WASHINGTON — A Maryland suburb revived its plan this week to screen an anti-Israel documentary narrated by Pink Floyd frontman Roger Waters, after postponing the screening in June in response to a protest by local Jewish leaders.
The city of Takoma Park, outside Washington, DC, is planning to show “The Occupation of the American Mind” in the town’s community center on July 23 as part of a cultural series.
The film claims to expose how Israeli government and pro-Israel lobbying groups have used media manipulation to shape American views on its control of the West Bank and Gaza.
The screening is now slated to be followed by a panel discussion with representatives from Jewish Voice for Peace and the Council on American-Islamic Relations. Previously, such a program was not part of the event.
On Tuesday, city officials reached out to the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington, which had strongly objected to the film’s screening in the first place, to also participate in the panel, according to an email seen by The Times of Israel.
The format would allow the audience to write questions and submit them to a moderator, as well as give comments after the discussion.
“I know that you have raised concerns about the showing of the film and hope you will agree to be a panelist so you can share some of your views with the audience,” Donna Wright, a city official, wrote to the JCRC of Greater Washington.
The JCRC of Greater Washington declined Takoma Park’s request to participate in the event.
In a letter to the city’s mayor, the group said: “We are dismayed that we learned of this new plan only from your communications staff … which asks us to sit on a panel with two organizations explicitly opposed to the very existence of the State of Israel and the right of the Jewish people to self-determination. That is hardly the basis for a respectful and productive dialogue.”
Ron Halber, the group’s executive director, was harshly critical of the city’s decision to move ahead with the screening.
“The bottom line is that the showing of this film demonstrates a total lack of judgment, and misuse of taxpayer funds, to promote a film that is strongly biased against Israel and anti-Semitic in nature,” he told The Times of Israel on Thursday.
Halber, who said he watched the film, said it “tries to weave this narrative that there’s a conspiracy going on where the Jewish community is working with elected officials to manipulate the American people,” adding that the documentary “could have been written by the Hamas propaganda playbook.”
The film is narrated by Waters, who is a frequent Israel critic and one of the most prominent supporters of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel.
In a letter to the city’s mayor, the JCRC said: “We are dismayed that we learned of this new plan only from your communications staff … which asks us to sit on a panel with two organizations explicitly opposed to the very existence of the State of Israel and the right of the Jewish people to self-determination. That is hardly the basis for a respectful and productive dialogue.”
The city of Takoma Park did not respond to a request for comment.
Before the last screening was canceled, CultureSpotMC, a website paid for largely by Montgomery County, where Takoma Park is situated, had touted the film in June as “a captivating documentary that reveals how the Israeli government, US government, and pro-Israel lobbying groups have engaged in a decades-long propaganda campaign to shape American media coverage of Israel and its occupation of Palestinian lands.”