Thursday, June 13, 2019
Takoma Park postpones screening of "Occupation of the American Mind" after criticism
An announcement from the City of Takoma Park clearly states the film will still be shown "at a later date." The Mayor and Council will try to create a "conversation" about the film, which is critical of Israel's treatment of Palestinians. "How that conversation takes place is still to be determined," the city's statement concludes.
Last week, the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington called on Takoma Park officials to cancel the screening. "For a government to use taxpayer funds to present a one-sided, highly contentious, and highly biased film as part of a ‘cultural series’ of presentations is short-sighted, highly problematic, and frankly discriminatory against the mainstream Jewish community,” their letter to officials read. The screening, which fell under the "We Are Takoma" event umbrella, would have been underwritten by city and Montgomery County taxpayer money.
Waters has been outspoken on the topic of Israel and the Palestinians, and has called on other musicians to join him in boycotting Israel. That has made him a lightning rod for criticism, in the context of the larger, international Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel. Individual residents commenting on social media said the film's emphasis on the lobbying of American politicians by pro-Israel groups played on classic anti-Semitic tropes. Those favoring the film's screening described the postponement as censorship.
The plans by the city to screen the film gained national and international attention. Many outlets zeroed in on a Montgomery County-funded website that described the film as "a captivating documentary that reveals how the Israeli government, U.S. 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." That praise, and any mention of the film, now appears to have been scrubbed from the "Culture Spot MC" website. There is no mention of the film or the controversy on the Montgomery County Government and County Council websites.