MEF documentary on media distortions
Review of the video by the Media Education Foundation titled "Peace, Propaganda & the Promised Land: US Media & the Israeli Palestinian Conflict"
Directed by: Bathsheba Ratzkoff & Sut Jhally, Details and a clips are at
Individual copies can be purchased for $30 at http://www.palestineonlinestore.com/films.htm
Review by Mazin Qumsiyeh, PhD
The eminent British journalist Robert Fisk said that the last taboo subject in American mainstream media is the US government support of the brutal Israeli occupation of Palestine. Nothing makes the media filters and obfuscation more visible to a general audience than this professional documentary. The documentary interviews a number of leading experts in the field including Seth Ackerman (FAIR), Robert Fisk (the Independent), Noam Chomsky (MIT), Hanan Ashrawi (Miftah), Neve Gordon, Taufic Haddad, Sam Husseini, Robert Jensen, Gila Svirsky and others. The genius of this documentary is in its methodical behind the scenes work that had led to a highly organized brilliant and factual presentation of the key issues. These are the issues that led some to describe the US mainstream media (as opposed to European media) as Israeli occupied territory.
The film methodically dissects the filters that
- Allow occupation and colonization to become invisible to the American public
- Result in only 4% of US networks to report that the violent events are taking place in an area illegally occupied by Israel in contravention to International law
- Transform illegal Jewish only settlements/colonies built on Palestinian land into benign “Jewish neighborhoods"
- Make Israel appear to be engaged in self-defense while its occupation army is busy murdering native people in their own lands
- Massacre language so that we hear of Palestinians "attack," while Israel "retaliates"
- Dehumanize Palestinians (including the over 2700 victims killed in the past three years) while going to great length to humanize the Israelis and any Israelis killed. Showing great empathy for Israelis while showing complete lack of empathy and outright hostility to the native Palestinians.
- Repeatedly talk of "relative calm" when Palestinians are being killed and "renewed violence" when Israelis are killed
- Repeatedly presenting the myth of Barak's generous offer.
- Presenting US as a neutral party trying to find a solution when our government paid $6 billion to fund Israeli policies in 2003.
These issues are exposed professionally and in detail in the 80-minute documentary. The only area of significance not covered is the silencing of any reporting about Israeli basic laws which ensure ethnic cleansing and apartheid to maintain the so called “Jewish character of the state.”
The documentary explains admirably how the Israeli PR campaign used its failures in the 1982 invasion of Lebanon (when massacres were committed) to sharpen and organize itself into a formidable machine of propaganda (termed hasbara in Hebrew). Pegs in this machine include the elite concentration of media power, connected political elites (now in the highest position of the US government), Israeli government press offices, hired American PR firms, Israeli consulates, and as a final filter, the so called media watch groups. The latter are tasked with harassment of journalists and papers where the tiny amount of "objectionable" content that might slip through. They include well-funded groups like the deceptively named "CAMERA" and "HonestReporting".
The result of this slick and well-funded multi-layer machine is that cause and effect are reversed and Israel’s ethnic cleansing becomes less visible in America. The occupation and colonization become identified as a response to the violence. More importantly, the taxpayers in America are prevented from seeing the role their government plays in fostering violence and mayhem in the Middle East. I and a few other individual activists have always tried to speak out on these issues. This film puts these issues in an audio-visual package that is truly inspiring and extremely utilitarian. I think it is essential viewing for all who care about human rights, for all American taxpayers, and especially for journalists and editors.