Pro-Palestinian film and speech sparks controversy
by Marshall Roy
A tense atmosphere characterized last Wednesday?s screening of the film Peace, Propaganda and the Promised Land in the Adamson Wing Auditorium of Baker Hall. Criticizing what it called Israel?s ?hidden occupation? of the Gaza Strip and West Bank, the film aimed to present a side of the Middle East conflict which is rarely seen in the American media.
According to the film, Israeli military forces have controlled the West Bank and Gaza Strip, relatively small tracts of land that border the Dead Sea and Mediterranean, since 1967. These areas are home to approximately 3 million Palestinians, whom the film claims are under an illegal occupation.
Alisa Solomon, a journalist for The Village Voice of New York, claimed that the ?void of voices describing the experience of Palestinians under occupation is so vast that people have no idea that occupation is going on.? The unchecked occupation, Solomon continued, has led to ?complete economic ... suffocation? as a result of stringent curfews and invasive checkpoints. Solomon attributes the American public?s ignorance to the occupation to a complex ?propaganda machine? which comprises an elaborate web of news filters that present a highly biased representation of the situation in Israel. Due to the heavy American involvement in the conflict, the United States news media carries significant influence over the perceptions of the public.
According to the film, the attempt to color the American perception of events in the Middle East is a highly intentional Israeli ploy for continued American support. The owners of U.S. media firms have goals and values in common with political elites and carry significant political clout, which results in rampant selective reporting, skewing the information delivered to the American audience.
Moreover, the film claims Israel?s occupation of the lands seized in 1967 is only a stepping-stone to an eventual annexation, which will permanently deprive Palestinians of a national identity. Since acquiring the West Bank and Gaza Strip, many Jewish neighborhoods (which are no longer to be called ?settlements,? per a CNN memorandum to its field reporters) have been erected in the contested land, which violates Article 49 of the fourth Geneva Convention. The Convention clearly states that ?the Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.?
Palestinian resistance to the allegedly illegal Jewish neighborhoods, which seek to establish a ?matrix of control over [the] occupied territories,? have met with harsh retaliation: Over the past two and a half years, over 2000 Palestinian homes in the contested land have been demolished.
More severe cases involving acts of terrorism meet with ?punishment on the entire Palestinian people,? said Rabbi Michael Lerner, founder and editor of Tikkun Magazine in the United States, in the film. ?It?s like living in a very big jail.?
The screening was followed by a lecture by Kate Daher, an author, photographer, and teacher. Daher, who recently spent two weeks in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, said, ?if you really want to know what?s going on, then you cannot rely on the American news media.? She suggested Al-Jazeera and the BBC as viable alternatives. ?When you?re there, when you meet the people ... you realize how resilient they are, how willing they are to end the occupation ... [there is] non-violent, active resistance every single day.?
The film was not only attended by supporters of the Palestinian cause. Pro-Israel flyers were distributed to viewers upon arrival. A heated discussion took place after the screening, often degenerating into shouting matches.
Josh Mann, a first-year business major, said, ?the video ... gave a completely one-sided argument and skewed political and diplomatic views.... It was speaking out against propaganda, and it was itself propaganda.?