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The Soviet Pathos of Antizionism

The Soviet Pathos of Antizionism

“Soviet propaganda painted Zionism as a racist, fascist, Nazi, settler-colonial, imperialist ideology that opposed everything that socialism and communism stood for.”

The government of South Africa recently charged Israel with “genocide” in the International Criminal Court, but the libel we hear hurled at the the Jewish state as it’s fighting an anti-terror campaign in Gaza is not new. In a fascinating Quillette article, Izabella Tabarovsky traced the genealogy of antizionist rhetoric in the English language to a Soviet propaganda brochure published in 1984:

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.

Brezhnev-era Soviet propaganda, Tabarovsky notes, employed the near full range of tropes used by today’s Palestine activists:

Soviet propaganda painted Zionism as a racist, fascist, Nazi, settler-colonial, imperialist ideology that opposed everything that socialism and communism stood for. […] Israel was now Nazi Germany and apartheid South Africa at once; a tool of American imperialism and the shadowy force steering the West to do the Zionists’ bidding. Following the traditionally paranoid Soviet political style, and borrowing a page from antisemitic conspiracy theory, Soviet propagandists presented Zionists as being everywhere and running everything at once.

Before appearing in the English-language hate manual, Tabarovsky continues, antizionist agitprop was already on full display in the 1969 bestselling pamphlet Caution: Zionism by the Yuri Ivanov. Where Ivanov got his ideas we don’t know, but there is a hint.

The USSR didn’t take any chances on language and ritual. In Everything Was Forever, Until It Was No More, anthropologist Alexei Yurchak explained how Soviet propaganda conventions were developed throughout the country’s history. In the late 1920’s and 30’s, Stalin put an end to artistic experimentation with revolutionary form. He staged elaborate theatrics of debate on “legitimate ideological representations” in which he made himself the avatar.

After Stalin’s death, the avatar was removed, but the production of ideological cliches continued to take place at the highest levels—now behind closed doors. Members of the Politburo took turns refining language chunks that became the staple crop of Soviet political discourse under Late Socialism. Party cadres were instructed in language use in party schools and low level functionaries figured out how to copy the cannon on their own.

To the average Soviet citizen, Yurchak explains, rearranging chunks of “hypernormalized” speech to reproduce the official lingo was a habit; the performative aspect of language and ritual became increasingly important relative to its meaning.

Yurchak talks of aesthetics of the Late Socialist propaganda that was internalized by the Soviet subject and decades later remembered with the mix of cynicism and awe that cements Soviet nostalgia. Sentences built out of long noun chains and predictable phrasing conveyed a sense of stability. Even the true believers felt the schism between reality and the language handed down by the officialdom, so the masses laid thick layers of irony in their speech. Once, under the reformist Gorbachev, the rhetoric became outdated, the pathos unnecessary, and the system fell.

Neither Yurchak nor any of his sources talked of Jews or how the Soviet language on Israel was developed—Yurchak’s primary interest was Soviet domestic affairs. Antizionism fell within the Communist discourse of worldwide revolutionary liberation that, as Marx taught, was inevitable. Given that the middle eastern conflict was a central feature of Soviet propaganda—Yasser Arafat’s physiognomy, giving speeches or smooching Brezhnev, was the staple crop of the Soviet newscasts, likely developed, with the aura of inevitability in mind, at the highest levels and handed down for replication.

English speakers look for stable meaning and dictionary definitions. Hence today’s Zionists, like me, complain that the charge of “genocide” is ludicrous. What we have to keep in mind is that it was a product of the culture where political speech was primarily a ritualistic exercise. Ritualistic exercise it remains.

Antizionism is a performative ideology—think of the obviously staged Pallywood videos, like the one of an alleged Israeli massacres that show a crowd of Palestinians running but no Israeli soldiers in sight. Or Quds News posting a picture of a never fired bullet with the caption “Displaced citizens sheltering in Nasser Hospital in Khan Yunis shared a photo of Israeli snipers’ bullets fired at the hospital.”

It’s not that it’s hilariously wrong but that the post reveals something about antizionist relationships with the truth. Quds News have to know that the bullet wasn’t fired. Could it be that what they are telling us is not “this bullet was fired by the IDF at a hospital to murder civilians” but “Imagine the sons of pigs and monkeys committing genocide! Now go avenge the babies!” The second statement constitutes emotional truth and can’t be reasoned with.

The Palestinian movement enjoyed relative success with the rhetoric gifted to it by the USSR. It continues to revel in all of the Late Socialist glory of comfortable predictions of the final and total victory of the “Intifada revolution” and “free-free-free Palestine.”

Contemporary conventions of intersectionality dictate that the Palestinian movement has to be Palestinian-led. Along with Communist liberationism which some Westerners find relatable, the pro-Palestinian movement now utilizes slogans like “Yemen-Yemen, make us proud, turn another ship around” that smack of tribal dynamics of wounded pride and revenge as they block airports and Holocaust museums to flex their muscle. They are not winning hearts and minds, but the ability to get away with crimes like blocking major throughways speaks to their power and their high ranking on the intersectional totem poll. It’s largely coincidental, but there is a Soviet-like immovability to their tactics.

The Soviet Union didn’t vanish under the weight of antizionism. It broke up once the people saw that a discourse that references the real world was possible. In the West, antizionism fits neatly into intersectional wokeness. Here, to fight antizionism means to fight wokeness, the shifty ideological fixations that created the environment in which lies and performative Jew-hate thrive.


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A somewhat different take is in: “UNRWA, the Greatest Welfare Scam Ever” Interesting read.

“Zionism in Muslim eyes has been the intifada of the Jews.”

“The morphing of them into the putatively primeval “Palestinians,” whose spawn in UNRWA schools today are taught their “ancestors” have been living in Palestine for five thousand years, began on March 29, 1959 in Cairo where Gamal Abdel Nasser, also head of the Arab League of States, announced in a League meeting his idea of creating a Kiyan al-Filastini/ “Palestinian entity” out of these “Arab refugees” on the model of the situation in Algeria then in its fifth year of anti-colonial terrorist rebellion.”

“Nasser also thought that rebranding the “Arab refugees” from the war against the Jews as a “nation” was the way to go. Although many believe the KGB created the “Palestinian national identity,” it was Nasser. Muslims like him needed no lessons in Jew-hatred from the Russians. The Koran is an antisemitic tract.”

guyjones | February 11, 2024 at 8:18 pm

“Palestine” is another word that’s been co-opted and imbued with propaganda mythology to bolster the Arab Muslim supremacist, terrorist and Islamofascist cause.

I guarantee you that 99.9999% of these belligerent, agitator Muslim supremacists in the west, and, their useful idiot, non-Muslim, dhimmi and Dhimmi-crat enablers, cheerleaders and sycophants, don’t know that “Palestine,” with its etymology in the word “Philistine,” was contrived by the ancient Romans to simultaneously historically erase and insult the Jews who had formerly lived in the area.

“Palestine” and “Palestinian” are terms of historical erasure and revisionism, intended to erase Jews from the history books, and, have been co-opted by vile, contemporary Arab Muslim supremacists, Muslim supremacists and their allies, to accomplish the same goal.

    BartE in reply to guyjones. | February 12, 2024 at 3:48 am

    None of this actually changes the fact that Palestinians have lived in the region for literally thousands of years. When your argument is that the Romans contrived it, it really points to the absurdity of claiming its contrived in the modern context.

      Milhouse in reply to BartE. | February 12, 2024 at 8:41 am

      No, they haven’t. The Romans invented the name for Judaea for explicitly genocidal reasons, but at the time they did it there was not one Arab living there. And the name was only in use for a few centuries; once the Romans were defeated the name was never used again until the British came.

      The Arabs who only since the 1960s started calling themselves “Palestinians” are colonists and immigrants, mostly from the 20th or late 19th centuries. They can’t even pronounce “Palestine”; they certainly never called themselves or the country that.

JohnSmith100 | February 11, 2024 at 8:27 pm

No more money to UN or any other cause which might funnel money to terrorists. All Pales do is divert most of the funds to terror.ists. This is unacceptable.

Meanwhile moscow is committing genocide against ukrainians who don’t speak russian.

Funny thing is that in the early to mid 20th century the USSR loved Israel. Why? Because the Jews who had emigrated to Israel were mostly Russian or European socialists. In fact as late as the Suez Crisis in 1956 the USSR rivaled the US as the leading supporters of Israel at the UN.

That of course was before the USSR’s desire to court the Arabs as a buffer/threat against NATO changed their propaganda message from Israel being a poor little country fighting the big imperialist countries for its very existence to being the mean old capitalist Zionist colonizers oppressing the Arabs.

Patrick74 | February 12, 2024 at 1:06 am

Let’s not forget the nation we now call Russia had centuries of antisemitism before the Soviets. It was the origin of the so-called Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion. Muscovite authors-intelligentsia regularly blamed a “foul” or “black wind from the West,” usually in the form of a Jewish-freemason conspiracy, for every problem Muscovy faced. It was never their leaders, their policies, the people – it was always an external plot. Oh, and pogroms. It just found a new home in the Marxist worldview (much like Muscovite messianism).

destroycommunism | February 12, 2024 at 10:33 am

antisemitism is a religious cult

and is still led by the leftists who have the msm on their side to make all

think its conservatives

it is in fact a lefty wing agenda that promotes racism etc b/c THAT IS EXACTLY WHAT COMMUNISTNAZIS THRIVE ON

capitalists just want a free market and strong courts system to protect the


henrybowman | February 12, 2024 at 11:56 am

“rearranging chunks of “hypernormalized” speech to reproduce the official lingo was a habit; the performative aspect of language and ritual became increasingly important relative to its meaning.”

You revanchist, imperialist, running dog of the capitalist exploiter class, you!

Frogger42 | February 12, 2024 at 9:53 pm

It’s called operation SIG. Arafat was educated in Moscow, trained by the KGB ( as was Abbas) and handled by Romanian KGB general Ion Mihai Pacepa. They invented the PLO and the idea of “palestinian” statehood as part of the support of so called “popular fronts” around the world. Pecepa defected to the West and laid it all out. Arafat put a million $ bounty on his head. It is a Soviet invention from the start. Possibly the most successful KGB opp. Of all time. Arafat was instructed to always promise peace in return for statehood but never Agee at the last minute. The KGB knew that this was the way to dupe useful idiot “civil rights” groups in the west to support the “Palestinians” as “partners in peace” but it would never happen. Operation SIG. Pacepa wrote some good books about the operations. He died several years ago in NJ.

The People’s Cube is run by Oleg Atbashian, an escapee from the USSR who worked as a state artist making soviet propaganda posters. Good commentary on how it was.

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