Thursday, January 29, 2009

Peace, Propaganda & the Promised Land (Part 1)

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New World Notes News
Volume 2, Number 5 -- February 3, 2009

This week in New World Notes, #50 -- February 3 & 6:

We all can name at least one democracy that has remained committed to freedom of the press since its founding.

A country that does have its faults but has the great virtue of respecting--or at least tolerating--the media's expression of a wide range of opinions about government policies. Even in time of war.

The democracy I'm thinking of is Israel.

The United States? Puh-leeze!

So when we want to get a rounded view of the Israel-Palestine conflict . . . when we want better to understand the claims and grievances of both sides . . . when we want to appreciate a multitude of perspectives on the causes of and solutions to the conflict . . .

. . . we drop the New York Times into the recycle bin, toss the TV set out the window, turn on the computer, and read the online English edition of the Israeli daily newspaper Ha'aretz (

On the other hand, if we want 175 media sources all repeating the same Government-approved Party Line--all making the same Official Talking Points in pretty much the same language . . . with the same omissions and distortions--well, just look around.

How did we get to this pretty pass?

The Media Education Foundation analyzed American media coverage of the Palestine conflict. In 2003 it presented its findings in a video documentary: Peace, Propaganda & the Promised Land. Alas, the film is just as true and relevant today as it was six years ago. I've turned the film into a three-part series for radio.

To give you and me a break from Mideast strife, we'll broadcast the three installments over an eight-week period. (The piece survives such rough treatment nicely.) Dates of initial broadcast (on WWUH) are Feb. 3, Feb. 27, and March 20--three days later on WHUS.

Response to the film has been very positive. Chalmers Johnson, author of the Blowback trilogy, called it "The best, least biased presentation we have of all the issues involved. A must-see documentary."

Donna Baillie, herself a filmmaker, said this: "Painstakingly stripping away the myths and inaccuracies regularly passed off as truth by the U.S. media, this film not only reveals the motivations and methods of those responsible for skewing the picture, but also manages to present the most concise and accurate account of the history and implications of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict and the role that the U.S. has played in the continuation of that conflict that I have seen."

Baillie concludes, "This is a very important piece of work that challenges the viewer to think twice before accepting a version of the world that owes more to the special interests of a powerful elite than to any notion of freedom of the press."

This week's installment provides (1) a brief history of the Israel-Palestine conflict, (2) an explanation of why the media spin has taken the form it has--no, it's not all the fault of AIPAC--and (3) an exploration of the first of the seven means by which the media distort the truth.

The documentary uses many striking clips from network TV news. It adds excellent commentary by American, Israeli, and Palestinian "talking heads"--or maybe, for radio, "disembodied voices"--including Noam Chomsky, Robert Fisk, Neve Gordon, Alisa Solomon, and Rabbi Michael Lerner.

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