Church's showing of film on Israel draws protest

The protesters against the film say its presents a "factually incorrect and distorted" account of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

November 2, 2017 18:57
3 minute read.
First Universalist Church

First Universalist Church. (photo credit: WIKIMEDIA COMMONS / JOHN PHELAN)


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MARBLEHEAD, Massachusetts (TNS)– A group of Jewish leaders and other North Shore residents are calling on a Massachusetts church to cancel its planned showing of a film that they say is antisemitic.

The film, The Occupation of the American Mind, Israel's Public Relations War in the United States, is scheduled to be shown on Sunday at 4 p.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Marblehead.

A total of 159 people, including four North Shore rabbis, have signed a letter asking people to protest the screening and calling on the church to cancel it.

"It's antisemitic and it's anti-Israel," said Robert Lappin, one of the organizers against the film. "It's full of erroneous assertions and accusations about Israel."

Lappin is the founder of the Salem, Massachusetts-based Lappin Foundation, a Jewish non-profit, but said he was speaking as an individual, not on behalf of the foundation.

The Rev. Wendy von Courter, minister of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Marblehead, said the event will go on as scheduled despite the objections. She said the film was selected by the church's social action committee and is part of a series of events at the church that focus on justice.

Von Courter said in an email that the film "challenges assumptions US citizens may hold about the conflict."

"As I've shared with my Jewish colleagues and others who have contacted us, Unitarian Universalism is grounded in a commitment to differing beliefs and ongoing inquiry," von Courter said. "Showing this film is in keeping with our faith."

The film was produced by The Media Education Foundation, a Massachusetts-based organization that makes educational films "about the social, cultural, and political impact of American mass media," according to its website.

The Occupation of the American Mind focuses on what its producers call the "pro-Israel public relations efforts" that shape American media coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in Israel's favor. It is narrated by Roger Waters, bassist for the famed rock group Pink Floyd.

The protesters against the film say its presents a "factually incorrect and distorted" account of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and "will fill people's minds with lies about Israel and lies about America."

"As Jewish people and non-Jewish people as well, we feel very strongly that it's antisemitic and it sniffs of Nazism, which is very upsetting to Jewish people given our history," Lappin said.

Lappin said he does not dispute that people have the right to see the film and make their own decisions about its content, but he said it should not be shown at a church.

"People can see it online," he said. "It's just the wrong thing to do to show it at a church. It's the wrong thing to do because it's hurting hundreds and hundreds of Jewish people, particularly at a time when at Marblehead and Swampscott [cities in Massachusetts] there's growing incidents of antisemitism. It's like throwing fuel on the fire."

Lappin said that he and others who are against the film are planning to protest peacefully at the Unitarian Universalist Church on Sunday, then attend the screening. The event is open to the public.

Von Courter said she will facilitate a discussion following the showing of the film.

"The program is not based on hateful intent," she said. "Indeed, the hope is that it will lead to heightened awareness and an understanding of different points of view and motivation."

©2017 The Salem News (Beverly, Mass.)
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