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Media Analyses





ABC TVís Quantico Melodrama Demonizes Israel With Falsehoods


ABC.Quantico.Logo.jpg

“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it...” (Nazi leader Joseph Goebbels, Jan. 9, 1928. Goebbels in 1929 was put in charge of the Nazi Party propaganda machine. Lies and demonization of the Jewish people played a major role in the subsequent slaughter of six million in the Holocaust).

Often there's a fine line between a fictional work that takes essentially benign liberties with the truth and one that contains potentially harmful propaganda. ABC's Quantico series crosses the line. Thus far in this series that began on Sept. 27, 2015, only one foreign country, Israel, has been defamed. Since inevitably some viewers will grant authenticity to false assertions in a fictional drama if it is slickly produced and staged, what Quantico says matters.

ABC describes the premise of the melodrama as: “A diverse group of recruits has arrived at the FBI Quantico Base for training. They are the best, the brightest and the most vetted, so it seems impossible that one of them is suspected of masterminding the biggest attack on New York City since 9/11.”

That's politically thrilling. But an odious message, in highly charged verbiage – with big lies about Israel – emerges from the drama's mishmash of recurring flashbacks and flashforwards. In this supposedly ripped-from-the-headlines work from executive producer and series creator, Josh Safran, the script calls for one or more terrorists to be embedded among the recruits. The drama's cast of several diverse characters includes two Muslims and two Jews. So, who turns out initially to be the terrorists? Of course it's the two Jews. The cast of characters engages with each other in an increasingly volatile environment involving paranoia and distrust. FBI Academy recruit Simon Asher (a Jewish character played by Tate Ellington) is a conflicted individual who has struggled mightily with his conscience. Initially bragging to a fellow recruit about his exploits in the Gaza Strip as a do-gooder, Asher eventually confesses to being haunted by his evil acts there as an Israeli soldier while following orders (thus suggesting the image of post-war Nazis excusing their crimes on the grounds they were just obeying orders). Asher is confronted with the specter of his and Israel's (alleged) crimes by recruit Nimah Amin (a Muslim character played by Yasmine al-Massri a Lebanese actress of Palestinian Arab descent).

7.5 minute video montage of ABC Quantico's demonization of Israel and Jews
 
 
 
 
 
Quantico’s big lies
 
• In episode four (Oct. 18, 2015), Asher brags to fellow recruit, Elias Harper, “I spent months with the UAWC [Union of Agricultural Work Committees] rehabbing greenhouses bombed by the Israelis in the Gaza Strip. Takes a lot to spook me. Maybe me being in your ear will finally give me a chance to get inside your head. I don't know whether to say good luck or I'm sorry.” A Jan. 10, 2016 broadcast repeated this fabrication of historical events alleging Israelis vindictively bombed former Israeli greenhouses.

Israel did not bomb Gaza greenhouses before or after evacuating the Gaza Strip in 2005 or in connection with the 2014 war initiated by Gaza's Hamas rulers. In fact, immediately after Gaza's Jewish residents were evicted by Israel's military in 2005, Palestinian looters destroyed the greenhouses. The World Bank reported that 90 percent of the greenhouses were intact when the Israelis left. An Associated Press (AP) Sept. 14, 2005 article said, “Palestinian looters took irrigation hoses, pumps and plastic sheeting from dozens of greenhouses Tuesday, a month after Jewish American donors bought more than 3,000 of the structures from Israeli settlers and transferred them to the Palestinian Authority. Police commanders complained that they did not have enough manpower to protect the prized equipment in several abandoned settlements. In some instances, police joined the looters, witnesses said.”

• In episode five (Oct. 25, 2015), Asher tells Harper, “I was in the Israeli Defense Forces [IDF]. They sent me into Gaza. I didn't just see things. I did things. Things that haunt me every single day of my life. After I got back, living undercover was the only way that I could cope with what I did. So I made myself a lie. I don't wear glasses. I don't even like coffee. [sighs] and I'm not... [Voice breaking] I'm – I'm – I'm not... [sniffles] I'd understand if you hate me.” This lie that Israel committed atrocities in the Gaza Strip is repeated in a Jan. 17, 2016 rerun.

The inflammatory message presented here teaches that it is “understandable” to hate Israelis because, by their own admission, they (allegedly) did terrible things in Gaza. The facts are that the military operation launched by Israel (Operation Protective Edge) against Hamas in July 2014 – like similar conflicts in December 2008-January 2009 and December 2012 – was in response to repeated mortar and rocket attacks against Israel and infiltration tunnels intended to facilitate kidnapings and massacres of Israeli citizens. Gen. Martin Dempsey, then chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, testified in November 2014 that Israel had gone out of its way to avoid civilian casualties. "No army in the world acts with as much discretion and great care as the IDF [Israel Defense Forces] in order to minimize damage. The U.S. and the U.K. are careful, but not as much as Israel." Colonel Richard Kemp, a former commander of British forces in Afghanistan, testified on Sept. 4, 2014 about Operation Protective Edge, and basically reiterated his testimony about a previous such operation before the U.N. Human Rights Council in October 2009: "During Operation Cast Lead, the Israeli Defense Forces did more to safeguard the rights of civilians in a combat zone than any other army in the history of war." It's not surprising that former Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen, testifying to Congress, characterized the relationship with Israel as "absolutely critical" to U.S. national security.

As for Palestinian deaths related to the conflict in Gaza in 2014, Israeli analyses of figures from Palestinian sources, tracking each casualty by name, age, sex, place of death, affiliation when applicable with terrorist organizations showed approximately half either were affiliated with terrorist organizations or males of prime combat age. In fact, the number of children and adult women among the fatalities was disproportionately low compared to their presence in the general population.

Muslim character denounces Israel; Jewish character admits to bombing involvement  

• In episode 10 (Dec. 6, 2015), Simon Asher has acquired the material for a bomb and creates the plan that leads to the bombing of New York's Grand Central Station. He's abetted by another Jewish character. Oren, an Orthodox Israeli Jew, bearded and with side-curls (of the facial hair of very religious Jewish men) is the bomb builder. In one of the flashforwards (or was it a flashback?), viewers are treated (Jan. 3, 2016 episode) to the scene depicting the aftermath of the bombing – the ruins of much of Grand Central. Thus, according to this invidious script, Jews seem to have been responsible for the attack on Grand Central although actually Jews have not blown up buildings in New York City whereas Muslim Arabs perpetrated the 1993 bombing of New York's World Trade Center and the September 2001 destruction of the World Trade Center killing thousands. More recently in New York, Times Square was the target of would-be bomber Faisal Shahzad (a non-Arab Muslim) who was foiled.
 
During an emergency disciplinary hearing conducted by FBI supervisors involving the FBI recruits, Muslim recruit Nimah Amin announces, “Simon Asher is a war criminal.” Recriminations and accusations are traded. Asher admits, “I'm the only one that knows the truth. I'm the who planned Grand Central [Grand Central Station, New York]. bombing.” More questions. “Wait. Are you saying you're responsible for Grand Central?” Asher replies, “No, I planned a political act, a statement on behalf of a group of people who are sick and tired of us killing each other. Two bombs. One under Temple Emanuel, the other under the 96th street mosque. A warning would be issued approximately one hour before – a bomb threat on the subway lines that run underneath each. When the final transit evacuated the area according to MTA bomb-threat procedures, a remote device on the tracks would be triggered.”
 
Later Asher says, “When I read the report today and saw the act was triggered by the final train evacuating, I knew. Somebody stole my plans and used them for themselves. Someone at Quantico.” “How do we know it wasn't you?” “Because I never wanted my bombs to go off.” “What did you want?” “I wanted to save the world.” “He spent time in Gaza.” “We know that.” “But did you know that it was in service of the Israeli Defense Forces?” Asher responds, “Yeah, and I was proud to serve. I believe in the Jewish homeland. They made me into a translator, sometimes during interrogations, but I did not hurt anybody.”

Nimah Amin confronts Asher, “You didn't hurt anyone? Really? Then who did? Who killed those unarmed civilians, shot at ambulances, targeted hospitals and schools?”

Asher replies, “Hamas hides in schools. They use civilians as human shields.”

Amin accuses Asher, “And even if they did this, what you have done is as wrong. War is wrong. I learned that firsthand in hostile territory when everyone around me was trying to kill me. You have no idea what that is like. We [Nimah and twin sister Raina] were born in Lebanon in a civil war, and that's all we knew for the first eight years of our lives before we came here. So don't you tell me what I know. There's no way you were just a translator. We have seen your skills with firearms. We've seen you invent a whole persona. What did you do? What did they make you do?”

“They didn't make me do anything. I volunteered. I was a translator. Okay? That's all. Until one day, my platoon leader told me that they couldn't find who they were looking for. He asked me to help.”

Amin persists, “How did you help them?” Asher (remorseful, crying), “By getting close to [the Gaza Arab] women, to lure them to interrogations on the whereabouts of their husbands. I thought that they were just gonna ask questions like they always did. [breathing shakily and voice breaking] I didn't know that they... I didn't find out until later that my platoon leader had gone rogue. He'd snapped from he's seen over there. I was just following orders, okay? I was just doing what I was told. But I knew it was wrong. I wanted to do good. I really wanted to be good. [crying] I'm so sorry.”

What’s behind this demonization of Jews and Israel?
 
ABC's motivation is unlikely to be merely one of entertainment shock value. That's because the script would be more believable if obtained from actual ripped-from-the-headlines material, heightened creatively for dramatic effect (relevant news media video clips are readily available). Instead, ABC feeds viewers an "action-figure" version of unsubstantiated allegations like those from the "Breaking the Silence" group. The melodrama's lone "things that haunt me" character is a Jew mightily conflicted, at once evil and pathetic in a contrived depiction, about his actions "just following orders" Nazi-like in the Israeli Army. The drama could have authentically depicted a Middle East situation with a Muslim Arab character conflicted due to involvement in an actual slaughter of Christian Arabs, Islamic State beheadings or gassing and bombing of Syrians by their government and building from there. But Quantico's demonization of Israel is right out of the playbook of the Palestinian propaganda machine and fits with the incitement incessantly purveyed in mosques, media, and schools. Such demonization in America would seem to fit anti-Israel groups' political or polemical purposes. At the least it's the product of technically skilled, intellectually and ideologically naive entertainers mistaking fashionable propaganda for dramatic authenticity. It's unacceptable on any grounds except perhaps as a case study in self-indoctrination.
 
Happening next
 
As Quantico's ratings for its first 11 episodes (and reruns) have met or exceeded expectations, the series is scheduled to resume airing starting March 6, 2016 with the next 10 (or so) episodes into May. Perhaps it will turn into something like a play within-a-play, thus further roiling viewers who are unlucky enough to have become hooked on the series. Will it continue airing anti-Israel, antisemitic messages?  ABC officials deserve to hear from the public – ABC TV network programming contact form, Ben Sherwood, president of ABC TV network (Ben.Sherwood@abc.com). Channing Dungey (channing.dungey@abc.com) is president of the ABC Entertainment Group having moved up to that position in February 2016 from the position of ABC's executive vice president for drama development, movies and miniseries where according to ABC she “shepherded” hits including Quantico. The ABC public relations specialists for Quantico are Bridgette Maney and Patrick Preblick (bridgette.maney@abc.com 212-456-1429) (patrick.k.preblick@abc.com 212-456-7819). ABC's demonization of Israel and Jews in Quantico must be exposed. 

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