Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Peace, Propaganda, and the Promised Land

This is a tough film to watch. Warning: Graphic imagery.

Covers the unequal and unjust depiction of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the US media. In short, how the coverage is so lopsidedly pro-Israeli occupation. (without ever really calling it occupation or describing what occupation is).

It articulates well a coherent, though-out, public relations campaign on the part of the Israeli government and its arms (Israeli lobbies) since the 1982 disastrous "PR" campaign of the massacres of the Sabra and Shatila Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon. The Lebanese Christian Felange, allies of the Israelis, slaughtered thousands of civilians while the Israeli army surrounded the camps and let them in and sat by and watched the horror. The Israeli Gen. behind that operation was none other than (later PM) Ariel Sharon.

My only qualms with the film are that it perpetuates the myth that terrorism (specifically in this case Palestinian) is the product of poverty, hopelessness, etc.

The actual ringleaders in most cases of terrorism are well educated and often religiously motivated. What the poverty and hopelessness does cause is the population to support this patina of radicals and give them foot soldiers/cannon fodder.

Also the film gives the impression that the settlements (illegal, unjust, immoral) settlements in the West Bank are a political agenda of the Israeli government. What would be more accurate is following Gershom Gorenberg, to say that the settlements were originally accidental. Only later, especially under the Likud Party (Menachem Begin and now Netanyahu) were the settlers embraced as a strategic defensive/offensive bulwark against Palestinian resistance and terrorism.

And as a leftist, populist-leaning piece, it tends to lay the blame on corporations, media-political elites, and pro-Israeli lobbies. Not that these groups do not have negative influences (by my lights), but they are human beings. I don't like analysis that reduce everything to these factors because it gives no chance for a both/and position. One must simply convert to its point of view.

The occupation is unjust. It is brutal and existentially erodes the deep truth of the founding of the state of Israel. Long term, in a globalized world, I'm not sure a Cold War/post-Holocaust Zionist experiment in a Jewish only state can last. Long long term I think there has to be one state. But right now that would be the end of Israel. Short to medium term, I think the dismantling of the settlements and any opening of the West Bank economically, educationally, and governmentally is the key. Meanwhile the violence that will flare with that draw back has to be managed.

It is particularly painful as an American Christian to see American Christian Zionists support Israel 100%, blank check and that those actions end up hurting in many cases Christians (Palestinian Christians).

But the movie's central assertion of the uneven depiction of the conflict and the negative effects (in terms of US public policy) is indisputable in my estimation. The context of why Israeli troops have stones thrown at them is never covered. You never get the names, interviews with, or feelings of the Palestinians--grieving widows, parents, friends, family. How many innocent civilian Palestinians are killed in real concrete human depiction.


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