The student group J Street U is co-hosting a screening at Macalester College on Thursday evening of a film that has been criticized for demonizing Israel and whitewashing Palestinian terrorism, and features leading proponents of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign.
"The Occupation of the American Mind" — narrated by former Pink Floyd frontman Roger Waters — includes contributions from Amira Hass, Stephen Walt, Noam Chomsky, Max Blumenthal, Rashid Khalidi, Yousef Munayyer, Sut Jhally and Norman Finkelstein — a cast of characters well-known for their controversial criticisms of Israel and, in many cases, support for the hardline BDS movement.
J Street U — the campus arm of the lobbying group J Street, which describes itself as "the political home for pro-Israel, pro-peace Americans" — organized the 8 p.m. showing for Macalester students in conjunction with Macalester Students United for Palestinian Equal Rights, a group that seeks "to educate on all Palestinian activism, non-violent and otherwise."
The documentary purports to show how Israel manipulates public opinion in the United States to cover-up alleged human rights violations against Palestinians, as part of its "decades-long battle for the hearts, minds, and tax dollars of the American people."
Israelis, Munayyer claims in the film, "have for a very long time been able to effectively defend the indefensible to the American public through miseducation and misinformation campaigns, through effective talking points."
But today, Jhally adds positively, groups like "Students for Justice in Palestine, who see what's happening to Palestinians as a civil rights issue, have refused to be intimidated — they're refusing to back down even though they're being labeled as antisemitic and terrorist sympathizers — and their numbers are growing." (According to a recently-released report, members of Students for Justice in Palestine have repeatedly incited against Jewish students and explicitly praised convicted terrorists.)
The documentary was well-reviewed in the anti-Zionist, pro-Palestinian blogs Mondoweiss and Electronic Intifada (EI). According to an article published in EI, the film "finds hope in the development of ... the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, especially among students."
In 2016, then-Israeli Ambassador to Sweden Isaac Bachman called the documentary "a terrible piece of propaganda, featuring a variety of notorious anti-Semites, Holocaust negationists and rabid detractors of Israel with not even the semblance of balance — and playing on all the myths of Jewish illicit influence."
This October, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) wrote that many of the speakers in the film "repeatedly present the complex Israeli-Palestinian conflict in overly simplistic terms, depicting Israel as the constant aggressor, engaged in a ceaseless campaign of unprovoked violence aimed at Palestinian civilians. Virtually no attention is paid to Israel's very real historic and current security challenges, the role of Hamas and other terrorist organizations, and the ongoing incitement of violence and terror within Palestinian society."
"The real focus of the film is the allegation of the overwhelming influence of pro-Israel organizations on journalists and politicians, which the film claims has subjected Americans to so-called Israeli 'propaganda,' blinding us to the 'true' root of the problem — namely their simplistic blame on Israel for all evils," the ADL added.
J Street and J Street U Macalester did not respond to requests for comment by press time.
Last week, the president of J Street U's National Student Board argued that it is "unfair" to describe all those who seek to end Israel's existence as antisemitic.