Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Peace, Propaganda, and the Promised Land

More politics. Stay away if you want.

The Video

I watched the film Peace, Propaganda, and the Promised Land. The film is produced by the Media Education Foundation.

This video attempts to show that the U.S. media is particularly biased against the Palestinians, in favor of Israel. It is a pretty slick piece of propaganda. I recommend that anyone who reads my post against Palestinian and Hezbollah propaganda watch this for an opposing view.

And I recommend the following, in general:

Don't believe my post. Don't believe the Islamic media. Don't believe Israeli propaganda. Don't believe this video. Don't believe what was said, what was not said, video images, causal implications, spoken words, images, or anything else.

Media is propaganda, whether video, image, or text. You must see dozens of different perspectives and thoroughly research facts before coming to conclusions or arguing points. Whether the subject is violence in video games, or the Mideast conflict, you must hear multiple points of view.

Note: this doesn't mean that all people who have a point of view must be given a platform to speak it. Sometimes points of view, such as Holocaust denial, are incendiary by their very nature. But if you want to know something, after hearing one side of the story, you must deliberately go find the other side.

Now, on to the video.

What I Agree With

First of all, let me tell you the three things that the video says about which I agree:

1) Israel engages in a PR campaign.

Yes, Israel engages in a PR campaign. This is common knowledge, but the video presents this as shocking. So a few questions to ponder:

a) Does any other country engage in a PR campaign, such as, oh, the producers of this video?

The majority of the speakers in the video include: Noam Chomsky, members of pro-Palestinian lobbyists, Hanan Asrawi, an Israeli reservist (identified only at the end of the video as one who refused Israeli service in the territories), a Rabbi from Tikkun magazine, etc.

Do you know who these people are? For instance, Noam Chomsky is the first person listed in the Board of Advisors for the Media Education Foundation. How many others work for MEF? Do some research and find out about the rest of the people who speak in the video.

b) Do the Palestinians or other Arabs engage in PR?

c) Is the "fact" that Israel engages in PR a condemnation of Israel?

2) The American media sometimes presents the humanity of Israeli victims without presenting the humanity of civilian Palestinian victims.

Of course, the exact reverse is true for British and other media sources, so ask:

a) Is this really true? How can you tell from the selected clips in this video if there are not many other clips demonstrating the opposite of what is being presented? Do you trust these people to tell you the whole truth?

b) Is the video's version, or the British version, of portraying only the humanity of Palestinian victims without portraying the humanity of Israeli victims therefore ok?

3) People confuse anti-Israeli with anti-semitic.

This is true. It is absolutely possible to be critical of Israel and its policies without being anti-semitic, and calling all people who criticize Israel "anti-semites" dilutes the nature of the term.

The only things is, and I don't mean to deny the previous statement, is that there sure seems to be a great overlap between anti-Israel attitudes with anti-semitism. As well as anti-semitic slogans and hatred that gets aroused at anti-Israel rallies.

Don't believe me. Go research it.

What I Disagree With

Here are the remaining problems with the film. I'm not going to make many points. Mostly, I want to point out the questions you should be asking that get glossed over.

1) Throughout the video, the essential element is that all Palestinian acts of violence are justified, or at least understandable, by virtue of the fact that Israel is occupying Palestinian land.

So some questions:

a) What land is being occupied? Who owned the land? The video implies that the Palestinians owned the land, and then the Israelis came in out of nowhere to occupy it. When referring to "occupied lands", what lands are being referred to? The "west bank and Gaza", or the entire country?

b) Who are Palestinians? The video implies that the Palestinians were indigenous people living in this area of land before the Israelis came in to rule over it.

c) The video implies that the acts of violence are, for the most part, happening in the occupied land as "resistance". Is that true?

d) The video implies that desperate people commit suicide bombings. Who commits suicide bombings? Are they the poor, hungry and desperate?

e) The video implies that suicide bombings against civilian babies, children, men, and women is a natural result of occupation. In the history of occupations throughout history, say the last century, how many other nations have used this tactic? Jews were oppressed in Nazi Germany. They were desperate. Did they use suicide bombings against German babies and children? Is anything - land, dignity, hunger, anything - justification for purposely blowing up civilians? Ever?

f) Was there any violence towards Jews before the "occupation"? If so, what makes before and after the occupation different?

2) The Palestinian are referred to as "unarmed".

a) Are Molotov cocktails, fire, light guns, sniper weapons, grenades, bombs, and rockets considered arms?

b) The Palestinians are unarmed when they are just using rocks. Stand against a wall. Have your friend stand twenty feet away from you and throw a rock the size of an apple right at your head, or the head of your child from a slingshot with all of his might. What are your chances of survival if he scores a direct hit on your head?

3) The Palestinian victims are "young people", implying that they are innocents.

a) Who are throwing the rocks? Who is letting them? Who is encouraging them? How many Palestinian "young people" have been arrested carrying bombs and guns? What is "young", anyway?

b) How many of the Palestinian victims are actually young, as implied by the video?

4) The occupation is illegal.

a) What makes something illegal? U.N. resolution? Is there a national set of laws that all countries adhere to?

b) Some international laws do apply, depending on how you define the area. Is it disputed area, occupied area, or conquered area?

5) The American media is all one sided.

a) According to whom? How do you know that the video's portrayal on the American media is as it says? What percentage was included to demonstrate the point, or left out to demonstrate the point?

b) "The American media". Is that a monolithic thing? What media are we referring to? CNN, ABC, NBC, FOX, CBS, or thousands of other sources. Which ones were cherry-picked to support this notion?

6) Israel is the only country in the world occupying another with military presence.

a) Is that so? Any others, maybe?

7) The occupation is a dictatorship.

a) Is that so? How are affairs actually run in the Palestinian territories? How much direct control does Israel assert?

8) Various news clips with suffering people and battles.

a) How many of the clips in this movie are taken out of context, a result of direct fakery, have nothing to do with conflict and are juxtaposed to appear so, etc?

9) Israel wants to colonize the areas.

a) And what has prevented Israel from doing so?

b) Have Israeli governments ever talked about relinquishing control, in a gradual process to the Arabs?

10) The settlements are Jewish only. This implies racism.

a) Any Muslims want to live there?

b) Any Christians living there?

c) And Muslim areas where Jews are not permitted?

d) Any areas in Israel where Muslims are not permitted?

11) The settlers carry guns, and are aggressive.

a) Why do settlers carry guns?

b) Have the Arabs ever been aggressive?

No, I'm not excusing any Israelis who, without cause, are aggressive against Arabs.

c) Are any reports about violence against Arabs the result of Arabs attacking Arabs? What percent of violence against Palestinians is a result of Jewish aggression versus Arab aggression? How does that compare to general criminal violence throughout Israel and the rest of the world?

12) Israel demolishes Arab homes in order to colonize the area.

a) Name the reasons that Israel demolishes Arab homes.

13) It uses the pretext of illegal building, when in fact it doesn't let the Arabs get the licenses they need.

a) According to whom? Why don't Arabs get the licenses they need: because Israeli bureaucracy prevents them, or because they don't recognize Israel, or a combination, or something else?

b) How many houses are demolished, and how unusual is that?

c) How many houses demolished were homes of terrorists, or were operation bases for attacks? Yet their inclusion in the figures is not mentioned?

14) Suicide bombers are a result of oppression.

a) Examine all suicide bombers around the world: America, Spain, France, Japan, Britain, Cuba, India, Sri Lanka. How many are the result of oppression and desperation? How many are simply religious fanatics?

b) Is suicide bombing excusable ever, for any reason? For land? For food? For dignity? For honor? For poverty? For hopelessness?

c) Is suicide terrorism legitimate resistance? Then why does this video bring up the subject and then try to explain them?

15) Israel oppresses Palestinians under the cover of the war on terror.

a) Are the people being killed in Palestine different than the ones being killed as a result of any other attacks around the world?

b) Does the "occupation" excuse terror attacks against civilians?

16) Sabra and Shatilla massacres were carried out by Israel

a) Who carried them out? Who accepted responsibility, nonetheless?

17) "War crimes" occurred in Jenin, and American media jumped on the bandwagon of saying that there was no evidence for them.

a) Was there evidence for war crimes?

b) What happens if you keep repeating a false story and call it "in dispute"?

18) The offer at Camp David to Arafat was for a veritable Palestinian prison.

a) What was the offer at camp David?

b) Was it a take-it-or-leave-it offer with no possibility of any future negotiations or changes in status?

19) There are three million Palestinian refugees.

a) According to whom? What is counted as a refugee?

b) Where are they living and why are they still living there?

c) Where are they refugees from?

20) Sharon sparked the Intifada by visiting the disputed Temple Mount.

a) Were there any clashes before Sharon's visit?

b) Was the confrontation spontaneous or planned?

c) Whose holy site is it?

d) Why shouldn't a Jew step on the area? Are there places that an Arab stepping would cause full scale riots by Jews against Arabs? Is it justifiable?

21) This is just an aside, but I love how one of the media sources quoted was:


Great news quote, there.

22) Palestinians want peace.

a) What is peace?

b) If you continue to fight because you don't get what you want, are you pursuing peace?

c) Under what circumstances will the Palestinians promise to never lift a weapon against an Israeli ever again?

d) What is the final status solution for the Palestinians that gives peace and security to all Israelis and Palestinians and ends all conflict in the region.

23) Palestinians deserve a state, like everyone else.

a) Everyone else deserves a state? Do I? What makes someone eligible to claim a state?


I know very well that some of these questions are themselves provocative. The questions carry implied assumptions. Some of them ridicule by their very nature. Some support an agenda.

I don't think that the answers to all of these questions support only one agenda. Some are damning to the Palestinian cause, some are probably damning to Israel. Some important questions may not have been asked.

I really have only one point: Every assumption, every image, every statement, every question, every point, every "because" in a piece of propaganda has to be challenged. Don't let yourself be swayed the first time you see a video or read a news report. Instead, lay out the article and start challenging the assumptions.

You may find that the assumptions are more insidious then they first appear. Which is exactly what this video was purporting to demonstrate.



Anonymous said...

i think that you raise some interesting points however in regards to your questions about suicide bombing i think that you can find answers in a number of recentlyl writen books such as 'making sense of suicide missions by diego gambetta and 'dying to win' by robert pape. these are 2 of the leading authors on the matter and both agree that sucide bombing is not undertaken by the sterotypical poor and uneducated person. in fact they tend to be middle class. the tamil tigers in sri lanka have committed the most suicide attacks and although they stem from a hindu baackground they adhere to a leninist ideology which is atheist. the same cannot be said for the september 11th hijackers who said they did it in the name of allah. however, if you look at history sucide bombing is usually undertaken as a form of resistence because it works (lebanon 1983) and is usually done over territory. i thinkthat you raise some good points but many of them are based on ignorance and perhaps if you did some unbiased reading (don't look at only american articles) you might find some of your answers.

Yehuda Berlinger said...

Anon: I wear the badge of ignorance as a badge of honor. If only all the people making these claims would also admit their ignorance, we would be a lot better off.

Instead, most trouble is caused by those who claim to know truth and facts that are twisted to support their viewpoint.

That's my point.