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Area Jews ask: Why would a church show an anti-Semitic movie?

Journal Correspondent

Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters narrates the controversial film, “The Occupation of the American Mind.”

NOVEMBER 2, 2017 – MARBLEHEAD – Despite an outcry from hundreds of North Shore and Boston Jews, including prominent religious leaders, the Unitarian Universalist Church of Marblehead will air the controversial documentary The Occupation of the American Mind this Sunday, at its Marblehead congregation.

The film, produced in part by UMass-Amherst Department of Communication Professor Sut Jhally and narrated by Pink Floyd co-founder Roger Waters, posits that Israel has “infiltrated” American media to the extent that all US media coverage on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is biased, and anti-Palestinian.

The news of the planned screening was met with disappointment by some members of the Jewish community. “The movie is anti-Israel and it is one-sided,” explained Debbie Coltin, director of the Salem-based Lappin Foundation. She added that the film “promotes lies and includes conspiracy theories of the influence of Jews and Israel on the American government, finances and the media.” She compared it to “Nazi-like propaganda.”

In a privately-funded ad by local residents that appears in this week’s Journal, and in other local publications, some Jews and Christians asserted that the movie is not a well-considered examination of American media coverage of Israel; rather it is an anti-Semitic screed which presents “a factually incorrect and distorted account of the Israeli-Palestinian situation” and “lacks transparency” by omitting key facts.

The ad was signed by 158 people, including Rabbi David Meyer, Rabbi Michael Rabbi Ragozin, Rabbi Nechemia Schusterman and Rabbi David Cohen-Henriquez; philanthropists Robert Lappin, Arthur Epstein and Steve Rosenthal; Christians and Jews United for Israel, and Gordon College Professor Marvin Wilson. According to Coltin, an additional 146 people also have signed on to the ad.

Unitarian Universalist Church of Marblehead Reverend Wendy Von Courter: The film “fosters an attitude of respectful inquiry, and welcomes discussion regarding each presentation.”

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.

In its flyer promoting the film, the UU asserts that “Israel’s military occupation of Palestinian territory have [sic] impeded the peace process and fueled condemnation of Israeli policies around the world – except in the United States.”

In an email to the Journal, UU Church of Marblehead Reverend Wendy Von Courter wrote that the film is part of the UU Church’s Meeting House Series, which “fosters an attitude of respectful inquiry, and welcomes discussion regarding each presentation.” She said that the Church’s Social Action Committee had seen the film at another event and “found it to be a good fit in our continued exploration of the road to justice for all people.” When asked whether there was opposition within the congregation, Von Courter wrote, “there is a consensus that more information is helpful.”

When questioned about concerns that the movie could be biased, Von Courter replied, “In terms of the accusations of bias, I believe they are unfortunate and run dangerously close to being seen as censorship.”

Waters, the narrator, has a history of public action against Israel. He is a vocal supporter of the BDS movement – last June he wrote an open letter to Thom Yorke of the group Radiohead, criticizing the band’s planned performance in Israel, writing: “Today is the 50th anniversary of the occupation of Palestine by Israel.”

The professor from UMass-Amherst, Sut Jhally, is also publicly anti-Israel. His Twitter feed includes endorsements of the film, with catch phrases like, “the Zionist-white supremacist alliance.”

{ 5 comments… add one }
  • Sheila Sandler November 3, 2017, 12:05 pm

    Why am I not surprised.
    These people will never rest until every last Jew is wiped off the earth. Yet, they gladly accept our brilliant Jewish doctors saving their lives.

  • Jane Casler November 3, 2017, 12:21 pm

    Eight out of the eleven paragraphs in this article are very negative claims about the film. Only three paragraphs present the UU Church’s perspective and the reasons why it chose to to air the film (for example, human rights issues). That certainly strikes me as biased.

    You also misquoted the UU flyer. There is no need for your “sic.” The flyer actially reads, “Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territory and its selttlements have impeded the peace process…” Interesting that you omitted “and its settlements”—settlements that have been declared illegal by the United Nations and under international law. I would have hoped for an unbiased article about bias, one that represents all parties equally. Apparently, you never even bothered to contact Media Education Foundation, the film’s producers.

  • Jay Commenting November 4, 2017, 12:38 pm

    I am Jewish, but I have no love for the modern Israeli governments settlement strategy and their constant undermining of the peace process. I know this is a complex topic, but the Palestinians deserve a home, despite the terrorists among them. We can do better.

  • Line Barrera November 4, 2017, 10:40 pm

    If there were an “Olympics for Lying, Deceit and Propaganda”, the PLO, PA, Hamas, Hezbollah, and the Muslim Brotherhood (plus various professors at American universities) would “win” all the gold medals, in my opinion. Why? Because they use “taqquiya” which is sacred lying to advance Islam. The Grand Mufti of Jerusalem testified before the British Magistrate in 1937, documented by the Peel Commission, that the lands of Israel were purchased and the money given to the absentee Arabic landlords. The conflict came when the people living there (from Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and other Arabic lands) had to leave Israel so the new Jewish owners could settle in with their families in the newly built communities on the lands that the Jews bought from the Arabs. It is that simple. But the Arabs felt they were being kicked out of their long occupied ‘hood and held a grudge against the Israelis ever since. And how come Saudi Arabia never offered to take in their Muslim compadres from Israel? In my opinion, the Saudis could care less about their Muslim brothers and sisters who had to vacate Israel. It is easier to continue blaming the Jews because Jew hatred is in the Quran. I, as a Christian lady, stand with Israel.

  • RONALD W FOX November 6, 2017, 6:17 pm

    I am Jewish, 78 years old, a local resident and, for 45 years, a strong critic of Israel’s occupation and violations of international laws and Jewish values.

    Recently, protestors waged a campaign to prevent the showing at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Marblehead of the film, “Occupation of the American Mind – Israel’s Public Relations War in the United States”. The film detailed how Israel and US Jewish organizations have, for 33 years, used advance public relations techniques or “hasbara” to prevent the American public from learning about anything that shows Israel in a bad light. The focus is almost always on Palestinian terrorism, anti-Semitism and Israel’s right to defend itself.

    The result of this wildly successful PR campaign has been that Americans know little about the illegal 50 year occupation, the longest in the world; the 123 illegal settlements; the wall; the theft of Palestinian lands; the invasions of Gaza; the wanton and willful destruction of Palestinian family homes and the restrictions on movement not for security.

    Local efforts to prevent open discussion about the conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians have occurred regularly since at least 1982 when, during a local debate on Israel’s invasion of Lebanon a local rabbi led a walkout yelling “anti-Semites, anti-Semites”. So while I am ashamed and saddened by this protest, I am not surprised. The material distributed by those protesting the showing of this film allege “anti-Semitism” with no justification and also demonizing Palestinians and Muslims has all the markings of the Israeli developed PR propaganda playbook.

    I am not a member of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Marblehead is church but I have been aware of its role as a center for peace with justice since its efforts opposing the Vietnam War in the 70’s. I can only hope that members of the community, Jewish and non-Jewish will recognize the bias and intolerance behind those who led this protest, keep in mind the core American value of equal justice, and the core value of Judaism, “Justice, Justice, Shall You Pursue” and join me in commending Rev. Wendy von Courter, Carolyn Corzine and the other members of their committee for having the courage to stand up to the intense pressure of this smear campaign.

    Ronald W. Fox
    Marblehead

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