The Soviet Union Is Gone, but Its Anti-Zionist Campaign Lives On

Jan. 23 2023

The speedy defeat of Soviet-backed Syrian and Egyptian forces by the U.S.-aligned state of Israel in 1967 led the Kremlin to encourage its various propaganda arms to focus more intently on anti-Zionism. Izabella Tabarovsky describes this turn, and its long-lasting effects:

On February 1, 1972, the Central Committee of the Communist party of the Soviet Union issued a directive “on further measures to fight anti-Soviet and anti-Communist activities of international Zionism.” The social-sciences section of the Soviet Academy of Sciences soon established a permanent commission for the coordination of “scientific criticism of Zionism,” to be housed at the academy’s prestigious Institute of Oriental Studies (IOS). Over the next fifteen years, the IOS would serve as an important partner in the state’s fight against the imaginary global Zionist conspiracy that Soviet security services believed was sabotaging the USSR in the international arena and at home. In 1982, the IOS would grant [a doctorate] to one Mahmoud Abbas, upon the defense of his thesis The Relationship Between Zionists and Nazis, 1933-1945.

The IOS—now part of the Russian Academy of Sciences—keeps the dissertation under lock and key, and the closest item available to researchers is a nineteen-page Russian-language abstract. From this document, it is clear that the dissertation consists of familiar lies, half-truths, and distortions about imagined Nazi-Zionist collaboration, with a sprinkle of Holocaust denial thrown in—mostly borrowed from the USSR’s “Zionologists.” Tabarovsky writes:

Fabrications about Israel and Zionism that the KGB concocted with the help of the Arabists and Zionologists in the academy had real-life consequences that [are still felt] today. Having washed through the academy the hoax about the Mossad smuggling Jews into Palestine in the 1930s, [it didn’t exist at the time], the KGB could claim that the Mossad was also behind Soviet Jews’ demand for emigration in the 1970s and 1980s. Jewish activists like Natan Sharansky could be portrayed as foreign intelligence assets—an accusation that carried a death sentence. The Soviet academy’s “scientific anti-Zionism” project facilitated and promoted state-sponsored anti-Semitism. Abbas’s dissertation was part of that game.

Today, portions of the American academy, led by Middle East studies departments, are falling prey to remarkably similar ideological tendencies. Anti-Israel boycotts, often expressed in recognizably Soviet language, have become normalized on American campuses. . . . Mahmoud Abbas’s dissertation may be hidden away in IOS’s special storage facility, but the old Soviet fakes on which it was based continue to circulate widely among Middle Eastern audiences.

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More about: Anti-Semitism, Anti-Zionism, Israel on campus, Mahmoud Abbas, Refuseniks, Soviet Union

UN Peacekeepers in Lebanon Risk Their Lives, but Still May Do More Harm Than Good

Jan. 27 2023

Last month an Irish member of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) was killed by Hizballah guerrillas who opened fire on his vehicle. To David Schenker, it is likely the peacekeeper was “assassinated” to send “a clear message of Hizballah’s growing hostility toward UNIFIL.” The peacekeeping force has had a presence in south Lebanon since 1978, serving first to maintain calm between Israel and the PLO, and later between Israel and Hizballah. But, Schenker explains, it seems to be accomplishing little in that regard:

In its biannual reports to the Security Council, UNIFIL openly concedes its failure to interdict weapons destined for Hizballah. While the contingent acknowledges allegations of “arms transfers to non-state actors” in Lebanon, i.e., Hizballah, UNIFIL says it’s “not in a position to substantiate” them. Given how ubiquitous UN peacekeepers are in the Hizballah heartland, this perennial failure to observe—let alone appropriate—even a single weapons delivery is a fair measure of the utter failure of UNIFIL’s mission. Regardless, Washington continues to pour hundreds of millions of dollars into this failed enterprise, and its local partner, the Lebanese Armed Forces.

Since 2006, UNIFIL patrols have periodically been subjected to Hizballah roadside bombs in what quickly proved to be a successful effort to discourage the organization proactively from executing its charge. In recent years, though, UN peacekeepers have increasingly been targeted by the terror organization that runs Lebanon, and which tightly controls the region that UNIFIL was set up to secure. The latest UN reports tell a harrowing story of a spike in the pattern of harassment and assaults on the force. . . .

Four decades on, UNIFIL’s mission has clearly become untenable. Not only is the organization ineffective, its deployment serves as a key driver of the economy in south Lebanon, employing and sustaining Hizballah’s supporters and constituents. At $500 million a year—$125 million of which is paid by Washington—the deployment is also expensive. Already, the force is in harm’s way, and during the inevitable next war between Israel and Hizballah, this 10,000-strong contingent will provide the militia with an impressive human shield.

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More about: Hizballah, Lebanon, Peacekeepers, U.S. Foreign policy