Elly Bulkin and Donna Nevel write: You don’t have to get more than a minute into Obsession: Radical Islam’s War Against the West (2007) to begin to see how inextricably it ties Islamophobia to hardline Israeli policies. Despite its initial disclaimer, the film demonizes all Muslims, and through explicit statements and rapid-fire images, makes clear that there is a direct connection between Nazis and both Palestinians and Muslims.
Obsession played a brief but high-profile role during the 2008 presidential election campaign when the Clarion Fund distributed 28 million DVDs as a newspaper insert in swing states. A few years later, Clarion’s The Third Jihad: Radical Islam’s Vision for America (2008) — about an Islamic enemy that, purportedly, “the government is too afraid to name” — made its own headlines with reports that the New York City Police Department had showed the film to nearly 1,500 police officers. And in 2011, Clarion got still more attention when it issued its third big film, Iranium. The film pushes the Israeli and neoconservative narrative about Iran’s nuclear program and the need for military action against Iran, using a “clash of civilizations” framework that attributes “unavoidable” conflict to fundamental cultural differences between Islamic and Western civilizations.
Obsession and The Third Jihad ignited a firestorm of criticism from Muslim, civil rights and other groups. The Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) condemned Obsession for spreading “scurrilous accusations against Islam and Muslims,” while the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) denounced The Third Jihad as “blatantly anti-Muslim”. Activists, researchers, and journalists have commented on Obsession’s mistranslations and The Third Jihad’s use of a “discredited conspiracy theory”. They have also noted the films’ countless distortions and manipulations: benign images of Muslims at prayer made sinister by “scary music” and “repeated images of an Islamic flag flying over the White House” — “cherry picking . . . inflammatory images and splicing them together to create fear”.
But others, particularly supporters of Israel’s right-wing policies, found these films’ virulently anti-Muslim message to their liking. All three films have been effectively mainstreamed in the Jewish community, with local showings sponsored by such groups as Hillel and the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, and the Dallas Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and B’nai B’rith chapters. Obsession has become a staple of David Horowitz’s “Islamo-Fascism Awareness” weeks on college campuses. Sheldon Adelson, the billionaire supporter of Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney — and a critic of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) from the right — has distributed copies of Obsession to young people on Birthright-sponsored tours to Israel, a project he funds. [Continue reading…]