The media as a weapon in the Israeli/Arab war
The media as a weapon in the Israeli/Arab war

"Early in life I had noticed that no event is ever correctly reported in a newspaper, but [in 1936] in Spain for the first time, I saw newspaper reports which did not bear any relation to the facts, not even the relationship which is implied in an ordinary lie.... This kind of thing is frightening to me, because it often gives me the feeling that the very concept of objective truth is fading out of the world." [1] (See sources at end of article)

Israel is engaged in a war in which the media plays a fundamental role in influencing world public opinion and government attitudes and decisions. According to Colonel David Kilcullen, an Australian expert on counterinsurgency, “It’s now fundamentally an information fight.”  And it is on this “information battlefield,” Steve Fondacaro, an American military expert believes, that the struggle between the Western democracy and Islamic fundamentalism will eventually be determined. “The new element of power that has emerged in the last thirty to forty years and has subsumed the rest is information,” he said. “A revolution happened without us knowing or paying attention. Perception truly now is reality, and our enemies know it.”[2]

The media is being used to erode support for Israel by promoting “disproportionate and unsubstantiated allegations of human rights violations, war crimes and racism,” asserts Gerald M. Steinberg, the founder and president of NGO Monitor, that documents questionable funding and actions of many NGO's that support Israel-based reporters. This strategy, which helped defeat the South African apartheid government, was embraced in 2001 at the NGO Forum U.N.-sponsored Durban Conference on racism.  Since the Conference, many human rights NGOs have adopted the political agenda of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), whose members dominate the U.N. Human Rights Council. The NGO association has frequently condemned of Israel “based on false or unverifiable allegations of human rights abuses and ‘war crimes’.” [3]

The NGO campaigns, led by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, are vital in this process.  The problem is that journalists, academics, diplomats, political leaders, and Western officials frequently quote these usually uncorroborated accusations in condemning Israeli policies, “reflecting the ‘soft power’ of these NGOs acting to reinforce the Palestinian narrative and the objectives of the OIC.” [4]

Role of the Soviets

The Soviets played a critical role in facilitating the use of language as a weapon of demonization and delegitimization against Israel by creating a political language connecting the former Soviet-styled anti-Semitism to the present one. In defining the political vocabulary about Israel and the Jewish people, the Soviets established the cultural foundations for a new type of political anti-Semitism that has become part of mainstream culture.[5] 

The communists viewed Zionism “as a utopian, reactionary, ‘petty-bourgeois’ movement. At best an unwanted diversion from the class struggle and proletarian revolution, it was also seen by leading German Marxist theorists like Karl Kautsky as being complicit in the rise of antisemitism. Kautsky even accused Zionism of putting a spoke in the wheel of historical progress.” [6]

Lenin: The phrasing must be calculated not to convince but to destroy, not to correct the adversary's mistake, but to annihilate his organization and wipe it off the face of the earth.
Vladimir Lenin, the Russian communist revolutionary, politician and political theorist and an expert on the art of writing hate propaganda, explained how to implement this disinformation. “The wording (of our press campaign against our foes),” he said, “is calculated to provoke in the reader, hatred, disgust, contempt. The phrasing must be calculated not to convince but to destroy, not to correct the adversary's mistake, but to annihilate his organization and wipe it off the face of the earth. This wording must really be of such a kind as to provoke the worst notions, the worst suspicions about the adversary; it must sow discord and confusion in the ranks and be the opposite of phrasing which would convince and correct.”7  

Lenin also understood the critical need to broaden the base of supporters. “There was no sector of society,” he believed, “that cannot be enlisted in the revolutionary movement by abrasive sloganeering and hate targeting.” Locating the “pressure points” and “visible and accessible hate targets,” became the responsibility of the revolutionary psychological warfare experts. [8]

The need for a scapegoat is crucial in this process. “Anger wants a personal victim, and wants it now,” observed Gordon Allport, an American psychologist. [9] “Violence is always an outgrowth of milder states of mind ... And so long as the target of wrath remains vague and ill-defined specific prejudice cannot crystallize around it. To have enemies we need labels.”[10]

After the Six Day War in 1967, Zionism because a legitimate object of Soviet sanctioned hatred. A Permanent Commission under the Social Sciences Section of the USSR Academy of Sciences was created “to coordinate research dedicated to the exposure and criticism of the history, ideology, and practical activity of Zionism.”11 

The strategy of branding Israel as the antagonist did not take long.  Soon after the end of the Six Day War, Bernard Lewis, a professor of Near Eastern Studies, observed, “The vocabulary of Middle Eastern politics has been enriched with a new formula-‘the removal of the consequences of aggression.’” The Arab states identified Israel as the aggressor, and demanded restoration of Arab lands and the return of their Arab populations.12

Under certain circumstances, Lewis said, Israel might relinquish her conquests; it is even possible that the Arabs might return-“though this would make them unique among the countless millions in Europe, Asia and Africa who have fled or been driven from their homes in our brutal century.

But far more has happened than the occupation of lands and the movement of peoples, important as these may be. In the world of reality, events cannot be unmade, and their effects persist, even when their results vanish.” 13

On October 4, 1967, Komsomolskaya Pravda, the official organ of the Central Committee of the Komsomol (All-Union Leninist Young Communist League) published an article declaring "Zionism is dedicated to 'genocide, racism, treachery, aggression, and annexation...all characteristic attributes of fascists.'" [14] 

Lewis reported that practically the same terms were used 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." [15]  

On November 10, 1975, the Russians and their Arab allies successfully passed U.N. General Assembly Resolution 3379 equating Zionism with racism. The Z=R resolution drew international attention to Zionism as “a form of racism and racial discrimination,” guaranteeing that it would be recognized as a global concern.

On December 16, 1991, 85 countries, a little more than half of the 166 U.N. members co-sponsored the repeal resolution, including the Soviet Union and its former communist allies in Eastern Europe that had previously voted in favor. [16]

Yet the damage had been done.  “Vilification of Zionism turned into a permanent feature of international life” asserted political scientist Yohanan Manor, a lecturer at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem and coordinator of the campaign that resulted in the revocation of Z=R.  “That Zionism was a metaphor for universal evil became part of ‘common knowledge,’ accepted or at least not contradicted by almost the entire international body politic.”[17]

For Chaim Herzog, Israeli Ambassador to the U.N., the “process of disinformation in the West,” was even “more sinister” than the resolution for having creating the environment “in which the more brutal and physical anti-Semitic attacks can be mounted with comparative impunity.” Because the West had adopted “the communist semantics or code words, the communists have won half the battle,” he feared.[19]

The Soviets added another element in manipulating language-- the "reversal of culpability," which imposes a false historical analogy on the present. Thus, Goliath becomes David, and David becomes Goliath. The most prevalent use of this technique is the charge of "genocide," which conveys the fallacious claim that "Israel is doing to the Palestinians what the Nazis did to the Jews." Aside from being erroneous, this libel demeans the magnitude of the Holocaust and its uniqueness. [20]  

The Nazi theme is intended to refute, nullify and substitute the formidable Zionist Holocaust theme. When directed toward Israeli soldiers, it is supposed to arouse guilt and reduce their efficiency. [21]

These criticisms ultimately obscure the distinctions between what is right and wrong and undermines the foundations of Judeo-Christian morality. “After nearly three decades, the cumulative effects of the Soviet campaign to defame Zionism and the more recent attempts to turn the clock back at Durban have created an environment of moral confusion which has made terror and violence acceptable and justifiable. The resulting condition, known as anomie (literally, lawlessness, in Greek), signifies "a social condition in which the hierarchy of values disintegrates and 'all regulation is lacking.'" [22]

The question as to why the Israeli/Arab conflict receives such inordinate attention while other major disputes throughout the world do not will be discussed in the next article.

As Matti Friedman, a former reporter and editor in the Jerusalem bureau of the Associated Press (AP), one of largest news organizations in the world, asked “How have the doings in a country that constitutes 0.01 per cent of the world’s surface become the focus of angst, loathing, and condemnation more than any other?” [23]

When Friedman worked for the AP, there more AP news staffers covering Israel than were in India or China, and more than in all of the 50 countries of sub-Saharan Africa together. [24]  

There were also more reporters in Israel than in the countries where the “Arab Spring” erupted. [25]


[1] Jonathan Beecher,   George Orwell: War of Words, The Harvard Crimson (May 10, 1957. 

[2]Marvin Kalb and Carol Saivetz, "The Israeli-Hezbollah War of 2006: The Media as a Weapon in Asymmetrical Conflict," Shorenstein Center John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University (February 18, 2007): 4, 5, 6; Mortimer B. Zuckerman, “Israel Has a Duty to Defend Its Citizens,” U.S. New Weekly (August 1, 2014); Shraga Simmons, David & Goliath: The explosive inside story of media bias in the Mideast conflict (New York:  Emesphere Publication, 2012); David Bar-Ilan, Eye on the Media (Jerusalem: Gefen Books, 1993); for examples of general liberal media bias see, Sharyl Attkisson, Stonewalled: One Reporter’s Fight for Truth in Obama’s Washington (New York: HarperCollins, 2014); Bernard Goldberg, BIAS (New York: Perennial, 2003).

[3] Gerald M. Steinberg, “From Durban to the Goldstone Report: the centrality of human rights NGOs in the political dimension of the Arab–Israeli conflict,” Israel Affairs Volume 18, Issue 3, (2012); Charles Asher Small, Ed. Joël Kotek, “Israel and the Belgian Media: A Mirror of the Israel–Gaza Conflict (July–August 2014): Between Disinformation, Deformation, and Importing the Conflict,” ISGAP Occasional Paper Series Number 2 Institute for the Study of Global Antisemitism and Policy, (July 2015); Dexter Van Zile, “Head of British Non-Profit Engages in Propaganda War Against Israel,” CAMERA (August 21, 2015).

[4]Ibid; Dylan Byers, “DNC chairwoman: Media biased against Israel,” POLITICO (February 3, 2015); Yochanan Visser, “Respected Journalists Expose Media Bias Against Israel,” Western Journalism (December 8, 2014); Robert Laurie, “Israel’s U.S. Ambassador appears on CNN - destroys CNN’s biased reporting,” Canada Free Press (July 25, 2014); Earl Cox, “Forget the Facts. Blame Israel First … CNN does,” The Jerusalem Post (July 27, 2014); Manfred Gerstenfeld, interview with David Bar-Ilan, “The Loaded Dice of the Foreign Media Are There to Stay,” in Israel’s New Future: Interviews Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, Rubin Mass, 1994), 109-119; Manfred Gerstenfeld,” Decades of European Media Bias Against Israel,” Canadian Institute for Jewish Research  (August 3, 2015).

[5]Joel S. Fishman, “The Cold-War Origins of Contemporary Anti-Semitic Terminology,” Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs Number 517 (May 2-16, 2004). The communists viewed Zionism “as a utopian, reactionary, ‘petty-bourgeois’ movement. At best an unwanted diversion from the class struggle and proletarian revolution, it was also seen by leading German Marxist theorists like Karl Kautsky as being complicit in the rise of antisemitism. Kautsky even accused Zionism of putting a spoke in the wheel of historical progress.”

[6]Robert S. Wistrich, “The Anti-Zionist Mythology of the Left,” Israel Journal of Foreign Affairs Volume 9 Issue 1 (July 13, 2015); Robert S. Wistrich, From Ambivalence to Betrayal: The Left, the Jews, and Israel (Lincoln, Nebraska: University of Nebraska Press, 2012), 250–592.

[7]Fishman, op.cit; Eugene H. Methvin, The Riot Makers: The Technology of Social Demolition (New Rochelle, New York: Arlington House, 1970), 130.

[8]Methvin, op.cit. 281, 283.

[9]Gordon Allport, The Nature of Prejudice (New York: Perseus Books, L.L.C., 1954), 258.

[10] Ibid. 57; Methvin, op.cit. 453.

[11] Fishman, op.cit; Zionism also became a legitimate object of hatred in Europe, Robert S. Wistrich, A Lethal Obsession: Antisemitism from Antiquity to the Global Jihad (New York: Random House, 2010), 279–81; see also Pew Research Center, February 26, 2015, “Latest Trends in Religious Restrictions and Hostilities,” 5, 16 28; Bret Stephens, “Packing Time for France’s Jews,” The Wall Street Journal (January 19, 2015); Jeffrey Goldberg, “Is It Time for the Jews to Leave Europe?” The Atlantic (April 2015).

[12[]Bernard Lewis, “The Arab-Israeli War,” Foreign Affairs (January 1968).



[15]Ibid; Bernard Lewis, "The Anti-Zionist Resolution," Foreign Affairs (October 1976).

[16]Paul Lewis, “U.N. Repeals Its '75 Resolution Equating Zionism With Racism,” The New York Times (December 17, 1991).

[17]Yohanan Manor, “The 1975 “Zionism Is Racism” Resolution: The Rise, Fall, and Resurgence of a Libel,” Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, (May 2, 2010). Hebrew University political scientist Ehud Sprinzak worried that “a qualitative change ushered in the anti-Zionism of the 70’s, a change arising from the fact that Zionism had ceased being an object of delegitimization and had become an object of dehumanization.”

[18]Yohanan Manor, To Right A Wrong: The Revocation of the UN General Assembly Resolution 3379 Defaming Zionism (New York: Shengold Publishers, Inc., 1996), 128.

[19]Ibid. 133.

[20] Fishman, op.cit; for an example of how Jews used the Holocaust to promote their own anti-Israel agenda, see Irwin Graulich, “Op-Ed: Blood Libels in the New York Times,” Israel National News (September 1, 2014).

[21] Ron Schleifer, Psychological Warfare in the Intifada: Israeli and Palestinian Media Politics and Military Strategy (Portland, Oregon: Sussex Academic Press, 2006), 82.

[22] Joel S. Fishman, “The Cold-War Origins of Contemporary Anti-Semitic Terminology,” (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs Number 517 (May 2-16, 2004); Sheri Oz, “How to Defame Israel Without Really Trying: Deceitfully Seek Entry Into the Country,” The Times of Israel (July 31, 2015); Elder of Ziyon, “How to Defame Israel - NPR edition,” (December 30, 2010).

[23] Matti Friedman, “The ideological roots of media bias against Israel,” fathom (January 26, 2015); Kalb and Saivetz, op.cit. 11-14; Russ Braley, Bad News: The Foreign Policy of The New York Times (Chicago, Illinois: Regnery Gateway, 1984).

[24] Ibid.

[25]Matti Friedman, “An Insider’s Guide to the Most Important Story on Earth,” Tablet (August 26, 2014).