Hollywood, U.S. News & the Hidden Israeli Occupation


It’s no doubt a step forward that two documentaries critical of Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestinian territory were nominated for Academy Awards this year. The question is whether the two films will have any corrective effect at all on the fundamentally misleading story that Hollywood, the U.S. news media, and the American political establishment have been telling about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for decades.

While The Gatekeepers and 5 Broken Cameras represent bold attempts to bring an occupation that has been more or less ignored by U.S. news media into public view, alternative narratives like these still have to contend with a dominant narrative steeped in Hollywood’s long history of anti-Arab stereotyping and held in place by right-wing groups that whip up Islamophobia and intimidate politicians and journalists.

Until these larger cultural and political dynamics change, we’re likely to be left with the same fear-driven story about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict we’ve been getting for years — one that crowds out the idea of legitimate Palestinian resistance to the occupation, and leaves no room for rational debate about US support for current Israeli policy.

Below are clips from three MEF films that examine precisely these issues.

To see how American news media have propagated a distorted view of the conflict by minimizing the centrality of the occupation, check out this clip from Peace, Propaganda & the Promised Land:

For an analysis of Hollywood’s longstanding trade in Islamophobic and anti-Arab stereotypes, check out this clip from Reel Bad Arabs featuring Jack Shaheen:

And for a clear-eyed take on how these distortions shape public attitudes and play out politically, check out this excerpt from The Mean World Syndrome: