Peace, Propaganda & The Promised Land: Occupied Palestine

Sut Jhally’s and Bathsheba Ratzkoff’s 2004 documentary Peace, Propaganda & the Promised Land demonstrates just how much the U.S. media marches in lockstep with Israel, against the Palestinians. This film was made in 2003-2004; therefore, although most of these facts still hold true today, some things have indeed changed.

Highlights and quotes from the documentary follow, along with timestamps at which they appear.

“We are currently in a conflict with the Palestinians. … engaging in a successful PR campaign is part of winning the conflict.”
-Alon Pinkas, Counsel General for Israel in NY

“So you could say that, in addition to the military occupation in the West Bank and Gaza, Israel is also involved in a campaign to ideologically occupy the American media.”
-Robert Jensen, professor of journalism at the University of Texas at Austin College of Communication

“When you’re talking about how the story is covered from the U.S., the propaganda machine is even more effective than it is in Israel.”
-Alisa Solomon, Columbia Journalism School professor

“You have activists organizations from the right, the pro-Israeli right, that very effectively they say ‘monitor’ I would say harass journalists and their editors and try to make sure that the coverage is objective, by which they mean pro-Israel.”
-Alisa Solomon

The abuse against the journalists is something that you just have to take into account. Both literally and metaphorically, if you work in the Middle East, you’ve got to take the sticks and stones. What I object to is that my American colleagues don’t seem to be prepared to do that.”
-Robert Fisk

“And even in Israel itself, you can find the main daily newspapers, like Ha’aretz for example, provide coverage on the ground, and analysis, some of which has views on the conflict that you would never, that would almost be beyond the pale, for an American journalist, say, at the New York Times, to write.”
-Seth Ackerman, PhD candidate in History at Cornell, editor at Jacobin

The film shows a clip from Shulamit Aloni’s 2003 Haaretz opinion column “Our foppish self-righteousness,” in which she said

Or maybe we are a greedy occupier, looting their land (at least as far as they are concerned), uprooting, and demolishing, and expelling, and breaking into their homes. And still, we aren’t an enemy; and still, we think it’s an enlightened occupation; and our chief of staff is doing everything he can to sear into the consciousness of the occupied that they should love the occupier who holds them prisoners in their homes until they are hungry, until they are completely humiliated – and all for the sake of getting them to finally understand who are the masters of the land and who are the servants.

Everything I’ve written here is known by everyone, but forbidden to state aloud because it is not patriotic.

For more context, we should keep in mind that Aloni is a prominent Israeli politician. In 2005, Israeli news website Ynet voted her the 57th-greatest Israeli of all time.

“The, main major television news networks and newspapers in the United States have long ago let their fear be supreme over their duties as journalists. They are not monitoring centers of power when it comes to the relationship between America and the Middle East, Israel and America, and America and the Palestinians. They will not ask the right questions; they will not report it using the correct words; they will not confront reality, and they’ve given up. And I think once you acquire fear, it’s very difficult to get rid of it.”
-Robert Fisk

“One of the things you have to keep in mind when you’re looking at how media report on something like the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it’s not only understanding what’s there in the story, but more importantly what’s not there, what’s being left out. In that sense, absence is as vital as presence, in terms of how people make sense of the story. Context is everything.”
-Robert Jensen

“The context that is often missing from the current reporting is that the Palestinian uprising is a revolt against the 34-year-long occupation. And if there’s no occupation in the story, then the story doesn’t really make sense. And the occupation is frequently missing.”
-Alisa Solomon

“A typical TV news report, for example, on, you know, ABC News, will show dramatic pictures of these confrontations, where Palestinians are confronting Israeli troops, and the Israeli troops are responding. For most Americans who don’t understand the history of the conflict, this is an example of riots that are going on, where the authorities are taking measures to crack down. What is not mentioned is the fact that these confrontations are taking place on occupied territory, that the Israeli troops who are there are defending an occupation that doesn’t have any international legitimacy, that’s illegal.”
-Seth Ackerman

“The lack of context is so dramatic that only 4% of the network news reports on the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip mention that the West Bank and Gaza Strip are occupied.”

“The Israeli military sends its troops into the occupied territories to defend what is considered an illegal occupation. And when the population there resists, Israel is presented as being under attack.”
-Seth Ackerman

“Israel’s basic posture is anything but defensive. Israel is the only country in the world right now which, in contravention to U.N. Security Council resolutions, maintains 10s of 1000s of heavily-armed troops outside its borders in somebody else’s country for the sole purpose of taking their land away from them, and, in the process, forcing them to live under the worst form of tyranny imaginable, which is a foreign dictatorship.
-Hussein Ibish, American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee

“You can’t defend yourself when you’re militarily occupying someone else’s land. That’s not defense. Call it what you like; that’s not defense.”

“Once we know that the occupation is illegal, and we know that it is subject to international condemnation, and is very costly, in terms of lives and money, then we have to ask why Israel continues to maintain the occupation; and the reason it because it intends to annex the territories, eventually.”
-Karen Pfeifer, professor emerita of economics at Smith College, vice chair of the Middle East Research and Information Project’s board of directors

Israeli settlements are in contravention of the Fourth Geneva Convention, Article 49:
“The Occupying power shall not transport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.”

The Israeli civilian “settlements, together with the surrounding land that they have expropriated, control over 40% of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The Israeli settlements are Jewish-only settlements, and they are linked together by a network of bypass roads, that carve up the West Bank, restricting Palestinians’ freedom of movement, and that simultaneously link the settlements to Israel proper. The strategic placement of the Israeli settlements and the bypass roads can be described as an Israeli ‘matrix of control‘ over the occupied territories.”

“CNN sent out a memorandum to its staff in the Middle East: ‘In the future Gilo is to be called a “neighborhood.”‘ Now there’s a great deal of difference between a colony, which is what the settlement is …, and a neighborhood. A settlement, an Israeli settlement, is built for Jews and Jews only on Arab land, and it’s illegal, against international law. A neighborhood is just a nice, friendly place.”
-Robert Fisk

“What American reports tend to obscure is the fact that the Israeli government has promoted the settlements, as part of a strategy.

Between September 2000 and February 2003, Israeli demolished 1123 Palestinian homes, making 1000s of civilians homeless.

“If you are a Palestinian family and you have clear, uncontested title to your land, even, a clear security record, you can stand on your head, and, in most cases, you’re not going to get a legal building permit. Then, if you go ahead and have to build in any case, for demographic reasons, what have you, you’ve built an ‘illegal’ home, and it’s subject to demolition. And 1000s of people have been made homeless this way. And, today, there are at least 2000 standing demolition orders, and of course each of those orders represents a family, so basically land which belonged to Palestinian families for generations is now considered State land.”
-Rabbi Arik Ascherman, Rabbis for Human Rights