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The Problem in Historical Perspective: Israel and the Media War

From the 1960s, inversion of truth and reality has been one the most favored propaganda methods of Israel’s adversaries. One of its most frequent expressions has been the accusation that the Jewish people, victims of the Nazis, have now become the new Nazis, aggressors and oppressors of the Palestinian Arabs. Contemporary observers have identified this method and described it as an “inversion of reality,” an “intellectual confidence trick,” “reversing moral responsibility,” or “twisted logic.” Because Israel’s enemies, for nearly half a century, have repeated such libels unchallenged, some people have begun to believe them. Since inversion of reality constitutes the basic principle of current anti-Israeli propaganda, it is important to understand what it is and how it works.

It should be noted that scholars of an earlier generation have researched different aspects of the problem,[1] but from the mid-1980s on, this subject has attracted much less attention.  There are several explanations.  After the fall of the Soviet Union and the dissolution of the East bloc (1989-1991), there was a feeling that the world was on the threshold of a new democratic era.  And with the signing of the Oslo Accords (13 September 1993), many actually believed that anti-Israeli propaganda would cease. Denial may have played a part, because the persistence of intense anti-Israel and anti-Semitic agitation represented “inconvenient information.” Drawing attention to the problem became politically incorrect and sometimes dangerous for those who wished to advance in the academic world.[2]

Since the subject of this essay is the history of propaganda and fabrication, it is appropriate to add a word about methodology.  Marc Bloch, the eminent historian and medievalist, in his famous book, The Historian’s Craft, explained that proving the existence of a falsehood is not enough.  If one hoped really to learn from a lie, it would be necessary to identify the perpetrator and his motivation:

But to establish the fact of forgery is not enough.  It is further necessary to discover its motivations, if only as an aid in tracking it down.  So as long as there is any doubt about its origins, there is something in it which defies analysis and which is, therefore, only half-proved.[3]

The purpose of this essay is to describe the origins of the Big Lie and, to the extent possible, identify its modern derivatives.


Definition of the Problem in Historical Perspective

Since many members of Israel’s political elite consider that the country’s problem is one of public relations, they have been unable to come to terms with the fact that the state is confronted with a media war. It follows, therefore, that there is a need for a modern definition of propaganda, its main component. According to Prof. Philip M. Taylor, director of the Institute of Communications Studies at the University of Leeds,

One of the tactical tools of ideological warfare is propaganda, which has been defined simply “as an attempt to influence the attitudes of a specific audience through the use of facts, fiction, argument or suggestion-often supported by the suppression of inconsistent material-with the calculated purpose of instilling in the recipient a certain belief, values or convictions which will serve the interests of the source, by producing a desired line of action.”[4]

To this definition one may add the statement of Dr. Joseph Goebbels that “propaganda as such is neither good nor evil. Its moral value is determined by the goals it seeks.”[5] Here is the classical argument that the ends justify the means. One may ask, however, if in certain cases the very means can be morally defective.

In the twentieth century, propaganda served as an important weapon of war, and its effects could be devastating. Indeed, certain totalitarian ideologies, when brought to their logical conclusion, have been genocidal. Historian Jeffrey Herf describes the function and logic of propaganda in Nazi Germany’s war against the Jews:

If sheer repetition, in public and private contexts, can be taken as proof of belief, then it appears that Hitler, Goebbels, Dietrich [Director of the Reich Press Office], their staffs, and an undetermined percentage of German listeners and readers believed that an international Jewish conspiracy was the driving force behind the anti-Hitler coalition in World War II…. They certainly acted as if the Final Solution was Nazi Germany’s punishment of the Jews, whom the Nazis found guilty of starting and prolonging World War II.[6]

In his text Herf gave a chilling example of the link between propaganda and genocide, namely, Hitler’s annual speech to the Reichstag of 30 January1939 which presented “what became the core Nazi narrative of the coming conflict”:

“I want today to be a prophet again: if international finance Jewry inside and outside of Europe should succeed in plunging the nations once more into a world war, the result will not be the Bolshevization of the earth and thereby the victory of Jewry, but the annihilation of the Jewish race in Europe!”[7]

In addition, Herf referred to Hitler’s New Year’s address to the nation on 1 January 1940 which contained the “imputation of genocidal war aims to Nazi Germany’s enemies, especially the Jews”: “‘The Jewish-capitalist world enemy that confronts us has only one goal: to exterminate Germany and the German people….”[8]

Interpreting this language, Ernst H. Gombrich explained that the ultimate aim of Nazi propaganda was “the imposition of a paranoiac pattern on world events” in the form of a “paranoiac myth.”[9] According to Gombrich, this procedure represented the “core of the technique”:

This is the final horror of the myth. It becomes self-confirming. Once you are entrapped in this illusionary universe, it will become reality for you, for if you fight everybody, everybody will fight you, and the less mercy you show, the more you commit your side to a fight to the finish. When you have been caught in this truly vicious circle there is really no escape. Compared with this effect, the principle of advertising and mass suggestion in war propaganda may almost be called marginal.[10]

Inversion of reality as a tool of media war, with its paranoiac state of mind, has persisted to the present. Although contemporary observers have been able to describe its manifestations with considerable accuracy, many have not placed it in historical context. It was in this sense, for example, that the French researcher and philosopher Pierre-André Taguieff applied the term “absolute anti-Semitism”[11] to describe the post-1967 outlook of the Palestinians. He wrote that for them, “Zionism, then, is a new ‘Nazism’ threatening to dominate and destroy the whole human species…. Thus, in a context where Western elites never tire of calling for the avoidance of ‘Islamophobic’ utterances, the head of the Islamic Center in Geneva, Hani Ramadan, coolly denounced ‘the genocide being organized against the Muslims.’”[12]

It is noteworthy that Ramadan’s story line is nearly identical to that of Nazi propagandists. Both presented themselves as targets of a Jewish conspiracy, and the potential outcome of their “logical process”-to use Hannah Arendt’s expression-was genocide. Although both have inverted the truth, their assertions contain an additional feature which is disturbing and dangerous: the inversion of morality which leads to criminal behavior and violence without constraint.

More recently, Melanie Phillips, an outspoken British journalist and blogger, cited an article by Leo McKinstry, a Belfast-born author and journalist who writes regularly for the Daily Mail, Daily Express, and Sunday Telegraph.[13] McKinstry identified the inversion of reality in British public discourse with regard to Israel and called it by its real name:

In a remarkable inversion of reality, Israel has become a pariah state because of its determination to defend itself. A grotesque double standard now operates, where murderous Arab terrorists are hailed as “freedom fighters” yet Israeli security forces are treated as fascistic thugs. No nation has been more demonized than Israel. One recent survey across Europe revealed that Israel is now regarded as “the greatest threat” to world peace, an utter absurdity given that Israel is actually the only democratic, free society in the Middle East. But such a finding reflects the strength of the hysterical anti-Israeli propaganda that fills the airwaves of Europe. No matter how much this anti-Israeli feeling is dressed up as support for Palestine, it is in fact profoundly antisemitic….[14]

Inversion of reality as a tool of political warfare may also be used against non-Jews. For example, its use in December 2006 resulted in a sharp diplomatic clash between the governments of Poland and Germany when “a group representing Germans expelled from present-day Poland after World War II filed suit at the European Court of Human Rights, seeking restitution of their property.” In a statement on 11 December 2006, Polish foreign minister Anna Fotyga condemned the German claims as “an attempt at reversing moral responsibility for the effects of World War II, which began with the German attack on Poland and caused irreparable losses and sufferings to the Polish state and nation.”[15]

Inversion of Reality as a Propaganda Method: Historical Roots

If one studies the development of inversion of reality as a propaganda weapon, it is clear that Nazi ideologues perfected it. They openly took pride in their accomplishment but credited the British for showing them the way. During the Great War, British propaganda had successfully encouraged the desertion of Central Powers troops from the frontlines and demoralized the public at home. Hitler, for his part, emphasized the British use of atrocity propaganda and complained that Imperial Germany never understood the importance of propaganda and those who dealt with it were incompetent.

The British, under the leadership of Lord Northcliffe, proprietor of The Times, were the first to exploit the advances of mass media and advertising in order to target mass public opinion rather than the elite.[16] Their strategic objective was to “reveal to the enemy the futility of their cause and the certainty of allied victory.”[17] For this purpose, they devised a number of original propaganda stratagems such as targeting messages to the civilian population in order to undermine its support for the government.[18] They also endeavored to break up the Habsburg Empire by fomenting sedition among its various peoples. In their efforts, British propagandists first coined the term “national self-determination,” a weapon of political warfare.[19]

One tool which the British employed was atrocity propaganda. Their most remarkable accusation was that Imperial Germany created a “cadaver exploitation establishment,” the so-called Kadaververwerkungsanstalt, for the production of soap. British atrocity propaganda demonized the enemy, but after the war, the public felt duped. It left a residue of skepticism, betrayal, and a mood of postwar nihilism. Although this approach worked in the short term, it opened a Pandora’s Box.

On the eve of World War II, the memory of atrocity propaganda provided a compelling argument against American intervention on the side of Britain and contributed to the denial of compassion to the Jews in their moment of dire need. In the United States, where isolationist sentiment ran strong, influential politicians accused the British of having “tricked America into war.” Furthermore, when, in the 1930s, Nazi Germany began to perpetrate major atrocities, many refused to believe the reports.

In The Case for Auschwitz, historian Robert Jan van Pelt reported that:

The American magazine the Christian Century, which in 1944 had still chided American newspapers for giving much attention to the discoveries made by the Soviets in Maidanek-claiming at the time that the “parallel between this story and the ‘corpse factory’ atrocity tale was too striking to be overlooked”-had to (hesitantly) admit in 1945 that it had been wrong, and that the parallel with “the cadaver factory story of the last war” did not hold. “The evidence is too conclusive…. The thing is well-nigh incredible. But it happened.”[20]

After the liberation of the concentration camps, General Dwight D. Eisenhower arranged for visits of American delegations to bear witness to the greatest atrocity of all time.[21]

The Big Jump: Some Principles of Nazi Propaganda Theory

During the Great War, the British disseminated propaganda over a finite period but stopped with the conclusion of hostilities. Fearing that Britain’s wartime propaganda machinery would be turned against him, Lloyd George quickly dismantled it.[22] Nevertheless, World War I paved the way for the rise of totalitarian dictatorship. It not only undermined the traditional order in Russia, Austria-Hungary, Germany, and Italy but also “hastened the development of the industrial arts, weapons, communications, and management which facilitated the totalitarian thrust.”[23]

According to Hitler and Goebbels, British propaganda produced the original “Big Lie,” but they exploited this breakthrough for their own ends. For example, they adopted an interpretation of history which embodied the paranoiac myth that represented Imperial Germany as the innocent victim of British mendacity. A few citations from Vol. 1, Ch. 6, “War Propaganda,” of Mein Kampf, published in1925 and 1926, clearly reveal Hitler’s grasp of the methods of war propaganda. According to his account, the British spread certain lies, namely, the accusation of atrocities and that “the German enemy” was “the sole guilty party for the outbreak of war.” Later in the same chapter, he analyzed their methods and commented on cost effectiveness:

All advertising, whether in the field of business or politics, achieves success through the continuity and sustained uniformity of its application.

Here, too, the example of enemy war propaganda was typical; limited to a few points, devised exclusively for the masses, carried on with indefatigable persistence. Once the basic ideas and methods of execution were recognized as correct, they were applied throughout the whole War without the slightest change. At first the claims of the propaganda were so impudent that people thought it insane; later, it got on people’s nerves; and in the end, it was believed. After four and a half years, a revolution broke out in Germany; and its slogans originated in the enemy’s war propaganda.
And in England they understood one more thing: that this spiritual weapon can succeed only if it is applied on a tremendous scale, but that success amply covers all costs.[24]

Hitler went further. He explained in Mein Kampf that it really was more worthwhile to tell big lies rather than small ones:

in the big lie there is always a certain force of credibility; because the broad masses of a nation are always more easily corrupted in the deeper strata of their emotional nature than consciously or voluntarily; and thus in the primitive simplicity of their minds they more readily fall victims to the big lie than the small lie, since they themselves often tell small lies in little matters but would be ashamed to resort to large-scale falsehoods. It would never come into their heads to fabricate colossal untruths, and they would not believe that others could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously….[25]

The Big Lie would characterize Nazi propaganda, and although, after World War II, the Soviet Union would later adopt this method, their techniques of misrepresenting reality, based on dialectical thinking, were essentially different. Doublespeak was not to be found in the Nazi lexicon.

A Totalitarian Tool

Having the means of controlling the total environment, blocking competing information through the use of terror and coercion, and projecting their messages both domestically and abroad, the new totalitarian regimes could bend the truth as long as their power held out. Thus, they were able to transform what originally had been a defined moment of untruth into a sustained fictional reality. The difference between the mass propaganda of World War I and the fictional reality of the totalitarian state was one of degree and intensity.

Political scientist Carl J. Friedrich explained that:

… the totalitarian breakthrough occurred in 1926-27 when the first Five-Year Plan was adopted. It was this plan that undertook to force the pace and to bring about almost immediately a radical transformation of the economy. Thus, the masters of the Soviet Union were the true originators, the innovators who invented and perfected, in its various details, totalitarian dictatorship-the secret police techniques, the mass communication controls, and more especially, the centrally planned and directed economy.[26]

Indeed, the Bolsheviks were the first to adopt the practice of propaganda in peacetime. [27] Shortly thereafter, Hitler emulated them.

In retrospect, Hannah Arendt explained how totalitarian propaganda constructs a sustained, competing fictional world of untruth, possessing its own internal logic. Herein one may identify the big jump from the inversion of the truth to the inversion of reality. Nazi propagandists took the idea of the Big Lie and prolonged its duration to create a new reality based on the paranoiac myth which Gombrich described:

Their art [of the totalitarian leaders] consists in using, and at the same time transcending, the elements of reality, of verifiable experiences, in the chosen fiction, and in generalizing them into regions which then are definitely removed from all possible control by individual experience. With such generalizations, totalitarian propaganda establishes a world fit to compete with the real one, whose main handicap is that it is not logical, consistent, and organized. The consistency of the fiction and the strictness of the organization make it possible for the generalization eventually to survive the explosion of more specific lies-the power of the Jews after their helpless slaughter, the sinister global conspiracy of Trotskyites after their liquidation in Soviet Russia and the murder of Trotsky.[28]

Historian Omer Bartov, in his study Hitler’s Army, demonstrated the deep penetration of the paranoiac myth in German consciousness. He explained that the Wehrmacht was really an integral part of German society. During the invasion of Russia, when it became clear that Germany could not win the war, propaganda gained almost a religious dimension as a binding force for the soldiers. Under the harsh conditions in mid-July 1941, a Wehrmacht noncommissioned officer wrote home, producing a document which reveals the absolute and genocidal effects of Nazi propaganda:

The German people owes a great debt to our Fuehrer, for had these beasts, who are our enemies here, come to Germany, such murders would have taken place that the world has never seen before…. What we have seen no newspaper can describe. It borders on the unbelievable, even the Middle Ages do not compare with what has occurred here.  And when one reads the “Stuermer” and looks at the pictures, that is only a weak illustration of what we see here and the crimes committed here by the Jews. Believe me, even the most sensational newspaper reports are only a fraction of what is happening here.[29]

Bartov explained that this soldier’s perception was a striking inversion of reality, which ascribed the unprecedented brutality of the Wehrmacht and the SS to their victims, [and] was the most characteristic feature of the German soldier’s “coming to terms” with his actions in the Soviet Union…. It is precisely this distorted perception of reality which gives us the measure of success of Nazi propaganda and indoctrination.[30]

Bartov’s remarkable study demonstrated how the paranoiac myth of Nazi propaganda was so powerful that its logical consequence was an inversion of morality. Even after Germany’s defeat, its effects were so pervasive that some Nazi veterans continued to mouth these fictions in order to justify their own criminal deeds.[31]


Using the Inversion-of-Reality Method against Israel and Jews from the 1960s to the Present

During the first postwar decades, the propaganda method of inversion of reality and the Big Lie appears to have fallen into temporary disuse, with one notable exception.  Prof. Arnold Toynbee delivered a lecture in Montreal in January 1961 in which he “compared from a moral standpoint, the attitude of Israel to the Arabs in 1947 and 1948 with the Nazi slaughter of six million Jews.”  The ambassador of Israel to Canada, Yaakov Herzog, read this statement in the Montreal newspapers and challenged Toynbee to a debate which followed on 31 January 1961 at McGill University.[32] Ambassador Herzog did well in this disputation, but it is not clear if Arnold Toynbee’s statement represented an isolated event or, in the years which followed, provided a source of inspiration to others. (Two years later, in April 1964, Arnold Toynbee came to Egypt on a twelve day visit to lecture at Egyptian universities.  It would be interesting to know, if, beyond considerations of academic scholarship, an authoritarian regime such as Nasser’s Egypt had other motives for showing Toynbee such a public sign of great favor.)[33]

During the 1960s, and particularly after the Israeli victory in the Six Day War in 1967, the Soviet Union and its allies in the Arab world reintroduced some of the old propaganda themes. Israel’s victory represented a humiliation to the Soviet cause and posed an internal danger because it shook the foundations of authority.  Domestically, it heartened the minorities in the Soviet Union, not least the Jews. Having suffered a major reverse, the Soviet Union and the Arab countries decided to use political anti-Semitism as a means of shifting world attention from their defeat. They endeavored to delegitimize Israel, to brand Israel as the aggressor, and to bring about its isolation. Some elements of the new propaganda campaign were:

  • The accusation that Israel was the aggressor in the Six Day War and denial of its right to self-defense.
  • The passing of UN General Assembly Resolution 3379, “Zionism is racism,” on 10 November 1975 which gave the standing of international law to a proposition totally based on the inversion of reality. This resolution transformed Zionism, the Jewish national movement, into the embodiment of evil by equating it with the depravity of Nazi Germany.
  • The drafting of the PLO Covenant in its various versions of 1964, 1968, and 1974. This document claimed that justice was totally on the Palestinian side and that Israel had no standing at all.
  • The Hamas Charter of 1988.
  • The unprecedented assault on Israel at the end of August and beginning of September 2001 which took place at the UN Conference in Durban.

Both the Arab world and the Soviet Union used inversion of reality as a method and drew on the idiom of Nazi propaganda. The transfer of this expertise cannot be traced in detail because documentary information is incomplete. It is known, however, that many Nazi fugitives found refuge in the Arab world. From 1953, Egypt absorbed some two thousand of them. Some worked in Nasser’s secret service and administered concentration camps.  Others were involved in the design and construction of rockets.[34]

Among this population were specialists in anti-Semitic propaganda. From Egypt, they disseminated anti-Semitism and the doctrine of Holocaust denial in the Arab world and beyond. Writing in 1967, historian Kurt Tauber described the contemporary situation in Nasser’s Egypt:

….In addition to Gestapo and S. S. skills, there are also other capabilities that appear to be in great demand on the Nile.  Former Goebbels trainees, initially under the supervision of the late Johann von Leers, are playing – we are told – an important role in Nasser’s anti-Jewish and anti-Zionist propaganda apparatus. In this connection we hear the names of Werner Witschale, Baron von Harder, Hans Appler, and Franz Buensche.  But Gestapo, SS, and espionage backgrounds do not hamper access to attractive careers in the Egyptian propaganda ministry.  Walter Bollmann, Nazi espionage chief in Great Britain before the war, later, as SS major, engaged in antiguerilla and anti-Jewish operations in the Ukraine; Louis Heiden, an SS official who was transferred to the Egyptian press office during the war; Franz Bartel, an “old fighter” and Gestapo officer; Werner Birgel, an SS officer from Leipzig; Albert Thielemann, a regional SS chief in Bohemia; Erich Bunz, SA major and expert on the Jewish question; and SS Captain Wilhelm Boeckler, participant in the liquidation of the Warsaw Ghetto – all are reportedly engaged in anti-Jewish propaganda on behalf of Nasser….[35]

Matthias Küntzel described a major outcome of the Egyptian propaganda project:

This penetration of the Egyptian postwar institutions by a band of national-socialistically oriented opinion makers could only contribute… to the fact that, even to the present, [knowledge of] German crimes against the Jews hardly entered the Egyptian public consciousness. For nearly fifty years the delusion has been dominant in the Egyptian media that the Holocaust at no time in the Twentieth Century was anything more than a pretext, which might constantly be put forward to justify Israel’s existence….[36]


“Hitler’s Number One Anti-Semite”:  The Case of Johann von Leers, [37]

Because issues of historical continuity and particularly the transfer of ideas and are a matter of importance, special mention should be made of Prof. Dr. Johann von Leers (1902- 1965). He was one of the most important ideologues of the Third Reich and later served in the Egyptian Information Department.

In April 1938 von Leers was named professor at the Friedrich-Schiller University in Jena, and his area of expertise was “Legal, Economic, and Political History on a Racial Basis” (Rechts-, Wirtschafts- und politische Geschichte auf rassischer Grundlage). He mastered five languages: English, French, Spanish, Dutch, and Japanese.[38] As a young man he participated in the nationalistic youth movement Adler u. Falken (Eagles and Hawks), where he formed a lifelong association with Heinrich Himmler. He was one of the early members of the Nazi Party, and in 1929 Goebbels made him his protégé. [39]

Von Leers had been a committed member of the German Movement of Faith, a project under Himmler’s patronage whose purpose was to “free Germany from the imperialism of Jewish-Christianity” by creating a new pagan religion to take its place.[40] An Israeli researcher found indications that, in cooperation with a certain Friedrich Lamberty-Muck[41] who advocated polygamy, von Leers became one of the initiators of a plan to increase the Aryan race through breeding, an initiative which Himmler enthusiastically adopted and subsequently resulted in the Lebensborn project.

Von Leers was the expert in Jewish affairs. An open advocate of genocide, he was one of the most radical anti-Semitic publicists of the Third Reich. The Jewish philosopher Emil Fackenheim explained that von Leers took the position that “states harboring Jews were harboring the plague, and that the Reich had the moral duty and by the principle of hot pursuit, the legal right to conquer such countries, if only to wipe the plague out.” [42]

In a personal communication to Fackenheim, historian Erich Goldhagen explained “that whereas of course the bacilli idea was common among Nazis, von Leers had the unusual distinction of not bothering to veil his call for mass murder in euphemistic language.” After his death, “his widow [Gesina Fischer née Schmaltz], who shared his views, returned to Germany, where she embarrassed Neo-Nazis by defending Hitler’s ‘extermination’ of the Jews openly, instead of classifying it among his ‘mistakes.’”[43]

Von Leers possessed undeniable talent and applied it to construct an ideological foundation for National Socialism and Islam based on their shared hatred of the Jews. [44]  He continued this endeavor in Egypt  after the war, and his efforts were welcomed and reciprocated.

Herf reports that in December 1942, von Leers published an article in Die Judenfrage, a journal which belonged to the anti-Semitic intellectual world, entitled “Judaism and Islam as Opposites.”  As the title indicates, the author’s perspective is Hegelian, presenting Judaism and Islam in terms of thesis and antithesis. This essay also reveals the ingratiating National Socialist perspective which von Leers projected on the Islamic past as well as the intensity of his hatred for Judaism and Jewry. The following passage is part of the original text. The author thanks Prof. Herf for sharing this remarkable document, parts of which he first published in paraphrase with direct citations:

Mohammed’s hostility to the Jews had one result: Oriental Jewry was completely paralyzed.  Its backbone was broken. Oriental Jewry effectively did not participate in [European] Jewry’s tremendous rise to power in the last two centuries. Despised in the filthy lanes of the mellah [the walled Jewish quarter of a Moroccan city, analogous to the European ghetto],[45] the Jews vegetated there. They lived under a special law [that of a protected minority], which in contrast to Europe did not permit usury or even traffic in stolen goods, but kept them in a state of oppression and anxiety. If the rest of the world had adopted a similar policy, we would not have a Jewish Question [Judenfrage]…. As a religion, Islam indeed performed an eternal service [to the world]: it prevented the threatened conquest of Arabia by the Jews and vanquished the horrible teaching of Jehovah by a pure religion, which at that time opened the way to a higher culture for numerous peoples ….[46]

For his part, the ex-Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini in his conversation with Hitler of 21 November 1941 and his radio broadcasts contended that Jews were the common enemy of Islam and Nazi Germany.[47] The ex-Mufti frequently went on tour to encourage the Balkan SS Muslim units, and the Axis radio stations faithfully covered these visits. During his broadcast of 21 January 1944, he proclaimed:

The Reich is fighting against the same enemies who robbed the Moslems of their countries and suppressed their faith in Asia, Africa and Europe…. National Socialist Germany is fighting against world Jewry. The Koran says, “You will find that the Jews are the worst enemies of the Moslems.” There are considerable similarities between Islamic principles and those of National Socialism, namely in the affirmation of struggle and fellowship, in the stress of the leadership idea, in the ideal of order. All this brings our ideologies close together and facilitates cooperation. I am happy to see in this division a visible and practical expression of both ideologies.[48]

After the war, von Leers lived incognito in Italy until 1950 when he fled to Argentina, where he served as editor of the Nazi monthly Der Weg and entered into close contact with Adolf Eichmann. After the fall of Peron in 1955, he moved to Cairo where he served in the Egyptian Information Department. Encouraged by the ex-Mufti who was also living in Egypt, he converted to Islam and assumed the names Mustafa Ben Ali and Omer Amin Johann von Leers.[49]

Von Leers sponsored the publication of an Arabic edition of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, revived the blood libel, organized anti-Semitic broadcasts in numerous languages, cultivated neo-Nazis throughout the world, and maintained a warm correspondence encouraging the first generation of Holocaust deniers, one of whom was Paul Rassinier.[50] One source reported that von Leers was the first to launch the idea of a separate Palestinian nationality as part of the wider war against Israel.[51]

In addition to the professional obligations of his day job, Johann von Leers was “active as the contact man for the organization of former members of the SS (ODESSA) in Arab territory.”[52] It is reported that his old friend, Haj Amin al-Husseini, secured his post as political adviser in the Egyptian Information Department, but another source suggests that a political officer at the Egyptian embassy in Buenos Aires recruited him.[53]   When von Leers arrived in Cairo, the ex-Mufti, Haj Amin, publicly welcomed him: “We thank you for venturing to take up the battle with the powers of darkness that have become incarnate in world Jewry.”[54]

If today’s Arab anti-Israeli and anti-Jewish propaganda strongly resembles that of the Third Reich, there is a good reason.

East-Bloc Anti-Semitism

An immediate consequence of Israel’s victory in the Six Day War was the unleashing of a virulent campaign of state-sponsored anti-Semitism in the East bloc.[55] According to Stefan Possony, an American strategist and specialist in East European affairs, Komsomolskaya Pravda published the real message of this propaganda on 4 October 1967:

“Zionism is dedicated to ‘genocide, racism, treachery, aggression, and annexation…all characteristic attributes of fascists.’”[56] Leon Poliakov also identified information in this text which its Soviet author took from a 1957 pamphlet published at the time Johann van Leers was in charge of anti-Semitic propaganda in Egypt.[57] Indeed, there are reasonable grounds, circumstantial and textual, to support the view that Nazi propaganda themes were transmitted directly from Egypt to the East Bloc, particularly the DDR.

On September 6,1968, Dr. Simon Wiesenthal held a press conference in Vienna where he accused the German Democratic Republic for its use of language identical to the Nazi era in its condemnation of Israel.  The title of the publication which he distributed on this occasion was, The Same Language: first for Hitler – now for Ulbricht.  In this solidly documented publication Wiesenthal and his staff identified thirty-nine Nazis with excellent credentials who found their way into the service of the G.D.R.[58]  Some were extremely well placed.  Not surprisingly, one of the tools of propaganda which they used was inversion of reality, accusing Israel of being the aggressor.

J. H. Brinks, in his essay “Political Anti-Fascism in the German Democratic Republic,” wrote that there was no ideological impediment to prevent the cooperation between Communist party members and National Socialists, as they had once been allies. [59]  That is, until Hitler invaded the Soviet Union.  Nevertheless, there remained positive feelings in favor of Russian-German friendship which were based on considerations of history and geography. For example, after the First World War, in 1922, Weimar Germany concluded the Treaty of Rapello which took Bolshevik Russia out of diplomatic isolation.  This transaction became the forerunner of subsequent military and political arrangements.  For example, Chief of the Army Command, General Hans von Seekt, “arranged for exchanges of military instructors, the manufacture of weapons [such as aircraft, heavy artillery, tanks, and poison gas] forbidden to the Germans by Versailles and close cooperation in other military fields.”[60] Charles W. Thayer, an American career diplomat who served in Germany shortly after the war recounted also that some of the great German industrialists nostalgically remembered that Russia had once been a major market and they hoped one day it might again come back to life.

After the war, some ultra-conservatives and unrepentant Nazis remained convinced that historical and geographical reasons made Russia a natural ally, and these transcended the fact that it was under Communist rule. Members of this school held that for reasons of traditional policy dating back to Frederick the Great, Russia should be an ally, and, that if reunification were ever to be, its good will would be of critical importance.  Von Leers belonged to this group.[61]

The real statement of the Soviet party line took the form of a short book titled Beware Zionism! Essays on the Ideology, Organization, and Practice of Zionism. Its author was given as Yuri Ivanov, a party Central Committee specialist on Zionism, and at the beginning of 1969 the Moscow Political Literature Publishing House (Krasny Proletary) distributed this pedantic book of some 173 pages in an edition of seventy-five thousand copies.[62] (It was priced to move at a modest 27 kopeks.) William Korey wrote, “The voice of the official Soviet Authority was not disguised. It spoke clearly through Pravda: ‘From the pages of Yuri Ivanov’s book emerges the true evil image of Zionism and this constitutes the undoubted importance of the book.’”[63]

Beware Zionism! is interesting with regard to its antisemitic content.  Its thesis, based on the Protocols, was that that world Jewry possessed ubiquitous control of world politics.  Indeed, the structure and content of Beware Zionism bear a remarkable resemblance to Johann von Leers’ book, The Forces behind Roosevelt [Kraefte hinter Roosevelt] which he published in Berlin in 1942.[64]

The language of Komsomolskaya Pravda, in contrast, represented a change of direction toward a major inversion of reality compressed into slogans, such as “Zionism is racism.”[65]

Bernard Lewis reported the use of these new slogans at the World Conference of the International Women’s Year held in Mexico City in late June and early July 1975. He noted that: “the ‘Declaration on the Equality of Women’ issued on that occasion repeatedly stresses the share of women in the struggle against neocolonialism, foreign occupation, Zionism, racism, racial discrimination and apartheid.”[66]

It should be added that with France’s change in diplomatic orientation in favor of the Arab cause, and as a consequence of its great influence in Europe, anti-Israeli information steadily gained currency.  Historian Bat Ye’or remarked that the Second International Conference in Support of the Arab Peoples, held in Cairo in 1969, was a turning point for Europe. Its chief objective was to “demonstrate hostility to Zionism and solidarity with the Arab population of Palestine.” British historian Arnold Toynbee and French Arabist Jacques Berque participated in this event.[67]

It did not take long for the cold winds to blow. At the end of 1968, Bertrand Russell published an open letter to Wladyslaw Gomulka, first secretary of the Polish Communist Party, protesting the outbreak of state-sponsored anti-Semitism in Poland. Russell bluntly likened this new anti-Semitism to that of Nazi Germany and used the term “twisted logic” to describe the method of inverting reality:

Over the past eighteen months in Poland, the Press, the secret police and the Government have instigated anti-Semitism quite deliberately. By some twisted logic, all Jews are now Zionists, Zionists are fascists, fascists are Nazis, and Jews, therefore, are to be identified with the very criminals who only recently sought to eliminate Polish Jewry….[68]

The Soviet Union spread several other fictions in its new propaganda war against Israel. One of these was the accusation that Israel was the aggressor in the Six Day War. Probably the very first observer to identify and describe this distorted logic was Prof. Richard Pipes of Harvard University. He called it a “successful technique employed by Moscow to turn the tables on the opponent by confusing the real issues at stake.” Pipes explained that, normally, when a state is aggressed and succeeds in defending itself, it sets its terms in the negotiations which follow. Redress indeed may include taking possession of some of the aggressor’s territory:

In the peace settlement which results, the defeated party usually has to make concessions to the victor, possibly, territorial ones…. The peculiar feature of this conflict is that whereas the real issue at stake is negotiation between the belligerents, Soviet propaganda has managed to make the main issue appear Israeli withdrawal from the territories occupied in the course of the war. Thus, a matter which should be part of the final settlement of the conflict becomes a precondition of negotiations leading to a settlement. Whatever one’s feelings about the substance of the Israeli-Egyptian dispute, one cannot but admire the adroit use of an intellectual confidence trick to turn the tables on an opponent and shift the burden of recalcitrance from oneself to the other party.[69]


The Covenants of the PLO and Hamas

When discussing the developments of this era, one must include the PLO Covenant in its different versions from 1964 onward. It provided a codified ideological statement which embodied Palestinian myths and claims. At first it did not have much impact, but later, particularly after 1973, it became the PLO credo. It is noteworthy that Ion Mihai Pacepa, a former chief of the Romanian secret service who came over to the West, disclosed that:

… in 1964 the first PLO Council, consisting of 422 Palestinian representatives handpicked by the KGB, approved the Palestinian National Charter-a document which had been drafted in Moscow.  The Palestinian National Covenant and the Palestinian Constitution were also born in Moscow, with the help of Ahmed Shuqairy, a KGB influence agent who became the first PLO chairman.[70]

Prof. Yehoshafat Harkabi was probably the first to recognize the importance of this document and carefully analyzed its content and language. In the introduction to his publication of the text of the Palestinian Covenant, Harkabi stated in his commentary that the absoluteness of the Palestinian inversion of reality was inherently totalitarian:

The Palestinian movement claims absoluteness and “totality”-there is absolute justice in the Palestinian stand in contrast to the absolute injustice of Israel;…right is on the Palestinian side only; only they are worthy of self-determination; the Israelis are barely human creatures who at most may be tolerated in the Palestinian state as individuals or as a religious community…; the historical link of the Jews with the land of Israel is deceit; the spiritual link as expressed in the centrality of the land of Israel in Judaism is a fraud; international decisions such as the Mandate granted by the League of Nations and the United Nations Partition Resolution are all consigned to nothingness in a cavalier manner.[71]

The PLO Covenant is central to our understanding of today’s Palestinian Authority. The fact that Yasser Arafat refused to amend this document, even though he pretended to do so in the presence of President Clinton on 14 December 1998, is the best indication of his real intentions.[72]  Of related interest is the Hamas Charter of 1988, the text of which may be found on the Internet.[73] Küntzel traced its distinctive inversion of reality to Nazi sources:

The renewed impact of Nazi-style conspiracy theories becomes particularly obvious if we take a look at the Charter of the Muslim Brot

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DR. JOEL FISHMAN is a fellow of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and Chairman of the Foundation for the Research of Dutch Jewry at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He is author of “Ten Years Since Oslo: The PLO’s ‘People’s War’ Strategy and Israel’s Inadequate Response,” Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, Jerusalem Viewpoints No. 503, 1 September 2003 and coauthor (with Efraim Karsh) of La Guerre d’Oslo (The Oslo War) (Paris: Editions de Passy, 2005). Dr. Fishman is carrying out research on political warfare, particularly media warfare and propaganda

Posted by Ymr on 2013-01-09 22:40:53 GMT