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Jewish leaders seek to shut down anti-occupation movie in MA because it ‘sniffs of Nazism’

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Some good news. Three women at a Unitarian church outside Boston insist on showing a movie critical of Israel, even when the Jewish community tries to censor them. This story can only embarrass the organized Jewish community in the end, on free speech grounds, and serve the cause of Palestinians human rights.

The “Occupation of the American Mind” is a documentary about how and why Americans have such an uninformed view of the conflict. It features Noam Chomsky, Norman Finkelstein, Yousef Munayyer, Rula Jebreal, Amira Hass, Rashid Khalidi and Steve Walt, among others, and has been endorsed by Deepa Kumar, Avi Shlaim, Neve Gordon, Medea Benjamin, etc. Doug Rushkoff says:

“A stunning exposé on how propaganda drives public opinion and, in turn, our understanding of reality. Here’s the story of how American perceptions of the Middle East — as well as resulting legislation and military strategy — are engineered: from focus group to talking points to mortar fire.”

The film is scheduled to be screened Sunday afternoon at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Marblehead and there’s a ton of resistance. A couple of rabbis along with people who work at a foundation dedicated to enhancing Jewish identity by creating connections to Israel have led a drive to have the screening cancelled. They got 158 signatures, mostly from the Jewish community, in opposition to the Occupation doc.

The three women from the church’s social action committee who booked the film are standing tall. But the resistance to the film has demonstrated the film’s theme. You try to speak fairly about the conflict in the U.S., and people get very angry, and do what they can to shut you down.

The Occupation of the American Mind, which is narrated by Roger Waters, has never been subject to such censorship forces before. That is also a good sign, probably. There has been some pushback at campus screenings, I’m told: the UCLA appearance drew hostile comments in the Daily Bruin, Breitbart and Jerusalem Post; and the Case-Western screening got letters in the paper. But the film has shown hundreds of times around the country without incident.

Still image from Occupation of the American Mind. AP photo.

Here’s some of the hostile press, none of which describes the film or its message plainly. From the the Jerusalem Post:

“As Jewish people and non-Jewish people as well, we feel very strongly that it’s antisemitic and it sniffs of Nazism, which is very upsetting to Jewish people given our history,” [Lappin foundation head Robert] Lappin said.

Lappin said he does not dispute that people have the right to see the film and make their own decisions about its content, but he said it should not be shown at a church.

“People can see it online,” he said.

We will raise consciousness about the strength of the Palestinian case, if only Americans will stand up for it. One organizer stands tall, in the Marblehead Local:

Jane Casler, who serves on the [church’s Social Action] committee, said Monday the protest didn’t really surprise her.

“We didn’t know what to expect, but we were fairly certain it would be controversial,” she said. “We’re trying to answer everybody and deal with this as honestly as we can.”

Another organizer:

Carolyn Corzine, chairman of the Social Action Committee, said the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is an issue that has long been on her mind, which is what led her to suggest showing the film.

While Israel appears modern, the West Bank is a very different world and it’s easy to see how unbalanced the perception is, she said, adding, “I think people will be surprised.”

There’s a lot of invective being thrown at the organizers.

Rabbi David Cohen-Henriquez, of Temple Sinai, said… “Having Roger Waters narrate the movie is like having a movie on race narrated by David Duke…”

Nuts. A more instructive metaphor comes from opponent Faith Quintero, who said that “she feels that inviting Israel supporters to a place that has conducted anti-Israel study groups is like inviting a runner to a marathon when the opponent has a 25-mile head start.”

Quintero created her own fact sheet to counter the film. Here are some assertions:

Before Israel’s separation barrier was built in 2000, Islamists set off bombs that killed Israeli civilians in pizza parlors, discos and buses. Until then, people in the disputed territories had free movement into Israel without the checkpoints that are there today.

Palestinians are marginalized throughout the Arab world, kept in refugee camps, prohibited from buying land and getting jobs

A third member of the social action committee is the church’s pastor. She points out that the pressure campaign is what the film documents:

[UUCM Pastor Wendy] Von Courter said given the pressure to cancel the showing, it seemed ironic that a central message of the film is that U.S. citizens are prevented from hearing more than a single narrative about the conflict.

The best part of this protest is the claim that that the film will set back the great peace process! The Lynn Item, a North Shore daily, cites the other local rabbi who opposes the film’s being shown. Rabbi Michael Ragozin, of Congregation Shirat Hayam in Swampscott, MA, said:

“The film takes not just a critical view of Israel, but it promotes lies and falsehoods and it’s that tactic of lies and falsehoods that ultimately promotes extremism and are detriments to democracy and detriments to ultimately any peaceful sort of resolution to the conflict in Israel…. When you have a film that is motivated by that type of mindset, it only serves that end, which is the elimination of the state of Israel and it doesn’t serve the idea of any peaceable solution.”

By the way, this is the reason that good liberals opposed the Goldstone Report, it would undermine the two-state solution. Pastor Von Courter responded calmly, saying

the church’s social action committee found the film was a good fit for its continued exploration of the road to justice for all people. She said some members of the committee have firsthand experience in the Middle East and the church’s larger congregation and denomination is quite familiar with the issue.

Here is the ad from the Marblehead Reporter.

Ad attacking the Occupation of the American Mind documentary, in the Marblehead Reporter.

Here’s a headline, in the Jewish Journal echoing that ad: Area Jews ask: “Why would a church show an anti-Semitic movie?” This article is very pro-Israel.

The movie makes vast assertions about the power of Israel to influence American opinion and alludes to a far-reaching conspiracy of anti-Palestinian reporting without evidence to back up that assertion. It lumps the “American media” into one bucket. Also, there is no mention of conflicting opinions about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict within Israel, within the US or within the American Jewish community.

The movie’s review of the history of the conflict fails to mention that Israel was invaded by its neighbors in 1948. When discussing Gaza, the film does not mention the tunnel system that alarmed Israeli security interests. Nor does it discuss the Palestinian educational curriculum – which encourages children to hate Jews and Israelis, and does not recognize Israel in any of its textbook maps.

The onslaught is a reminder that in the most liberal communities, the pro-Israel exception is alive and well. As Barney Frank, who used to represent an adjoining district, told Jeff Halper years ago, I see what the settlements are doing, but I can only come out against them if you can give me 5000 Jews in my district who will support me on the move. Otherwise it’s political suicide.

The established Jewish community is reactionary on criticism of the Jewish state. It got that job 50 years ago. It’s wearing thin, and btw, efforts to shut down a movie only help the other side.



Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is senior editor of and founded the site in 2005-06.

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29 Responses

  1. Boomer on November 4, 2017, 11:26 am

    re: “it sniffs of Nazism.”

    A telling use of the verb, which in this context rightly indicates that the speaker is describing his own biased perception, not the the film itself. Those who wish to justify the continued dispossession and oppression of Palestinians routinely perceive (or claim to perceive) evil in those who speak the truth and call for justice. “Sniff,” verb:

    “1. to draw air through the nose in short, audible inhalations.
    “2. to clear the nose by so doing; sniffle.
    “3. to smell by short inhalations.
    “4. to show disdain, contempt, etc., by or as by sniffing.
    verb (used with object)
    “5. to perceive by or as by smelling:
    to sniff a scandal.
    “6. to inhale through the nose:
    to sniff the air.”

    • US Citizen on November 5, 2017, 1:59 pm

      Thank you Phil for yet another wonderful article. Am going to watch and then share with everyone I know.

      I guess then, that they, the protesters of this important and ground breaking film, are unaware that Israel has continued the draconian measures of British colonial rule. In the early 1950s, Menachem Begin, leader of the pre-state Irgun militia and a future Israeli prime minister, famously called Britain’s emergency regulations “Nazi laws”.

      Nonetheless, they were incorporated into the military orders Israel uses against Palestinians under occupation. Significantly, the regulations are also still in force inside Israel against the country’s large minority of Palestinian citizens, one in five of the population. Israel has yet to end its seven-decade state of emergency. How’s that for Nazi again?

  2. Kay24 on November 4, 2017, 12:24 pm

    No way! In the land of freedom, and freedom of free speech? What is wrong with these zionists, they seem unable to handle cartoons, and some criticism of their country. This has nothing to to with their religion, so there is no need to react so badly. Shouldn’t the supporters of the only true “democracy” in the Middle East be open enough to allow opposing voices to criticize their actions? They must fear something, or else they would not want to shut this movie down.
    The truth being told perhaps?

    How and where can we watch this documentary?

    • pabelmont on November 4, 2017, 5:38 pm

      Many Zios claim to support Israel as a democracy, support its (claimed) democracy. But they never, never, claim to support free speech in the rest of the world. I guess that, for them, Jews are different!

      Actually, this is all a continuation of Jabotinsky’s iron wall. The perpetuation, safety, growth, etc., of Israel depends on the use of force and violence and the creation of an iron wall (to exclude Palestinians) (so said Jabotinsky). The iron wall can be used in the USA as well. One of the chief bricks in that wall, used thousands of time to build a great big wall, is the claim of “antisemitism”.

  3. oldgeezer on November 4, 2017, 2:46 pm

    Maybe this is merely a blow for secularism and Lappin is offering atheists, such as myself, the right to dictate what goes on in a synagogue?

    What tunnels were the Israeli security apparatus alarmed about? I must have missed that. It was noted in the press that the tunnels they blew up were known about for 7 years. Some alarm!

  4. Emory Riddle on November 4, 2017, 6:10 pm

    Time to begin standing up to these anti free speech bullies.

    • Lillian Rosengarten on November 6, 2017, 8:53 am

      wonderful, hopeful article. Yes, there is more and more resistance and a cry for Free Palestine. The ludicrous notion of Zionist Israel as a Democracy is now exposed as deception and lie. Viva Palestina!! May Palestine triumph over Zionism.

  5. rhkroell on November 4, 2017, 8:53 pm

    “Fails to inform people that Palestinian children are raised from childhood to hate Jews and Christians.”

    What a travesty of legitimate grievances!

    Palestinian children — some of whom are devout, practicing Christians! — are purported to be “raised from childhood to hate . . . Christians.”

    What an absurd claim!

    These “Jewish leaders” must take all American Goys/Gentiles to be clueless ignoramuses. This claim defies logic. Why do these anti-BDS “Jewish leaders” insult Gentiles in this manner? Do they actually imagine all Goys are this dimwitted and/or foolish?

    Palestinian “Christians belong to one of a number of Christian denominations, including Eastern Orthodoxy, Oriental Orthodoxy, Catholicism . . . Anglicanism, Lutheranism . . . and others. They number 6–7% of the 12 million Palestinians. 70% live outside Palestine and Israel. . . . Hebrew-speakers call them Notzri (also spelt Notsri), which means Nazarene . . . .” (Wikipedia).

    They seemingly single out Gentiles — and “Nazarenes” in particular — for being ignorant and obtuse. Why don’t they call Chomsky, Finkelstein and Medea Benjamin self-hating Jews? What’s up? Is there an anti-Gentile/Nazarene double standard at work here? Methinks this is indisputable.

    • oldgeezer on November 5, 2017, 1:40 am

      “These “Jewish leaders” must take all American Goys/Gentiles to be clueless ignoramuses. This claim defies logic. Why do these anti-BDS “Jewish leaders” insult Gentiles in this manner? Do they actually imagine all Goys are this dimwitted and/or foolish?”

      Not at all.

      They know enough are truly ignorant of the facts that when added to the numbers who are racist plus those afraid to tell the truth due to the antisemitic canard that their propaganda will carry the day. And it is a canard. A huge canard at that!

      Wile the adl was hyping an surge in antisemitism in 2016 this equated to 1,266 incidents which meant that a Jewish individual had a .03% percent chance of being involved in such an incident. No not 3%. 0.03% Not necessarily comparable but there was a 1% chance of dying from a drug overdose or a .1% chance of dying in a car accident. In otherwords a non issue (although major to any actually involved).

      The adl uses phrases such as – doubling, massive increase, surge, sustained increase, cancer of hate and on and on.

      It’s time to stop this fraud upon reality and the public. To end the abuse and murder of minorities by zionists. It’s time to put paid to the inane concept of Jewish sensibilities when they show none to anyone else. As they shrug off the murder of children by the immoral idf while crying crocodile tears and whining antisemitism to avoid responsibility for their actions.

      zionists refuse to accept any agency for the mayhem and murder they perpetrate and always claim they are forced to by others despite the fact they are threatened by no one with one of the worlds most powerful armies and a significan nuclear arsenal.

      • CigarGod on November 5, 2017, 9:49 am

        As Orwell said:
        “History stopped in 1936…everything since has been propaganda.”

      • Citizen on November 5, 2017, 11:42 am

        Similarly, with all the hullabaloo in Great Britain about waves of anti-semitism, recent polls, including those sponsored by collections of Jewish groups, all mirror opinions reflecting the very tiny percentage of reported hate crimes involving Jews.

  6. JosephA on November 4, 2017, 8:57 pm

    I enjoyed seeing snippets of this documentary on Democracy Now!

  7. Brewer on November 5, 2017, 12:24 am

    May 19, 2016 On Reality Asserts Itself with Paul Jay, legendary musician Roger Waters and Sut Jhally discuss their new film about the Israeli public relations campaign to influence U.S. public opinion

  8. Keith on November 5, 2017, 12:51 am


    What consummate arrogance! Can you imagine what would happen if local churches got together to try to stop the showing of some film at a local synagogue? The outrage would reach the high heavens!

    • Mooser on November 5, 2017, 1:17 pm

      “Keith” this is from a movie review at “Hullabaloo”

      “This dilemma lies at the heart of a warm, witty and wise new Israeli dramedy called The Women’s Balcony, from director Emil Ben-Shimon and screenwriter Shlomit Nehama.

      The story is set in present-day Jerusalem, in the predominately orthodox Bukharan Quarter neighborhood.”

  9. Egbert on November 5, 2017, 5:26 am

    I hadn’t heard of this film, but now, thanks to the faux outrage, I have. Now I am intrigued to find out what all the fuss is about.

    Someone should explain the Streisand effect to these guys.

    • Citizen on November 5, 2017, 11:57 am

      Why hasn’t all this now decades-old Zionist heavy-handedness yet produced the Streisand Effect? What will it take, not 21 but all fifty US states enacting anti-BDS laws? When will said laws reach SCOTUS?

  10. CigarGod on November 5, 2017, 6:32 pm

    Has anyone tried to buy the dvd?
    Amazon doesn’t list it.
    There is a site that rents it for $350. I presume for showing in groups/theaters.
    I can download from youtube but I’d rather buy a copy.

  11. eljay on November 6, 2017, 8:20 am

    Like a good pro-Zionist organization, the Marblehead Reporter wants people to “stand up to hatred and bigotry”…except for when hatred and bigotry are being perpetrated by Jews against non-Jews.

    Like a good pro-Zionist organization, the Marblehead Reporter promotes the lie that people who choose to acquire / hold the religion-based identity of Jewish are entitled:
    – to a religion-supremacist “Jewish State” in as much as possible of Palestine; and
    – to do unto others acts of injustice and immorality they would not have others do unto them.

    Like a good pro-Zionist organization, the Marblehead Reporter is hateful, immoral and hypocritical.

  12. Misterioso on November 6, 2017, 9:01 am

    Look on the bright side. Israel is digging its grave.

    • Maghlawatan on November 6, 2017, 12:13 pm

      “As Barney Frank, who used to represent an adjoining district, told Jeff Halper years ago, I see what the settlements are doing, but I can only come out against them if you can give me 5000 Jews in my district who will support me on the move. Otherwise it’s political suicide.” Whatever way you look at it it is political suicide.

      As the Baal shem Tov, a notorious anti-semite, once said, fear builds walls to bar the light. Just fancy that!

  13. JoeSmack on November 6, 2017, 9:54 am

    The response should be to call on churches throughout the country to hold a coordinated screening of Occupation of the American Mind

  14. Maghlawatan on November 6, 2017, 12:16 pm

    The way Israel uses the good image of american Jews to cover up its ethnocratic nihilism is sick.

    • Mooser on November 6, 2017, 12:48 pm

      “The way Israel uses the good image of american Jews to cover up its ethnocratic nihilism is sick.”

      I don’t know, seems like a fair exchange to me. I give them my good American Jewish image, and from Israel I get all kinds Judeomacher cred, and the IDF has my back.

      The Christian Dominionists can only look on in envy. “Call me when your no-account, one-horse, two-timing, three-strikes-you’re-out, four-flushing, fifth-wheel religion gets an atom bomb, sucker”, I tell them, and they have to sit there and take it.

  15. James Canning on November 6, 2017, 12:54 pm

    Bravo. The effort of the Israel lobby to suppress free speech in the US must be resisted at every opportunity.

  16. Marnie on November 7, 2017, 10:22 am

    “Lappin said he does not dispute that people have the right to see the film and make their own decisions about its content, but he said it should not be shown at a church.”

    Nice of him to decide where the film should not be shown.

    It should be shown in synagogues and churches all over the united states.It would be better

  17. Kathleen on November 12, 2017, 7:36 pm

    Not sure if anyone l inked to this. Looked through everything again and did not see this. Real News interview with Roger Waters and Sut Jhally about the film and the difficulties they are having getting the film into film festivals in the U.S. etc

    I am going to link the interview on Real News, the Mondoweiss piece and link to where the film can be purchased on Maddow’s (mentioned in the film), fb page, Chris Hayes, the Intercept, Huff Po etc etc. We can help get the word about this film by linking everywhere we go on line, asking local film festivals etc to show the film (and document the resistance).

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