Less a primer on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict than on the machinations of corporate media, Peace, Propaganda & the Promised Land delivers a cogent takedown of American TV news. Counter-propaganda comes courtesy of commentators ranging from the usual lefty suspects (Noam Chomsky, Robert Fisk) to sympathetic rabbis and soldiers. The result may be better suited for classroom viewing than for theatrical exhibition, but that’s a tribute to the movie’s instructive value. The schematic PowerPoint structure highlights seven “PR Strategies” used by pro-occupation groups to dominate American news coverage of the region. No new ground is broken, but examples of media outrages abound: Fisk recalls a CNN memo instructing reporters to refer to settlements in the Occupied Territories as “neighborhoods”; another segment contrasts the BBC’s unflinching coverage of the deaths of a half-dozen Palestinian children with sanitized American versions of the same incident.
Late in the film, one commentator mentions how reckless accusations of anti-Semitism are used to silence occupation opponents, and surely the filmmakers realize their work is headed for the same treatment—it’s not hard to imagine how a little willful misreading could reduce the movie to a variant of the old “Jews control the media” slander. Ironically, the most persuasive aspect of Peace for the politically uncommitted may be the attention devoted to anti-occupation Israelis, a constituency all but invisible in the American media. One veteran of the Israeli Defense Forces talks about his participation in Courage to Refuse, an organization of soldiers who have declined to serve in the Territories, and there is heartening footage of Israelis volunteering their time to rebuild Palestinian homes demolished by the government. Ultimately Peace is limited by the very success of its critique; by the end it’s difficult to conceive of large-scale change as even possible. But both the movie and the propaganda assault it describes teach one important lesson by example: Get organized.