Following on the heels of CONTROL ROOM (2004), which examined how differently from Western media outlets the Arab news network Al Jazeera reported the war in Iraq, this incisive documentary tackles the failures of American reportage when it comes to an even more controversial topic: the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The subject can sharply divide even the most liberal-minded critics, but it's no secret on which side of the debate filmmakers Bathsheba Ratzkoff and Sut Jhally find themselves. Like most of those interviewed, they consider the Israeli presence on the Gaza Strip and in the West Bank territories an illegal military occupation that deliberately makes life impossible for Palestinians, by way of oppressive checkpoints, curfews and closures, and is designed to pressure them eventually to vacate their homeland. After briefly summarizing the deleterious impact Israeli presence has on Palestinian life a grim reality rarely seen in the U.S. news the filmmakers move on to their real subject: how an ingenious Israeli PR machine exerts its will on the foreign press so that the incidents some human-rights groups have called "war crimes" are reported in Israel's favor. Taking a harsh lesson on the power of public opinion after Israel's widely condemned 1982 war on Lebanon, the Israelis inaugurated the so-called Hasbara Project through which Israeli press officers are taught how to influence the reporting of future events in the foreign media. The extent to which the project has been a success is reflected in the various PR strategies the journalists, academics and media critics see at work in the way the news is reported in the U.S.: Settlements are referred to as "neighborhoods" in order to normalize their existence; many news stories fail to mention the reality of the occupation, leaving a misleading impression that acts of Israeli aggression are simply in "retaliation" to Palestinian "attacks"; and the Palestinian victims of such retaliations go underreported. Ratzkoff and Jhally make their point by comparing the same stories are reported in the U.S. and British media, and the evidence is compelling. Too much emphasis, however, is placed on the existence of a PR machine that seems to wield awesome power, and it's not until Noam Chomsky presents a larger picture involving U.S. self-interest in the Middle East that much of that power is explained.
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- Released: 2004
- Rating: NR
- Review: Following on the heels of CONTROL ROOM (2004), which examined how differently from Western media outlets the Arab news network Al Jazeera reported the war in Iraq, this incisive documentary tackles the failures of American reportage when it comes to an eve… (more)