The occupation of the American mind, documented

US Politics
on 19 Comments

The Occupation of the American Mind: Israel’s Public Relations War in the United States, narrated by Roger Waters.  Video, 82 minutes. Available via streaming and DVD at www.occupationmovie.com. The website went live yesterday. The documentary premieres in Massachusetts next month.

Harriet Beecher Stowe is reputed — in Stowe family legend at least — to have been greeted by President Lincoln with, “Is this the little woman who made this great war?”

Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Stowe’s novel that dramatized government-sanctioned human bondage, is credited, somewhat fancifully, with moving American public opinion about slavery and helping start the US Civil War.

This  documentary film aims to explain why United States media, in contrast to most of the world’s, omit the Palestinian story, and thus why US public opinion favors Israel so markedly.

The film organizes the evidence in plain sight of the unnatural situation that has been maintained in US news reporting — the tropes that reinforce Zionist ideology, and recognize only Jewish Israeli life as imperiled.

Roger Waters narrates that during the July 2014 Israeli assault on Gaza, lasting 51 days — using 20 thousand tons of explosives — “The sheer scale of the attack provoked outrage and condemnation around the world.

“But in the United States the story was different. Polls showed the American people holding firm in their support for Israel.”

Aerial surveys of Gaza now show vast wastelands and ruins of that urban area, holding more than 1.8 million people, the majority exiles from present-day Israel.

The film’s title, “The Occupation of the American Mind” communicates the hope that once the mechanisms are seen, they can’t be unseen.

During operation Protective Shield (summer 2014), as during Operation Cast Lead (2008-09), the plea that “Israel has the right to defend itself” dominated American reporting.

With deft editing, the film shows a risible sequence of Israeli spokesmen, American politicians (up to President Obama) and US newscasters all repeating the same lines of Israeli vulnerability and Arab menace.

We can presume that by understanding the highly calculated effort of American public relations experts and Israeli officials to “explain” the asymmetry of power and suffering between Jewish nationalist forces and Arab civilians, inexorably losing homes and homeland — a passion for justice in Americans will be excited.

The United States is one gentile culture where the Zionist narrative dominates. Key is control of language, controlling thought. US Pollster Frank Luntz was commissioned to maintain this, producing a “dictionary” of language to use — a playbook for shading domination as defense.

“When a narrative is so dominant, without any visible dissent or complication, it’s extremely difficult to make clear to people that it is basically a propaganda story.  How do you make that clear when the spectacle is so unrelenting and total?”  NYU  scholar Mark Crispin Miller, one of the film’s media studies experts, asks.

What would break the spell?  The New York Times made a baby step with its concession in an editorial January 2016 that the “Two-state solution” is “fading.”

In a masterwork of understatement, an American official is quoted by the Times, saying of the settlements that began in late 1967 and continue in 2016, “It is starting to look like a de facto annexation.”

(Israel has moved 3/4 million Jews into the captured territories, including a surprisingly large proportion who’ve moved from the United States).

The argument that the occupied Palestinian territories are held by Israel for “security reasons” serves to screen territorial expansion, the film argues.

“If you buy that (security) argument, then it’s a license to occupy indefinitely,” media and militarism critic Norman Solomon explains in the film.  (Disclosure: Norman Solomon is my brother.)

The film reports the overwhelming financial contributions to American politicians advocating the Jewish nationalist narrative in Palestine, and shows clips from the many public devotionals that congressmen, cabinet members and presidents attend, to pledge what can fairly be described as Zionist allegiance.

Historian Rashid Khalidi of Columbia University says that American media provides “no sense of how this started, where the animus comes from. It’s completely inexplicable in the way it’s generally presented — these people (Palestinians) kill because they hate, and they hate because they’re irrational Muslim fanatics, or whatever.”

In American politics on this issue, we can notice things that don’t happen, as Sherlock Holmes noted the dog that didn’t bark.

When American Jewish legislators speak of their devotion to Israel, no fuss follows, and brilliant non-Jewish politicians like Joe Biden have made careers steeped in American Zionism and mirroring that loyalty.

A January 6 article by Hillary Clinton for the Jewish Journal of Los Angeles is an example of the predominant way of relating to Israel/Palestine by centrist US politicians.

Her alignment with Israel is slavish, with a promise to raise the US-Israel relationship to “the next level.” Clinton proclaims her “deep emotional connection with Israel.”

The procession of American presidential candidates at last week’s American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) policy conference in Washington (except for Senator Bernie Sanders) gave a graphic demonstration of the place of Israel as something like an honorary US state.

I hypothesize one contributing reason for the American atmosphere: for some American Jews, Jewish statehood is integral to their Jewish identity. Most Americans have not known Palestinians or Arabs, so making sense of the situation requires relating to what they do know — fellow Americans who are Jews.

From that perspective, Americans can imagine Israel as just like the American Jews who are their neighbors, friends, and associates, with no idea of the complexities.

American demographic changes require that Arab-Americans remain a dangerous Other, for the phenomenon of Israeli-American “twinning” to continue.  Otherwise, countervailing sympathy and empathy with Arabs will operate. For Israel’s purposes, Syria’s chaos and evisceration is a godsend, associating Arabs with danger.

With more exposure, the Ku Klux Klan-like behavior of settlers in the occupied Judea and Samaria and the Klan-like blending of religious identity and bigotry in Jewish supremacism may repulse Americans.

However, for Americans to understand the Israeli violence systematically unleashed on captive Palestinians would be to sense a hint of the violence that the United States unleashed methodically in achievement of its North American empire.

That, and much of America’s direct and proxy military adventurism abroad since, has been invisible to the public, much as Israel’s infliction of death and suffering is invisible as precursor to “unprovoked” Arab attacks.

Will Americans become conversant with Israeli, Zionist and Palestinian history, if their own is hidden from them?

One difference from the North American settler-colonialism is the Jewish claim of indigeneity, with accusations that Arabs are settlers in Palestine who should by rights move or be expelled from “the state of the Jewish people.”

A film of this sort can only review so much Zionist and Palestine history to set the scene.  The producers did a nice job fitting in a lot of content, selectively, in the time.

(The US organization Jewish Voice for Peace made an animated short, “Israeli/Palestinian Conflict 101,”that shows the challenge of compressing facts and sequences of events of Zionism and Palestine. Their summary is 6.5 minutes.)

Intended as an educational film to join the Media Education Foundation’s strong list, “The Occupation of the American Mind,” the work of writer/producers Loretta Alper and Jeremy Earp, is invaluable as a contrast to Israel’s fantasy world in media.

(The film is not about an allied subject, the Zionist Occupation of the American Jewish Mind, where another fantasy world operates, where Jews heroically rebuild Jewish sovereignty.)

The film concentrates on American media dating from the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon, and the formalization of Israel’s Western-media Hasbara/PR institutions in reaction to horror at consequences of Israel’s Lebanon occupation.  (Bombardment and siege of Beirut, and massacre at Sabra and Shatilla)

The film’s coda surveys pro-Palestinian campus activism and alliance-building with African American and other groups locked out of the American narrative, younger Americans awakening to the Palestinian perception of events.

A series of Pew polls show that among American young people, Democrats, and independents, sympathy for Palestinian Arabs is growing, and the Republican party is becoming the repository of unconditional Israel advocacy.

Among developed nations, the United States has an unusually high proportion of religious believers, and more Christian Zionists than US Jews figure in the Republican Party’s embrace of militant Zionism.

In the film, executive producer Sut Jhally makes that point: “In fact, it’s not accurate to call it the Jewish lobby. It is the Israel lobby,” not consistent with the views of most American Jews.

It is difficult to imagine that Americans will become conversant with subtleties of Zionist and Jewish history.  One might expect revulsion as the system of political contributions and targeted propaganda to ensure and manipulate American support is illustrated.

Film clips of Israeli violence at checkpoints and demonstrations are followed by Media Education Foundation founder Jhally commenting:

“The more Americans are able to see realities of the occupation with their own eyes, to see routine daily violence, to see repression and humiliation that never make it into mainstream news, the more they will question the image of Israel as this tiny little David up against this bullying Arab goliath, and start to wonder if it’s the outgunned Palestinians who are the Davids here.

“When that starts to become the dominant perception here in the US, all bets are off.  It all comes down to American popular perception.”

Noam Chomsky ends the film saying, “The US government will support it as long as the US population tolerates it.”

If the image of Israel becomes that of a cruel oppressor, may the shift be as consequential as when Harriet Beecher Stowe’s novel was part of a march to Civil War?

For Jews, what might a shift of US public opinion about Israel mean? To the extent Israel is identified, naturally, as an indivisibly “Jewish” project — dismounting this tiger isn’t going to be graceful. Injury to Arabs in Palestine, and the manipulation of the United States, in the past Zionist century, will be reckoned.

About Abba Solomon

Abba A. Solomon is the author of “The Speech, and Its Context: Jacob Blaustein's Speech ‘The Meaning of Palestine Partition to American Jews.’” His website is abbasolomon.com

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19 Responses

  1. Scott
    March 29, 2016, 10:30 am

    Wow, can’t wait to see it.

  2. Mooser
    March 29, 2016, 11:15 am

    “For Jews, what might a shift of US public opinion about Israel mean? To the extent Israel is identified, naturally, as an indivisibly “Jewish” project — dismounting this tiger isn’t going to be graceful.”

    I am afraid that when Zionism is exposed the reaction in the US could be severe. Jews may get demoted to ordinary citizens.
    I’m not sure we can stand that.

  3. Neil Schipper
    March 29, 2016, 12:33 pm

    Americans’ Views Toward Israel Remain Firmly Positive

    .. 62% of Americans saying their sympathies lie more with the Israelis and 15% favoring the Palestinians. About one in four continue to be neutral

    Trend, 2001 to 2016 (first graph):
    – Sympathy for Israel has a peak at 64% in ’13; valley at 51% in ’01
    – Sympathy for the Palestinians has a peak at 20% in ’07, a valley at 12% in ’13

    First table: With one exception, in every age/pol/relig category, including 18-29 year olds and dems, isr:pal support is > 2:1, with the highest level — those who attend worship weekly — it’s > 8:1.

    The exception is ‘no religion’ which is 41:29 (and 30 for both/neither/noOpinion)

    Suport for Israel both among republicans and democrats has increased over the last decade. Among democrats, support was lowest (since ’88) at 37% in ’94. Among republicans, support was lowest (since ’88) at 45% in ’88.

    Acc’g to the pdf, page 2:
    – TotFavorable:TotUnfavorable towards Israel, over 1989-2016 was at its lowest, 45:45, in ’89; was 48:43 in ’92; and now it’s 71:24
    – ‘Very favorable’ towards Israel is at an all time max (30) since ’89; its min was 8 in ’89
    – ‘Very unfavorable’ towards Israel has hit a max of 16% a few times since 1989, but has remained in the 5% – 8% range for the last 10 years

    This is worth repeating: Support for Israel both among republicans and democrats has increased over the last decade.

    The decade of BDS, the decade of dishonest radical leftist rhetoric. Thinking Americans observe the realities of the region: the behavior of Arab state and non-state political actors, the stated objectives of the Islamists, and the desperate efforts by literally millions of Arabs to flee their Arab-controlled homelands.

    American politicians reflect what Americans observe and conclude.

    There’s a lot of daylight between not wearing rose-colored glasses in regard to Israel, and, the inane denialism of radical regressive leftists.

    • eljay
      March 30, 2016, 12:51 pm

      || Neil Schipper: … Thinking Americans observe the realities of the region: the behavior of Arab state and non-state political actors, the stated objectives of the Islamists, and the desperate efforts by literally millions of Arabs to flee their Arab-controlled homelands. … ||

      Thinking Americans conveniently ignore the decades-long destructive and (war) criminal behaviour of Western and Western-allied nations and non-state political actors and that behaviour has not only helped Islamists to flourish but also resulted in a flow of literally millions of Arabs to flee their homelands.

      || … American politicians reflect what Americans observe and conclude. … ||

      Americans make skewed observations and conclusions, so they end up with skewed reflections and politicians.

      ||| … There’s a lot of daylight between not wearing rose-colored glasses in regard to Israel, and, the inane denialism of radical regressive leftists. ||

      I believe that Israel can be reformed from a (war) criminal and religion-supremacist “Jewish State” into a secular, democratic and law-abiding Israeli state. Unfortunately, Zio-supremacists refuse to remove their rose-coloured “moral beacon” glasses.

  4. Talkback
    March 29, 2016, 3:00 pm

    “Clinton proclaims her “deep emotional connection with Israel.”

    Sounds traumatic. Stockholm Syndrome?

    • Sibiriak
      March 29, 2016, 3:16 pm

      Christian Zionism, more likely, with a good dose of political calculation.

      • Talkback
        March 30, 2016, 12:02 pm

        I always tell my political whores to never kiss-ass a client, because they may develope deep emotional connections.

  5. Sibiriak
    March 29, 2016, 4:21 pm

    rugal; This is extremely non-intersectional and hypocritical, in addition to being offensive to many POC, black and native allies of the Palestinian liberation movement.
    —————–

    Nice parody. Your attempts at comic relief are much appreciated.

  6. Keith
    March 29, 2016, 6:08 pm

    “I hypothesize one contributing reason for the American atmosphere: for some American Jews, Jewish statehood is integral to their Jewish identity.”

    Considering the fact that prior to World War II, most Jews were either non-Zionist or anti-Zionist, this Zionist created sense of “Jewishness” apart from and transcending the Judaic religion can only be considered a phenomenal success, the triumph of a veritable blitzkrieg of propaganda involving Holocaust movies, Holocaust education, Jewish studies, etc, all of which exploded after the 1967 Six Day War.

  7. Boomer
    March 29, 2016, 6:24 pm

    Sounds like a great project. It may be hard to get uninformed friends to watch this, but that will probably be easier and more effective than trying to convey the information any other way.

    • Talkback
      March 30, 2016, 5:30 pm

      If the actually had studied Israel’s Hasbara Manual TIP they would have chosen a different approach:

      Liberating the American Mind.

      • Boomer
        April 2, 2016, 9:56 am

        Talkback, if “Liberating the American Mind” was intended to be a link, it didn’t work, at least not for me.

  8. Artemis
    March 30, 2016, 8:56 am

    The author writes:
    ” With more exposure, the Ku Klux Klan-like behavior of settlers in the occupied Judea and Samaria and the Klan-like blending of religious identity and bigotry in Jewish supremacism may repulse Americans.”

    Coming from Abba Solomon, the mention of “occupied Judea and Samaria” is bizarre.

  9. Boo
    March 30, 2016, 10:52 am

    Seeing videos such as the recent one in which an IDF medic callously shoots a helpless, wounded, downed Palestinian in the head is definitely starting to open some American eyes and change some American minds.

  10. James Canning
    March 30, 2016, 1:14 pm

    I think the failure of US news media, to be objective in reporting on Israel/Palestine, has fostered the growth of the illegal settlements of Jews in the occupied West Bank, and in this way has badly injured Israel’s own true best interests.

  11. Marnie
    March 31, 2016, 2:23 pm

    On Youtube now –

  12. RepresentativePress
    May 28, 2016, 3:49 am

    I think the movie is good and it highlights important facts. But I do think the history of 1947-1948 could have been better explained in order to highlight key facts such as Chomsky has pointed out: “… by May 1948, when the state of Israel was formally established, about 300,000 Palestinians already had been expelled from their homes or had fled the fighting, and the Zionists controlled a region well beyond the area of the original Jewish state that had been proposed by the UN. Now it’s then that Israel was attacked by its neighbors – in May 1948; it’s then, after the Zionists had taken control of this much larger part of the region and hundreds of thousands of civilians had been forced out, not before.” p132 Understanding Power: The Indispensable Chomsky

    I think that is very important to stress, I explain that history at this page, with details of how unfair the UN Partition Proposal was, along with that quote from Chomsky:
    http://www.representativepress.org/IsraelHistory.html

    But, as I said, the movie is good. Yet I don’t think they should have included a mention by an activist of Ferguson and mix apples and oranges by trying to include the Michael Brown incident. This playlist highlights how that story was not covered accurately by the media and so many people have been mislead about Michael Brown : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KHRqlgCN7BQ&list=PLuf794ZZ4y0uDVqZW0AycL8wFc4si9p-g

    The Palestinians have enough problems without people trying to attach inaccurately reported narratives along with their cause. The media did such a horrible job with the Michael Brown story that the DOJ Report even pointed out how badly the media got the story! Look: (from page 83 of the DOJ Report): “The media has widely reported that there is witness testimony that Brown said “don’t shoot” as he held his hands above his head. In fact, our investigation did not reveal any eyewitness who stated that Brown said “don’t shoot.” Most of the media and political activists played the game of ether ignoring, downplaying, misdirecting from or misrepresenting the DOJ Report on the Michael Brown shooting! It was swept under the rug to such a degree that I missed hearing about it when it was released March of last year! the Department of Justice’s report that determined that “The evidence establishes that the shots fired by Wilson after Brown turned around were in self-defense.” Credit must be given to Jonathan Capehart, a prominent black reporter who took the time to read the DOJ Report and who admitted this about the media’s narrative about the shooting: “it was wrong, built on a lie” about the Michael Brown case: “They have also forced me to deal with two uncomfortable truths: Brown never surrendered with his hands up, and Wilson was justified in shooting Brown.” see his article: “‘Hands up, don’t shoot’ was built on a lie” in the Washington Post.

    • Mooser
      May 28, 2016, 12:42 pm

      “The Occupation of the American Mind” is the title of the article, and here it is!

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