London’s “black propaganda” program pushed anti-Israel incitement as part of a campaign to alienate Arabs from Soviets.
By Pesach Benson, United With Israel
Newly discovered documents reveal that the British government conducted a secret Cold War-era propaganda campaign that pushed incitement against Israel to drive a wedge between the Soviet Union and its Arab and Third World allies. The propaganda included anti-Israel content to lend credibility to the effort.
According to a report in The Guardian on Saturday, the documents were discovered by Professor Rory Cormac in the course of his research on a book about British disinformation. Cormac teaches international relations at the University of Nottingham. His book, How to Stage a Coup: And Ten Other Lessons from the World of Secret Statecraft, is due to be to be published in June.
The propaganda campaign spanned a 20-year period between the 1950s-70s and was run by a unit of the British Foreign Office called the Information Research Department (IRD).
“The UK did not simply invent material, as the Soviets systematically did, but they definitely intended to deceive audiences in order to get the message across,” Cormac said.
According to The Guardian, “The campaign also sought to mobilize Muslims against Moscow, promoting greater religious conservatism and radical ideas. To appear authentic, documents encouraged hatred of Israel.”
One of the IRD’s tactics was to produce phony statements by official Soviet agencies, institutions and media.
One pamphlet purported to highlight Moscow’s anger at Egypt for “wasting” Soviet military aid that was destroyed during the Six Day War.
Another British leaflet purporting to be produced by the Muslim Brotherhood slammed the quality of the Soviet military hardware and denounced the Russians as “filthy-tongued atheists” who saw the Egyptians as little more than “peasants who lived all their lives nursing reactionary Islamic superstitions.”
Other pamphlets created in the name of a fictitious “League of Believers” made similar accusations.
However, some of the IRD literature crossed the line from disinformation to incitement against Israel, said Cormac.
One leaflet issued in the name of the Muslim Brotherhood denounced the Egyptian military for using chemical weapons against Yemeni tribesmen backed by Britain and Saudi Arabia.
“These Egyptian murderers have gone too far in their hypocrisy unpunished, but they can no longer pretend to be believers in God and in His Prophet and in His sacred book,” a leaflet read, adding: “If the Egyptians have to go to war and fight, why don’t they direct their armies against the Jews?”
Other material criticized Soviet arms sent to Palestinian terror groups, implying that China was more supportive.
The documents also showed that Kenyan media used the IRD’s phony Soviet news material in coverage of the Six-Day War.
Similar disinformation targeted Communists in places such as Indonesia and parts of Africa.
The IRD was shut down in 1977.