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Hijacking the Holy Land

Canadian production is yet another salvo in the Middle East conflict

By Cory Ruf

Hijacking the Holy Land: Palestine, Propaganda and Peace
Directed by Chris Atkins
Joe Israel Productions
Sept. 20, 9 p.m. EST

In 2007, Michael Ignatieff, then an Opposition MP, told an audience of university students in Hamilton that he worried Canadians were taking radical stances on overseas conflicts. Invoking “fanatical” reactions to the 2006 Israeli invasion of Lebanon, he warned that activists on both sides had allowed ethnic nationalism to cloud their desire for peace. Jingoistic chest thumping, he charged, is growing louder here than in the countries embroiled in war.

Produced by Joe Israel, a Canadian production company, Hijacking the Holy Land is another salvo in this ugly rhetorical battle between North America’s pro-Israel and pro-Palestine groups. Ostensibly, it argues that a two-state solution is not tenable because the Palestinians have spurned Israeli offers for peace. But instead of presenting the complexities of the Middle East conflict, it’s designed to simply arouse pro-Israeli sentiment among Canadian viewers.

A cast of overtly pro-Israeli experts and commentators tell the story, giving us a non-chronological history of the conflict, asserting the Jews’ historical claim to the Holy Land and detailing the foundation of the modern state of Israel. Many of these clips are insightful and would fit well in a more balanced piece.

Disturbingly, the documentary goes far beyond advocating for Israel’s right to defend itself: it uniformly paints Israel’s past military interventions as measured, proportionate responses to Arab aggression. A more critical case-by-case analysis would have been preferable.

The film’s strongest argument comes when it criticizes the radically anti-Semitic commentators who appear on Palestinian talks shows advocating the destruction of the Jews. Their dehumanizing language, as the filmmakers rightly point out, is vile and does little to soften the stance of hard-line Israeli conservatives.

But rather than simply condemning racist vitriol, the documentary fires back with some of its own. It charges that, in general, Arab Muslims have less regard for human life, including that of their own children, than Israelis — or by extension, North Americans.

Hijacking the Holy Land is a piece of propaganda that preaches to the converted and riles everyone else. In a multicultural society in desperate need of moderate, conciliatory voices, it should have no place. Hate, after all, begets hate.

Cory Ruf was The Observer's 2011 summer intern.

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