Taxpayer-Funded Israel Hate in Takoma Park, Maryland
On Tuesday, July 23, the municipality of Takoma Park, Maryland, spent taxpayer dollars to screen a vicious and dishonest film about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. The film, The Occupation of the American Mind, featuring UMass Amherst professor Sut Jhally and narrated by Roger Waters, argues that Americans’ understanding of the conflict is skewed in support of Israel as a result of Jews controlling the media.
Despite impassioned criticism and requests by elected officials to cancel the screening, given the film’s antisemitic nature, Kate Stewart — the mayor of Takoma Park — proceeded with it anyway. As an apparent conciliatory gesture, Stewart then announced that a panel discussion would follow the film, and that opposing positions would be presented. However, in an act as offensive as the film itself, the event organizers invited Taher Herzallah of American Muslims for Palestine (AMP), who has called for violence against Israelis, to appear on the panel.
Unwilling to stand by in silence as Takoma Park violated its own tradition of respecting all people, the Alliance for Israel organized a peaceful and information-based protest of the event. Standing near the entrance of the community center, 12 members of the organization lined the path with blue and white banners, which read, “Want peace for Palestinians and Israelis? Conspiracy theories and propaganda are not the answer,” while other Alliance members distributed fliers.
The fliers noted the film’s promotion of the age-old antisemitic trope that Jews control the media, and included quotes of a similar vein from the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and former KKK Grand Wizard David Duke. They also provided three examples of how the film presents half-truths and flat-out lies about Israel’s past actions and motivations.
After the successful distribution of the fliers, and several spirited and civil exchanges, the film was shown.
During the discussion after the film, comments about the film’s antisemitic nature were met with smirks and laughter from the audience, while Taher Herzallah’s reiterations of the film’s messages were met with applause.
Given these relentless propaganda efforts, the time has come for anti-BDS organizations to broaden their strategies beyond reactively condemning events like the one in Takoma Park. It is time for anti-BDS leaders to engage in more direct and pro-active efforts to expose the dishonesty and the violent motivations of the anti-Israel camp. To start, they might:
- Expose Hamas’ brutality against the Palestinian LGBTQ community;
- Expose Hamas’ educational and emotional abuse of children;
- Publicize the numerous programs in Israel that foster collaborative efforts between Jews and Palestinians;
- Publicize Israeli organizations that support victims of terror;
- Educate Americans about the 800,000 Jews expelled from Arab countries after 1948;
- Publicly question why the Arab world has done so little to support Palestinian refugees; and
- Reveal the diversity of the Jewish and Israeli people.
Pursuing these tactics will not transform Jew haters into Israel supporters, but they may complicate the efforts of BDS and anti-Israel propaganda campaigns. Furthermore, pursuing these tactics may lead the targets of those campaigns to begin to question what they hear, particularly regarding the outrageous claims that Hamas is a legitimate government fighting on behalf of the Palestinian people, and that Israel is a European colonialist endeavor. Perhaps then, an honest discussion of the situation could take place.
Melissa Landa Ph.D has been addressing the pernicious tactics and goals of the BDS campaign for four years. Most recently, she founded and directs the new anti-BDS organization Alliance for Israel.