It would never come into their [the masses] heads to fabricate colossal untruths, and they would not believe others could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously. Even though the facts which prove this to be so may be brought clearly to their minds, they will still doubt and waver and will continue to think there may be some other explanation. For the grossly impudent lie always leaves traces behind it, even after it has been nailed down, a fact which is known to all expert liars in this world and to all who conspire together in the art of lying. – Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf, vol. I, ch. X
We have only to keep repeating our themes that the United States and Israel are fascists, Imperial-Zionist countries bankrolled by rich Jews – Yuri Andropov
The Big Lie about Israel and her conflict with the Palestinians is that it is between Israel and the Palestinians.
That is the smallest part of it.
The truth is that the establishment of a Jewish state never sat well with either the post-Christian West or the Islamic world. Muslims are much more straightforward about it: the Land of Israel was once under Islamic rule, and therefore must return to it. Jewish sovereignty over the land and any of its inhabitants that are Muslim is an abomination to them. As Dr. Mordechai Kedar explains (see a longer talk by Dr. Kedar in Hebrew on this subject here), not only for Palestinians, but for all of the world’s almost two billion Muslims, the conflict is not “territorial, national, economic, civil, or legal;” it is religious. And therefore no compromise that leaves Jewish sovereignty in existence, even over the smallest part of the land between the river and the sea, will be acceptable to them.
The situation in the West is more complicated. With the decline of Christianity in Europe that marked the period following the 18th century Enlightenment, the religiously motivated antisemitism that had been responsible for the murder or expulsion of countless Jews in Christian countries throughout the centuries became less prevalent. But people seem to have a need to dislike Jews, and it was replaced by the racial version expounded by figures like Wilhelm Marr, which served as the justification for the Nazi Holocaust. After the war, the popular revulsion over the Nazi genocide of European Jews made “racial” antisemitism taboo, at least in public.
In 1948, Zionists succeeded in establishing a state in the Land of Israel, triggering a violent reaction from the Arab nations (local Arabs had long been hostile, correctly understanding the Zionists’ intention to establish a sovereign state). The Vatican took a parallel position, both because of its supersessionist theology that did not accept Zionist claims to represent the Biblical Israelites, and its opposition to Jewish sovereignty over Christian holy places (the Vatican finally recognized Israel in 1993, along with the PLO).
The Soviet Union, the ideological leader of the international Left, at first supported the creation of the state because of Israel’s initial embrace of socialist ideas and the Soviet desire to reduce British influence in the region. But Stalinist antisemitism (which peaked with the 1953 Doctors’ Plot), and Israel’s increasing alignment with the West brought about a rupture in relations, and even after Stalin’s death geopolitical considerations caused the Soviets to support Israel’s Arab enemies.
Around the time of the 1967 war, the Soviet KGB began a campaign of demonization and delegitimization against Israel. The objective was to hurt the US, which was seen as using Israel as an outpost to project power in the Middle East, and to inflame the Arab world, which would then turn to the USSR for weapons and other support against Israel. Like Korea and Vietnam, the Middle East became an arena for struggles between the great powers by proxy.
The KGB pushed various themes in its campaign, which was aimed at Western intellectuals, leftists, and academics, as well as the Third World. The Arabs in the Land of Israel had heretofore seen themselves primarily as members of diverse tribes, and most of them had relatively recently arrived as migrants from all over the region. But they were presented as a unified, ancient, indigenous people that was struggling for freedom and self-determination against a massively powerful colonialist oppressor. The KGB – after all, the Protocols of the Elders of Zion was an invention of a previous Russian security agency – also seasoned its political message with hints of ancient Jewish depravity.
The Soviets supplied the PLO, the putative champion of the “Palestinians,” with money and weapons, and backed Yasser Arafat’s terror campaign against the Jewish state – which spilled over into the West, as the PLO hijacked dozens of airplanes and ships as well as murdering Israelis in various European countries. The UN, with its permanently Soviet-dominated majority, passed numerous anti-Israel resolutions and became a continuous source of propaganda. The 1975 “Zionism is Racism” resolution was one of the KGB’s notable successes.
With the collapse of the Soviet Union, the campaign against Israel lost its best patron, but it continued to be financed by the Gulf States, Iran, the UN (with funds provided by Western democracies, especially the US), and the international Left (e.g., the Soros-connected funds). A very significant part of it was the co-option of the important human rights organizations, such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, which have become prolific sources of anti-Israel propaganda. They effectively “launder” misinformation originating with terrorist groups like Hamas and Hezbollah by publishing it as if it were obtained by independent research by a neutral organization.
In 2001, immediately before 9/11, the UN and various NGOs organized a World Conference Against Racism in Durban South Africa, in which Israel was excoriated as a “racist apartheid state” and accused of “war crimes, acts of genocide and ethnic cleansing.” These charges have been added to the original collection of allegations of colonialism and imperialism. It should be noted that the accusations are often couched in a form that recalls historic anti-Jewish prejudices; so, for example, the IDF is falsely accused of deliberately targeting Palestinian children in a reprise of the medieval blood libel.
Academic institutions in the West, especially in the US, have been the recipient of large gifts from Arab countries for decades, which have paid for research, endowed faculty, and established departments of Middle East Studies, all of which have reflected the biases of their funders. When this is combined with student organizations like Students for Justice in Palestine, students are deluged with the anti-Israel message. And this message is that Israel is a racist, apartheid, genocidal, settler-colonialist state that uses Nazi-like tactics to oppress the native Palestinian people, whose territory they have stolen and are occupying.
Every word of the above message is commonly believed, and every word of it is a lie. But the ground has been so carefully prepared, and the anti-Jewish undertones so evocative, that it has become part of the conventional wisdom. Its purpose is to promote policies in the West that will weaken the Jewish state, geostrategically, politically, economically, socially, and militarily. Although it pretends to be about human rights for Palestinians, it is in reality part of a long-term effort to make Israel disappear. Its current popularity is a hard-fought victory for the enemies of Israel and of the Jewish people.
Nevertheless, it still surprised me when some 500-odd journalists signed a document like “An open letter on US media coverage of Palestine,” which – incredibly to those of us who have been criticizing American media for decades over its anti-Israel bias – accuses it of “journalistic malpractice” for obscuring “Israel’s military occupation and its system of apartheid,” “sanitiz[ing] Israel’s systematic oppression of Palestinians,” and ignoring her policy of “ethnic supremacy.”
Journalists, of all people, should know better than to accept manufactured facts or popular slogans. After all, their job is (in their own words) to “get the story right.” They should be able to sniff out attempts to manipulate them. They should know how to avoid jumping on bandwagons, and not to allow themselves to become cogs in somebody’s propaganda machine. And they should understand how wrong it is to decree what other journalists should write.
Like Ed Hutcheson (Humphrey Bogart) in “Deadline USA” journalists should be individualists, following the truth wherever it leads. Sometimes it takes courage, especially when the penalty for ideological deviation is cancellation and loss of one’s job.
Ed Hutcheson only had to worry about armed gangsters. He didn’t have Twitter mobs waiting for him to slip up. But I know what he would have told those 500 smug, cowardly totalitarians to do with their open letter.
In one article you have summarized the main points.
So how does Israel cope against all these external enemies, when it is so riven internally?
At least one third of the country (Arabs and Haredim) dance to their own tunes, with little interaction with the State, except for what they can get and now the Arabs have also revealed that they are a serious security threat.
Of the remaining two thirds, about 10% are anti Zionist and 20% are post Zionist, which eventually morphs into anti Zionism.
I am an ardent Zionist but even I start to wonder if the present Israelis are on the way to repeating the catastrophic outcomes of ancient Israeli disunity. I sincerely hope not.
An excellent synthesis, Victor.
At the root, opposition to Israel has always been theological in nature, even when expressed in concepts and language that are supposedly “secular”.
nudnikJR, I especially appreciate the last point in your comments, which I too have begun to ponder.
I went through the names of the “500 journalists” who signed the open letter. A large proportion of them had obviously Arabic names (and no listed affiliation) and most of the rest worked for left-wing publications such as The Intercept, The Nation, Jewish Currents, Mondoweiss, etc. These guys are to journalists what “Cheeze Whiz” is to cheese.
HRW, Amnesty, Oxfam etc are not ‘anti-Israel’. They are antisemitic.