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The Language of Soviet Propaganda

Progressive anti-Zionism and the poisonous legacy of Cold War hatred.

· 15 min read
The Language of Soviet Propaganda
(L) ‘In His image and likeness,’ A. Zenin, Sovietskaya Moldavia, Jan. 22, 1972. (From The Israeli-Arab Conflict in Soviet Caricatures, 1967–1973 by Yeshayahu Nir, Tcherikover Publishers, 1976). (R) A protest sign seen in Sydney, Australia in November 2023.

The claim that Israel is committing a genocide against Palestinians is among the longest-running lies told about Israel. “Genocide Israeli style”; “Zionist-engineered genocide”; “the ‘final solution’ of the Palestinian question”—these may look like snippets from some recent campus proclamation, but they are not. They appeared in a Soviet pamphlet titled “Zionists Count on Terror.” Published in 1984 by Novosti, a Soviet foreign propaganda arm masquerading as a news agency, this pocket-sized brochure was meant to promote the Soviet view of Israel and Zionism to English-language audiences. 

English-speaking readers around the world were meant to understand that Zionists were genocidal and racist settler-colonialists who deployed Nazi methods in the service of global imperialism, while suppressing the anti-colonial national-liberation struggle of the Palestinian people. In the pamphlet’s 76 pages, variations on the words genocide, terror, and racist appear some 300 times. Novosti made clear that Zionists were perfidious double-dealers by associating them with the CIA, MI6, and of course, the Mossad in 100 instances. Readers were told to dismiss Jewish claims of antisemitism as Zionist tricks meant to deflect attention from Israel’s crimes. 

These calumnies will be familiar to anyone who has paid attention to the rhetoric that exploded in progressive quarters in the wake of October 7—the day Hamas raped, tortured, slaughtered, and pillaged its way through Israel’s southern kibbutzim. Isn’t this 40-year-old Soviet propaganda pamphlet speaking the language of today’s progressives? It is. Or to be more precise: today’s progressives are speaking the language of Soviet propaganda. The most extraordinary feature of the anti-Israel rhetoric flooding the West today is the extent to which it reproduces the motifs, tropes, slogans, and explanatory logic of late-Soviet communist ideology.

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