map.
An acquiescent and accepting American public means that its government can continue a 30+ year policy of not only arming Israel but also paying $3 billion annually for the privilege. Obama has recently committed to increasing the annual amount to minimum $3.7 billion.
The documentary received a solid round of applause from the 75 attendees at Beit Zatoun in Toronto on a beautiful spring night in May. Although dealing with the “American mind” in the open discussion period following many asked, “What about the Canadian mind? We feel occupied as well.”
The main discussion revolved mostly around what can we do as individuals given that the media is so closed and controlled. There was some comfort in the defeat of Bill 202, Standing Up Against Anti-Semitism in Ontario Act, 2016 in the Ontario legislature the previous week which was seen as victory for BDS which perhaps is the last remaining nonviolent resistance strategy for Palestinians. There was also recognition that challenge is not just media relations but also that the battle must be taken to local MPs and MPPs who are largely uninformed and open to being educated and possibly influenced.
The other popular question was where will this film be shown? How can I get a copy? The distributor is pursing a very activist and innovative program to make easy and affordable distribution of actual DVDs or internet streaming at variable costs to enable wide exposure to activist circles and hopefully from there to even larger ones.
Expect great things from this documentary – bring it to your network. For more information about the film and distribution see The Occupation of the American Mind. For a first or a three part The Real News Network interview with narrator Roger Waters.
About the Author
Robert Massoud is a Palestinian-Canadian. In 2004, he founded Zatoun, Fair Trade olive oil from Palestine to serve as a symbol of light, hope and peace. Robert also founded Beit Zatoun (House of Olive), a culture centre, art gallery and community meeting space in downtown Toronto to promote the interplay of art, culture and politics and to explore issues of justice and human rights – local and global. Robert founded a worldwide project called “Trees for Life Palestine” which plants 10,000s of olive trees every year in Palestine. Zatoun is a major supporter of “Project Hope” providing “art as therapy” to help heal many thousands of children living in refugee camps in Palestine.
Reblogged this on Sharing Common Sacred Ground.
Thank you, Robert for your guest post.
Thank you Peter for bringing this to our attention. I’ve forwarded it on to the southwestern Ontario activist network so at least one of the groups may be able to screen the movie.
First, two questions for Robert (or anyone else with an informed opinion) —
1/ My perception is that Palestinian Canadians have been less visibly active and vocal re the Israel-Palestine conflict than groups such as, for example, CJPME, IJV Canada, Canada Talks Israel-Palestine, Jewish Voice for Peace (US), and more eclectic sources, rabble.ca, and my own small voice at Citizen Action Monitor. Is this perception reasonably accurate? If it is, why is this so?
2/ In Robert’s informed opinion, to what extent has the failure of the Palestinians to find/elect a leader of the stature of a Nelson Mandela contributed to its failure to win greater support for its cause in the US, Canada, UK, and EU?
Second, The Electronic Intifada has just published an article praising “The Occupation of the American Mind”, titled “What’s behind the US media’s special relationship with Israel?” accessible at https://electronicintifada.net/content/whats-behind-us-medias-special-relationship-israel/16951
Thank you for the questions. They are in themselves some proof of the film “occupation of mind.”
Your first question is indeed a very good one needing a very long response (perhaps not a definitive answer). Although Palestinian-Canadians participate in the groups listed, they do not on their own “seem” to be present or particularly effective. There is a significant number of organizations headed by or representing Palestinian-Canadians operating in Canada either locally from BC to NS or others that have a more national scope.
From your question and my response, unfortunately these organizations do not as yet exhibit the qualities and have the resources to make them truly noteworthy or successful. Whatever examples there have been in the past have been silenced either by cutting-off government funding of sustaining side-activities i.e. ESL and other training programs (Canadian Arab Federation or Palestine House). The other factor is the general “chill” of being Palestinian operating in an “occupied mind” environment. Other points can also be brought up but suffice for now.
To your second question, it is another $64,000 one. There is no such leader because none has been allowed to surface without being exiled or assassinated or otherwise compromised. Most of the leadership which has arisen are the “survivors” who have not served the true interests of Palestine – ergo they have survived as “puppets” or outsourced agents. Without wanting to get into longer discussion, Nelson Mandela as great as he was lived in a country with limited scope of operation and influence. Israel is in a category of its own which South Africa could not approach.
I do have a problem with the basic argument of the film, as I understand it. (I have not yet seen it, so could be way off base.)
However, based on what I have read, the film seems to argue that US support for Israel is primarily due to the success of what is called “the Israel lobby”.
I think this is very wrong,
The Israel lobby us, of course very well financed and well connected.
But the MAIN reason the USA supports Israel, is the same reason it supports (or has supported) the Saudi princes, Mubarak, Pinochet, and a long list of other unsavoury regimes. Namely, it is in their interest to do so.
The top US objective in the Middle East is to be able to control the production and distribution of the main oil reserves of the western world. That means no independent country can develop which could contest this control, either alone or in conjunction with an external power, like Russia.
The Israel lobby, in my view, appears very strong because Israel has been for the last 50 years key to this US strategic objective. But it is actually not as strong as it appears. When Israel, (popn 6 million Jews, GDP half that of Ontario), is no longer a strategic asset, it will find its influence drops dramatically .
I have 3 pieces of evidence to support my view.
1 When the USA decided it was in its interest to sign a deal with Iran, it did so despite a furious lobby by Israel and it’s friends.
2 In 1956, the USA forced Israel/UK/France to back down.
3 The USA supported Apartheid South Africa as a bulwark against communism until the fall of the USSR. After that it decided that supporting a racist regime was not in its interest.
The Isreal lobby is pushing on an open door. But if/when circumstances change, and if the USA decides that supporting Israel is not in its strategic interest, it will lower the level of its support, no matter what the lobby says.
Comment/reaction from anyone most welcome.
Peter, I own the film and have watched it twice, once this very afternoon with 3 Americans. While the film does mention the influence of the Israeli Lobby on shaping public opinion, but more importantly, political opinion, it is about so much more than that. Significant importance is attached to Hasbara (explanation or propaganda) in occupying the American (and Canadian) mind. The key to its effectiveness is aggressive repetition of key phrases or memes — such as, “We have a right to defend ourselves”, “Hamas rockets raining down”, and “What would you do in our situation?” It’s the US corporate controlled media that effectively brainwashes American audiences. Israelis know they can’t control the TV images of Palestinian death and destruction, but they can, and do, control the interpretation of those images.
I urge you to watch the film.
This of course is always the $64,000 question about so many issues – “how real is the power?”
One can always find historical examples which can challenge the specific case but these examples themselves need to be contextualized. They are rather isolated historical events and do not explain the need for the relentless media barrage and and the extend of the mind occupation. US interest in the Middle East could easily be maintained without the “over the top” exposure of the Israel narrative. In fact, one could argue, as many have done, that US interest would be better served by abandoning its “Israel first” policy.
The next $64,000 question is, does the US even know its true “strategic interest?” I would argue that in general and in most countries what is put out as a country’s strategic interest are in reality not that of the country but simply that of an elite component which has the legal clout and persuasive power to make the two seem identical. And the difference is actually counter-productive and even endanger the country, both short and long-term. Think Canada too!
What do you mean by elite? If you mean something like the top 20% of America economically (Chomsky’s definition) then I would tend to reject the distinction. A state is the primary vehicle for a nation to conduct collective action, particularly violent collective action. A state is dependent on the underlying nation for its existence and the nation is dependent on the state for its power and standard of living. My skin and my muscle are distinct but the don’t have distinguishable interests in almost any case.
As for your point about media bias… I’d be much more interested in contrasting media bias in the case of the Israeli lobby (Jewish) lobby with other lobbies that seek popular support. Like for example the portrayal of America’s legal drugs by the pharmaceutical lobby in the media, or the portrayal of modern agro-business by the farm lobby in the media, or the portrayal of gun culture by the gun lobby in the media…..
Is this something unique or is the Israeli lobby a not quite top 10 lobby doing what lobbies in America do.
Thanks Robert for your article.
The ultimate support for Israel by the US establishment is a symptom of a genetic disease that this establishment is still suffering from after 500 years: racism and violence. British empire was the major party behind the disaster in mandate Palestine before 1948. US establishment is the major party to blame for violence across the world today including in Palestine. If we look at what they did in Vietnam and Latin America, we can understand what they do in the Middle East. It is the same pattern. Democratic change in US is a global need.
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