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Modern Arab Propaganda started as Soviet Propaganda to suppress dissident Soviet Jews. 

The vilification of Israel has, of course, been an essential part of the campaign against her. The Soviet dissenting liberal, Andrei Amalrik, wrote a book published in the West under the title Will the Soviet Union Survive Until 1984? Amalrik himself would no doubt agree that in important respects the Soviet Union has long ago reached 1984, has survived, and is indeed flourishing. The Soviet Union has transmuted absolutely the concept of truth. Truth, if it does not serve the immediate Soviet interest, enjoys the status of a crime, a hindrance, at best an irrelevance. Amalrik himself was sentenced to three years' imprisonment for writing his book and publishing it abroad. According to reports in the summer of 1971, he was sent to one of the labour camps in the far north. At any given moment, Moscow will be found to be supplying the world with information especially composed to suit the purpose the country is at that moment pursuing. Inanities, nonsense of all degrees, and, most particularly, denunciation of her victims or its opponents for actions and policies of which she is guilty, are repeated and reiterated and disseminated through many channels until some people begin to believe some of them.

One of the leading experts in the West on the policy and methods of the Soviet Union has described Soviet propaganda as "an amalgam of truth and falsehood." "There is a great deal of whispering campaigning," he notes, "and a great deal of untrue information as well as exploitation of things that are true."1

Propaganda campaigns of this kind are directed with special energy and persistence against those who obstruct the Soviet Union in its expansionism. Such victims were, for example, the Yugoslav government during Stalin's day, the more liberal Czech leader in 1948 and again in 1968, the Western powers over the years because of their defense of Western Europe -especially the United States which, for all its weaknesses and errors, has tried to counter Soviet expansion in various parts of the world. What evil, what crime, was not attributed to each of them?

Zionism has been a principal target for most of the, Soviet era. Inevitably Israel, the ordained "puppet of, Western imperialism" and, in her own right, an "aggressor" and "expansionist," has been the object of one of the more comprehensive campaigns of Soviet denunciation. In this the Soviets are ideally mated with the Arab fantasists.

A study of the Western press during the past twenty-five years would reveal astonishing, if spasmodic, support for various Soviet themes designed to lull Russia's victims or undermine her opponent. Widespread ignorance in the West of the character of the Soviet regime has helped its brainwashing campaign achieve notable successes in camouflaging its own ambitions. and even its short-range purposes. This is notably true, of the campaign of the Soviets, in partnership with the Arabs, against Israel. Because of their desire to support or at least not to anger the Arabs, Western governments have countenanced, if only by silence, and organs of opinion have helped to disseminate, wildly mendacious propaganda against Israel. A major example is that none of the Western governments has said a single word to refute the Soviet-Arab "axiom" that Israel was the aggressor in 1967. Again, the most, fantastic versions of the events accompanying the birth of the Arab refugee problem in 1948 are published as established fact in Western newspapers that do not bother to check their own back files and the reports of their own correspondents at the time.

Predictably, this propaganda has been welcomed and supported by all the traditional enemies of the Jews. A motley collection of bedfellows has in fact collaborated since 1967 in berating and besmirching Israel. Russian, Chinese, and Yugoslav Communists, feudal and republican Arabs, American capitalist oil companiied and nihilist New Left patrons of mythical underdogs, British Laurentian and post-Laurentian pan-Arabists, French exponents of calculating Gaullism -- all are to be found rubbing shoulders in the same gallery. They have been joined by old-style anti-Semites: The so-called philo-Semitic period that followed the revelations of the Nazi Holocaust and awakened a flickering of conscience in the Christian world has gradually evaporated, and from many parts of the world -- including Germany -- come warning signals of renewed anti-Semitic activity and respectability. Where anti-Semites have not dared to undertake organised action against local Jewish communities, long-suppressed anti-Jewish feelings have found an outlet in the dissemination of every possible libel on the State of Israel and its people. In the unfolding story of our time, the restored Jewish state, for all the strength and self-confidence it has injected into the still dispersed Jewish people-and maybe because of them-has become the focus, the ready-to-hand target of the anti-Semites.

Soviet Dissidents

Promoted by two such powerful forces as Soviet assertions and Arab propaganda, the claim of Arab historical rights has become a central element in the international debate. By sheer weight of noise, it has impressed many otherwise knowledgeable and well-meaning people. The facts of history are thus a vital element in understanding the conflict over Palestine and for placing it in its proper perspective. They are all readily ascertainable.

In our day, we are witnessing an astonishing phenomenon demonstrating and, dramatising the depth of attachment to the land of Israel in the heart by Jews long alienated from it both physically. and spiritually: the explosion of Zionism among the Jewish youth of the Soviet Union.

For fully fifty years the Soviet state, clothed with totalitarian authority, by its very nature brooking no other ideology, has laboured to indoctrinate its people with the Communist faith. Hostile to all religions, the Soviet regime has made a special, purposeful effort to eradicate Judaism. It has achieved the closing down of most of the synagogues in the country; there are no Jewish religious schools or classes in the Soviet Union. After thirty, forty, fifty years, as the third generation of Soviet-educated, Soviet-indoctrinated young Jews grew up, only faint remnants of Jewish religious observance survived.

The idea of the return of the Jewish people to Palestine was outlawed by the Soviet regime. For nearly thirty years Zionism was denounced as an instrument of British imperialism and of international capitalism, as an enemy of the Soviet state and of Communism. It was a crime in the Soviet code. At different times, tens of thousands of Jews were jailed or toiled and suffered-and often died-in Siberian exile for no other reason than that they were declared or suspected Zionists. Hostility to Zionism has found ever more violent expression in concentrated enmity to the State of Israel.

By its very nature and content, Soviet education not only insured that young Jews should not be taught the faith of their fathers, but also subjected them throughout their formative years to a curriculum of hatred and contempt for the ideas, values, and achievements of Zionism.

While the first generation of Jews in the era of the Bolshevik Revolution may have been able to inspire some spiritual resistance in the hearts of its sons, that little had all but evaporated when, after the creation of the Jewish state, the sons were faced with the task of rearing the third generation. No wonder, then, that twenty-five years ago many of us in the West assumed that the Soviet Union had probably succeeded in forcing assimilation on the Jews of the USSR, that where indoctrination and suppression had not entirely succeeded in the first generation, sheer ignorance in the second and third would complete the process.

In fact, under the surface, a completely different spiritual transformation was taking place. It came to fulfilment precisely in the third generation-whose parents were born and reared in the embrace of the Soviet state. It incubated and grew slowly. Only from time to time were there public signs of non-conformism. It became explosive after the Six Day War.

In the years since 1967, the Jewish community in the Soviet Union has become a boiling cauldron. The third generation, the sons of the "lost" generation, are visibly restless with longing for this land they have never seen and of which they know very little. They have made manifest a fierce sense of alienation from the society that reared them and a passion of oneness with the Jewish people against whom their whole education and the culture of their upbringing has nurtured them. A movement has spread throughout the Soviet Union in spite of the totalitarian repression of the regime. This movement is one of young people, challenging the very core of Soviet indoctrination.

It started in the secret study of Hebrew, which was frowned upon, in copying and spreading literature about Israel, which was by definition forbidden, in word-of-mouth dissemination of news gleaned from foreign radio broadcasts. Many of the young Jews emerged from their anonymity. At the very moment that the Soviet Union exchanged its long-standing policy of arming and backing the forces arrayed against Israel for a policy of direct physical intervention on their behalf, these young Soviet Jews boldly addressed the authorities, proclaiming their renunciation of identification with the Soviet state. They demanded the fulfilment of their right-formally entrenched in the Soviet Constitution but denied by Soviet policy-to leave the Soviet Union and to join the Jewish people in their homeland. They also drew many of their parents out of their timidity; the Soviet Home Office was flooded with numerous applications by whole families in the tens of thousands. Defying the state's capacity for retribution and its potential for punishment, they declared their desire to give up their Soviet citizenship, give up all they have in the Soviet Union, and go, "on foot if necessary," to join their people in the State of Israel.

For a variety of alleged offences committed in the process, many of them have been sent to jail or, in a few cases, to mental homes. This response, far from deterring others, has spurred them on to more and more defiant action. An unsuccessful attempt to hijack a Soviet plane and thus fly to freedom; unprecedented demonstrations of protest by groups of Jews inside Soviet government offices; the passion that alone could make possible such an explosion of defiance -- are all powerful indications that a form of Zionist rebellion is in progress inside the Soviet Union.

The emergence and the progressive intensification of Jewish national identification in the Soviet Union has seemed miraculous even to many historically minded people. It is, in fact, merely an expression sharpened, deepened, and concentrated by the circumstances of the central fact of 3,500 years of Jewish history: the passion of the Jewish people for the land of Israel. The circumstances in which the Jewish people, its independence crushed nineteen centuries ago and large numbers of its sons driven into exile, maintained and preserved its connection with the land are among the most remarkable facts in the story of mankind. For eighteen centuries, the Zionist passion-the longing for Zion, the dream of the restoration, and the ordering of Jewish life and thought to prepare for the return -- pulsed in the Jewish people. That passion finally gave birth to the practical and political organisations which, amid the storms of the twentieth century, launched the mass movement for the return to Zion and for restored Jewish national independence.

Soviet Politics

It is an ironic fact that it was the Soviet Union itself that played a major part in forcing on Israel the role of barring its imperial progress. Moscow provoked the Arab leaders into opening the war of June 1967 by proclaiming the imminence of an Israeli attack on Syria. Nasser confirmed this circumstance in broadcast of June 9, 1967. Levi Eshkol, the Israeli Prime Minister, immediately invited the Soviet ambassador to accompany him to the Syrian border to see for himself that no Israeli troops were concentrated there, but the ambassador refused (UN Document A/PV/1526 p. 37). The Soviet Union presumably helped the Arabs believe that the conditions laid down for victory already existed. The USSR may have believed that the Arab states could crush Israel quickly while the United Nations were still engaged in discussion.

The Soviet delegate to the United Nations delayed the speedy adoption of a cease-fire resolution which might force to a halt the destruction of Israel that was being described in the official Arab communiqués and news reports. He realised too late that was the victim of a fantasy. By the time a cease-fire was achieved, the Israeli Army stood along the Suez Canal and the Jordan and was established in depth on the Golan Heights.

The presence of Israeli forces on the banks of the Jordan and on the Golan Heights was of no immediate concern to the Soviet Union. Their presence on the Suez Canal, however, brought in its train a severe blow to Russia's operational schedule and long-range plans for expansion. The Egyptian dictator closed the Canal, he would not countenance its being reopened while Israel controlled its East Bank. By this entirely unexpected outcome of the war, the Soviet supply train to North Vietnam was disrupted and the vast Russian move across the world was brought into disarray.

During the 1960s, the Soviet Union quietly established its power throughout the Mediterranean area. It acquired bases covering the complete length of sea. Its vessels put in not only at Port Said, Alexandria,-and Matrtuh in Egypt, but also at Latakia in Syria in the east and at Mers-el-Kebir in Algeria in the west. Without much noise, Algeria became the central base of Soviet power in the western Mediterranean. Algeria-threatened, after all, by no one-was supplied 150 Mig aircraft, 3,000 Soviet advisers were installed in the country, Soviet Tupolev planes flew in and out of bases at Laghouat and Ouargla, and a missile base came into being at La Calle. All these face Western Europe. A force of between forty and sixty warships of various kinds became a standard feature of the Mediterranean scene.

The Mediterranean Sea was indeed bursting at the seams with Soviet activity. For the Soviet Union intended it to be more than a base; it was also to be a corridor. Part of the concentration of power in the Mediterranean was designed for application in the vast area south and east of Suez, where traditional Russian ambitions were now merging with new modern horizons. Southward and eastward in the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean, there were, by 1971, clear signs of the beginnings of Soviet penetration. At Aden in the South Yemeni republic, Soviet vessels enjoyed the facilities once possessed by the British Royal Navy. At Socotra, an island also belonging to that republic, the Russians planned the establishment of a base. In the southern Indian Ocean, they concluded an agreement for facilities on Mauritius. In the eastern Indian Ocean, they were negotiating for base facilities at Trincomalee in Ceylon. Their actual use of facilities, however, remained sparse-because the short passage through the Suez Canal was barred. Soviet vessels can reach the Indian Ocean and any point on earth by the roundabout route across the Pacific Ocean or by way of the Mediterranean to the Atlantic Ocean, then along the West African seaboard and around the Cape of Good Hope. Communications are also maintained by other than naval means. But these possibilities provided only a comparative trickle. For the Soviet grand design, for the strong swinging flow of ships and goods and guns, for sheer ubiquitous Soviet presence whenever and wherever required south and east of Suez, the Canal is still irreplaceable. The most intensive pressure was exerted on Israel to withdraw from the Canal. In this effort, the Soviet Union and Egypt were given consistent public support by the United States, against whom the Soviet strategy is primarily directed.

There is indeed a startling similarity between the psychology of United States policy toward the Soviet Union in the Middle East at this time and the British appeasement of Germany in the 1930s, which led to Munich Pact, the piecemeal subjugation of Czechoslovakia, and the Second World War.

The consequences of a withdrawal by Israel in Sinai could be foreseen as clearly as were the obvious consequences of the surrender to Hitler of the Sudetenland with its formidable fortifications. Israeli withdrawal from Sinai would almost certainly be followed within days by an Egyptian armed occupation of Sinai The base for a new offensive against an attenuated Israel could thus be built up. Or such an offensive might merely be threatened and the concentration of force used to impose a permanent state of siege on Israel, confined behind a long, vulnerable land line. The maintenance of permanent large-scale mobilisation would have disastrous consequences for Israel's economy and her very way of life. The Soviet Union might, it is true, oppose the Arab plan for the complete physical destruction of Israel, finding it more useful to reserve a place in her imperial system for a small, dependent Israel.

The Soviet presence would be free to move on the large objectives when conditions permitted establishing hegemony over Saudi Arabia. While Soviet warships maintained a westerly warning presence in the Red Sea along the southern shore of the Arabian Peninsula and in the Persian Gulf on the east, and while a demonstrative base in Sinai warded off any interference across the land border, it would probably need no more than an Egyptian political offensive against Saudi Arabia to bring about the establishment of a republican "progressive" government to take over from the Wahabite king. If forces were required, Egypt resources would be adequate for this purpose.

To Turkey and Iran-whose northern borders march with the Soviet's-the full arrival of Soviet power in their strategic rear in an encircling posture, with a now fading Israel their only buffer on the south, would be the irrebuttable proof of Soviet supremacy and of the valuelessness of American and of NATO plans and undertakings. There would then be no sense in their resisting the Soviet embrace.

The Soviet Union, moving forward in full confidence and with the heightened purpose of a triumphant imperialism, would in that case not need decades to establish itself. Both in the Middle East and in Africa there would be no lack of local leaders to extend the appropriate invitations and to open the required doors for speeding the process. The outflanking of southern Europe would then assume its fall dramatic significance. At that point, the only way -for the West to try to halt the Soviet advances would be by war.

Such a prospect, or the alternative of a bloodless Soviet victory, is certainly not inevitable. Of all the lessons to be learned from the recent history of the Soviet Union's expansionism, not the least important is its refusal to risk war for objectives outside Europe. It gained much by the comparatively peaceful means of shows of force against European satellites, such as Hungary or Czechoslovakia, or by purchasing advantage, as in some Arabic and some black African states. The USSR certainly does not contemplate a major war.

The United States itself has had first-hand experience of the Soviet Union's backing down, even risking loss of face, when confronted by a resistant attitude. In Turkey, in Iranian Azerbaijan, and most incisively in Cuba, the pattern of retreat was unequivocal. The Soviet Union has been likened by United States Senator Henry Jackson to a burglar going down a hotel corridor trying the doors and going in only when he finds me unlocked.

Even now, after the opening of the Suez Canal, with its tremendous advantages to the Soviet Union, this pattern has not changed. The opening of the Canal did probably serve as a spur to the Soviet adventure in Angola-by sending Cuban troops to intervene. Growing military strength too increased Soviet self-confidence. Yet it is quite safe to say that the USSR will not risk getting herself involved in a major war.

1. Professor Leonard Schapiro, in Hearings Before the Sub-Committee Of the U.S. Senate on National Security and International Operations, April 16,1970 (Washington, 1970).

This page was produced by Joseph E. Katz
Middle Eastern Political and Religious History Analyst 
Brooklyn, New York 
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Source: "Battleground: Fact & Fantasy in Palestine" by Samuel Katz, 
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"Battleground" is one of the best written and most informative histories of the Arab-Israeli conflict. ... I advise everyone to read it. - Congressman Jack Kemp

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Copyright © 1973, 1977, 1978, 1985 by Samuel Katz.
All rights reserved.  Reprinted by Permission.
Portions Copyright © 2001 Joseph Katz