Between 1967 and 2021, the enemies of the Jewish state and the Jewish people created in effect an army of anti-Israel operatives in key positions in Western societies, including Israel herself. These operatives are often opinion leaders who influence the behavior of their countries.
Here is how they did it.
The Arab nations failed to defeat Israel in major military conflicts in 1948, 1967, and 1973. At that point, they turned to cognitive warfare, the manipulation of information, attitudes, beliefs, and feelings, in order to weaken their enemy and deny it support from third parties. Thus there were two primary targets: the population of the State of Israel, and the Western nations that might become sources of financial, logistical, diplomatic, or other forms of help for the Jewish state.
The objective of cognitive warfare is to divide, disrupt, and isolate the enemy so that it be finished off more easily by military means. Terrorism is an important part of cognitive warfare, because frightened people are prone to Stockholm syndrome. But this discussion will be limited to the non-kinetic aspects of cognitive warfare.
The cognitive war began around 1967, initiated by the Soviet KGB as a propaganda campaign. The terrorists of the PLO – whose actual ideology was close to that of Nazi Germany – were presented as a national liberation movement, which found approval in the leftist student and antiwar movements that were part of the larger Soviet cognitive assault on the West.
By 1973, the challenges facing the cognitive warriors of the Arab world and their advisors were great. The Jews of Israel had lost the overconfidence of the post-1967 era. The USA had (finally) resupplied Israel with the weapons needed to reverse the advance of her enemies and – although she was prevented from achieving a crushing victory – she had clearly established her military superiority. But the militarily weak Arabs strengthened their cognitive warfare capabilities to include more than mere propaganda. They launched operations to fundamentally change important features of the social landscape of the West.
Cognitive attacks were aimed at the following Western targets:
International institutions; the UN and its agencies (easy targets because of the built-in Soviet/Third World majority).
Major early victories included several anti-Israel UN Security Council resolutions during the Carter Administration (the US abstained), and of course the “Zionism is racism” resolution in 1975. Although the resolution was ultimately revoked, the “UN Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People” it created and the annual observance of “International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People” remain. The UN Human Rights Council has a unique permanent agenda item to discuss Israel’s “human rights abuses” at every session. UN reports on health, the status of women, the environment, and other subjects often wrongly single out Israel as a violator.
International NGOs have been persuaded, by infiltration and financial grants from Arab and left-wing sources, to join the campaign. “Human rights” groups like Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Amnesty International have been particularly useful in accusing the IDF of war crimes. Recently HRW produced a tendentious report calling Israel an apartheid state.
Institutions of higher education (easily bought with oil money).
Starting almost immediately after 1973, Arab states began to make major donations to leading universities, establishing departments of Middle East Studies (where “Middle East” does not include Israel), endowing chairs and fellowships, and so on. This has continued to the present day. Other quasi-academic institutions, such as influential think tanks like the Qatar-supported Brookings Institution, have also benefited.
This is an extremely far-sighted and effective strategy, because influence trickles down to other faculty, graduate students, and undergraduates. Ultimately these students graduate and take their places in education, business, government, and even law enforcement and the military.
Even in Israel, leftist academics produce a constant flow of pseudo-academic material that can be used as support for NGO and think tank documents that call for anti-Israel policies. Israeli NGOs, supported by the international Left and Arab/Iranian/Turkish sources, provide information for use in lawfare against Israel and the IDF, as well as propaganda.
Student and labor movements, liberal churches (easy targets because of left-wing connections).
Since 2004, resolutions supporting the Boycott-Divestment-Sanctions movement against Israel have been debated and often passed by student governments, labor unions, and liberal churches. While there has so far been little effect on Israel’s economy, the debates provide a forum for disseminating false accusations against Israel.
Student organizations have been established on campuses that promote anti-Israel ideas and intimidate anyone who supports Israel. The recent widespread acceptance of postmodern “woke” ideas including intersectionality, critical race theory, and third-worldism has made it possible to connect Palestinism to diverse causes, even some that are clearly inconsistent with it, such as LGBT rights.
These organizations are supported and nurtured by faculty, departments, and administrators that were put in place by Arab (and more recently) Iranian oil revenues, as well as traditionally left-leaning academics.
Corporate interests (easy targets because of their dependence on Arab oil).
Immediately after the 1973 war, the Arab oil boycott caused a spike in prices and supply shortages. Oil companies in the US, who have great influence in politics, began to take public political stances, calling for what they referred to as a “more even-handed” policy in the Arab-Israeli conflict (in other words, calling for the government to stop supporting Israel). They funded propaganda outlets that followed the Arab line.
More recently, large corporations – particularly the very influential and powerful tech companies – have begun to adopt “woke” policies, out of a combination of fear of popular boycotts and the absorption of woke ideas from the academic world that provides their personnel. Infiltration of anti-Israel activists and attitudes into the tech companies that increasingly determine popular culture is especially worrisome.
Recently someone noted that pro-Palestinian personality Bella Hadid has 21 million Instagram followers, significantly more than the total number of Jews in the world. Social media provides a huge amount of leverage for cognitive warfare, since it reaches literally billions of people throughout the world. Clever manipulation of social platforms can have a massive effect at very low cost. As usual, Russia is leading the world in developing this cognitive warfare technique, using bots and human-operated social media farms. But Iran and other enemies of Israel aren’t far behind.
Minorities (whose grievances could be blamed on Jews and Israel).
As early as the 1930s, Soviet propagandists realized that racial discrimination in the US could be used to sell communism to disaffected minorities. It has also been possible to sell them Jew-hatred, and the closely related hatred for the Jewish state. The racial mass psychosis that has gripped the US lately presents a wonderful opportunity to attach anti-Israel messages to “anti-racist” activities via the principle of intersectionality. Combined with the historically high level of antisemitism in the black community, it’s been possible for Israel’s enemies to spread preposterous lies, such as that “Israel trains American police to be racist” effectively.
Politicians like Jeremy Corbyn, Ilhan Omar, and others are effective propagandists. It’s difficult to defend against them, because opposition can be discounted as politics, and because they have large bases of support (e.g., among Muslim populations) of which the politicians in their own parties are afraid.
For whatever reason, Israel’s successive governments have either been unable to fully internalize the danger posed by cognitive warfare, or have failed to come up with an effective strategy for fighting it. But with each military conflict that Israel is involved in, the cognitive attacks become more and more intense. They have already affected the IDF’s ability to fight.
The solution is to employ a proactive, not reactive strategy; to attack rather than defend. But what would such a strategy look like?
That’s the subject of my next post.