After three films which bashed Muslims and raised howls of racism and Islamophobia around the world, the group that used to be Clarion Fund has decided to tout Israel alone in its latest major project, Israel Inside. It appears they’ve gotten tired of Swiftboating Arabs and have now opted for the warm fuzzy hasbara touch. Here’s promotional copy for the film:
Israel Inside: How a Small Nation Makes a Big Difference…explores the positive characteristics of Israeli society from a humanistic, psychological, and emotional perspective. This insightful and uplifting documentary sidesteps the usual conversation of politics, conflict and violence, and tells the story of the Israeli people – whose resilience has propelled Israel to the forefront of world innovation and progress.
Despite daily challenges ranging from limited resources to security needs, Israeli creativity and inventiveness help make the world a better place. Israel has made significant advancements in the fields of science, environment, medicine and technology, and has shared these developments with the rest of the world.
There’s even a promo video on “Tikkun Olam” ferchrissakes! Imagine Arab haters trying to make the world a better place. Next thing you know the lion will be lying with the lamb and a babe shall lead them!
The film is narrated by Tal Ben Shahar, a Harvard-trained psychologist whose field of study is “happiness.” Presumably, he’s not been studying the level of happiness among Palestinians. Others interviewed for the project include Alan Dershowitz, Jerusalem’s ultra-nationalist mayor, Nir Barkat, former UK Chief Rabbi Lord Sachs and pro-Israel historian, Martin Gilbert.
The film is produced by Wayne Kopping, the South African who produced the group’s earlier versions of the Protocols of the Elders of Mecca. Leading Clarion is Raphael Shore, kid brother of David Shore, who created the TV series, House. Hint: the Shores appear much better at writing TV shows than anti-Muslim agitprop.
Among the claims to fame of Clarion’s earlier oeuvre is that a GOP Jewish Republican fat cat secretly paid over $20-million to put one of their films in the hands of millions of voters in swing states in 2008. Iranium, their most recent entry doesn’t seem to have made much headway in the hasbara world. It disappeared with little more than a wimper.
The reason I wrote “used to be” concerning Clarion in my first paragraph, is that it appears that in their quest to go mainstream, they’ve switched their mission from hard-hitting propaganda associated with Clarion Fund. Now they’re couching their message in educational lingo. The producer of the film is JerusalemOnlineU, whose mission is portrayed thus:
JerusalemOnlineU.com is a leading online portal for Jewish distance learning with a vision to transform Jewish and Israel education for the 21st century, and to inspire, unify, and activate people of all ages as passionate supporters of Israel and the Jewish people.
Founded in 2009 by Rabbi Raphael Shore, JerusalemOnlineU.com is breaking new ground in outreach by creating original feature films, engaging film classes and courses, and experiential and interactive learning, all distributed via the internet, social media, television, grassroots campaigns and partnerships with mainstream pro-Israel and outreach organizations.
Last year, the Forward published this expose of the outfit claiming it wasn’t a serious academic program but the Jewish equivalent of an online diploma mill, with clear hasbara aspirations. It’s courses consist of little more than assignments to watch hasbara videos and read texts with a decidedly pro-Israel slant. Palestinian or even critical Israeli appraisals of the Occupation or Israel’s relations with its Arab neighbors are almost non-existent. As Naomi Zeveloff implies in her article, this is advocacy not academia:
Jerusalem Online U hardly portrays itself as a center for neutral academic inquiry. In fact, it boasts an explicitly pro-Israel mission that seems distinctly at odds with academic principles. In one advertisement for its services, the Jerusalem Online U site’s blog features a video of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu telling Congress last May that “Israel is what is right” about the Middle East. The words “Be a Part of What’s Right” appear onscreen as he speaks.
Shore teamed up with his buddies at Aish HaTorah who introduced him to the president of Touro College, a small New York Jewish institution. This gave both sides something they needed. It gave Shore an academic imprimatur and it gave Touro outreach to a new set of students it couldn’t previously access. Touro’s faculty “taught” the courses, while Shore’s group got to tout itself as a serious academic operation. This certainly didn’t hurt his fundraising efforts with wealthy Jews always interested in promoting a positive view of Israel on campus and doing so with the added veneer of Jewish scholarship. The $600 each student spent on each course gave both groups a revenue stream.
Amazingly, students have been able to persuade serious institutions of higher learning (though not many) to offer them credit for this pro-Israel agitprop masquerading as Israel studies. If any professors of Israel studies are reading this post please examine the JerusalemOnlineU website and curriculum in much greater depth before you consider accepting its offerings as serious academic fare.
JerusalemOnlineU doesn’t reference Clarion on its website, nor does it take credit for the earlier three films the latter produced. Though Judaism doesn’t generally believe in reincarnation of souls, Raphael Shore does. Clarion’s been retired as he mainstreams his message. Indeed, the new, softer touch succeeded in getting Inside Israel aired on many PBS stations. Undoubtedly, few stations knew they were getting warmed over hasbara from the likes of those who produced the lurid Obession, Third Jihad and Iranium. The name may be changed and the mission slightly more polished and ambitious, but this is still the same hasbara outfit.
JerusalemOnlineU operates as a 501c3 under the name, Imagination Productions. It’s most recent IRS 990 report lists revenue of $1-million for that year but offers no explanation about who gave it these funds. The Forward article notes that prominent donors like Jewish neocon Michael Steinhardt have poured their shekels into the pushke. Another such one is mega-rich hedge fund manager, Leon Cooperman, whose most recent claim to fame has been leading the march of the 1% against Obama’s class war on Wall Street. The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation gave $25,000 in 2010. The Jewish Federation of New York’s Jewish Communal Fund awarded the company $31,500. The Jewish Community Foundation of Los Angeles gave $11,000. These were directed gifts but there is no information about which individual donors made the gift.
Imagination Productions’ website notes others of its agitprop-Israel-advocacy film projects including: Crossing the Line: Intifada Comes to Campus; From the Ashes, exploits the Holocaust, using it as a means to combat assimilation; Positive Psychology and Judaism teaches young Jews how to be “successful [i.e. rich] and happy;”
Inside Israel‘s website offers encomiums from hasbara meisters like Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, formerly of The Israel Project, the Jewish Agency’s handsomely-overpaid apparatchik-kleptocrat Natan Sharansky, Obama Court Jew Robert Wexler, and settler-hasbara minister Yuli Edelstein. The far-right shmateh site, Newsmax, has also offered its own heksher here in which Rabbi Shore boasts “Israeli chutzpah will save the world.” I think you can see where this is going.
The direction Clarion has taken with this pro-Israel project indicates a further mainstreaming of Israeli ultra-nationalism. Where previous projects were vicious, slashing attacks on Arabs, Shore and his comrades no longer have anything left to prove on that score. The settler movement they represent (Clarion was a dead-ringer for Aish HaTorah, one of the major groups seeking to render East Jerusalem Arab-rein) have won their battle for dominance in Israeli society. They are now kings of the roost. There is no reason to rail against Arabs when they now own the whole kit and caboodle that is Israel, including the means of production (of hasbara and everything related to it).
Silverstein has published Tikun Olam since 2003, It exposes the secrets of the Israeli national security state. He lives in Seattle, but his heart is in the east. He publishes regularly at Middle East Eye, the New Arab, and Jacobin Magazine. His work has also appeared in Al Jazeera English, The Nation, Truthout and other outlets.