This AIR edition contains an article detailing some remarkable revelations concerning the role of the KGB in fostering Palestinian terrorism in the 1960s and 1970s, written by leading Israeli investigative journalist Ronen Bergman and his team. It is based on new research that team has done using the “Mitrokhin archive” – thousands of documents copied and smuggled into the West in the 1990s by Vasili Mitrokhin, a senior archivist for the KGB. However, the Bergman article is part of an extended series of articles published in the Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth revealing what the archives have to say about Israel. Others have revealed extensive spying for the KGB in Israel, including by Knesset members, military officers and foreign diplomats from third countries, as well as some Soviet immigrants to Israel.
However, perhaps the most interesting revelations are those contained in the article entitled “The KGB’s Middle East Files: The fight against Zionism and world Jewry” published on Dec. 1, detailing how the KGB spent considerable effort to try to subvert international Jewish and Zionist organisations. This even included breaking into the World Jewish Congress offices in Paris in 1972 and photocopying all their files, then creating an elaborate series of forgeries based on this information designed to make it look like the organisation was embezzling money.
Other KGB dirty tricks included creating a fictitious Jewish organisation and trying to blame it for a supposed political murder in France, sending fake letters threatening terror attacks to Arab diplomats supposedly from the radical American Jewish organisation, the Jewish Defence League (JDL), and even planting explosive devices in African-American neighbourhoods in New York and trying to blame these on the JDL.
The fascinating part of this is why. These extensive efforts were apparently made simply because the organisation was riddled with antisemitic beliefs about the malign power of international Zionism and Jews – particularly during the long tenure of KGB head Yuri Andropov from 1967 to 1982.
According to Bergman:
The KGB and politburo heads saw the Zionist and Jewish movements as a clear, immediate and real danger to world peace and to the integrity of the Soviet empire – “a danger which is only second to the main enemy, the United States.” And as farfetched as this may sound, they really believed in the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and were certain that the Jews were capable of anything.
Bergman offers considerable evidence, which you can read in the article directly, but what struck me as particularly revealing is how the KGB reacted to the growing tensions with the US following the election of staunchly anti-Communist President Ronald Reagan in 1980:
“The KGB… saw the situation as another product of the Zionist plot – which dominates the American leadership’s state of mind – to undermine the stability of the Soviet bloc. As a result, the KGB expanded its activity against Zionism… on December 25, 1981, the party ordered to ‘improve the intelligence activity against the subversion of the world’s Zionist centres.’
“Several months later, the heads of all arms of the KGB met in Leningrad for a conference on Zionism. The conference’s speeches stressed the ‘extensive subversive activity of the Zionist centres around the world and their infiltration into decision-making centres in different countries,’ and claimed that ‘the Zionist organisations are affecting some countries’ foreign policy and aggravating conflicts around the world.’ The conference further stressed that ‘there is not a single negative incident in socialist countries that Zionists are not involved in…’
“Following the conference, in the summer of 1982, they issued a ‘work plan for fighting Zionism’ until 1986. Vladimir Kryuchkov, who was appointed head of the KGB in 1988, also stressed that ‘Zionism is the main threat to the USSR and to the Soviet bloc.’
…The KGB heads saw the Freemasonry movement as ‘part of the global Jewish conspiracy’ as well, asserting that ‘the American industrial-military network is still dominated by Jews.'”
This is clearly old school conspiratorial “Jews secretly control the world” antisemitism of the worst sort – and appears to have been sincerely believed, not only in the KGB but also in the Politburo, on the evidence provided by the archives.
There are some interesting contemporary implications of this revelation. The fact of the matter is that many of the more extreme anti-Zionist beliefs common on the international left today have their origins in Soviet propaganda largely produced in the 1960s and 1970s – beliefs in Zionism as a uniquely evil form of imperialism and colonialism; beliefs that Zionists both collaborated with the Nazis and exhibit behaviour similar to Nazism; beliefs that Zionists and the “Jewish Lobby” control Washington and other capitals, the media, and international finance; beliefs that Israel is the key cause of all Middle Eastern – even global – instability and violence. It is often forgotten that most of the international left was sympathetic to Israel in the 1950s and 1960s – until these beliefs were put out by open and secret organs of the Soviet bloc and then spread to other parts of the international left.
Bergman’s article makes it clear that many of those propaganda lines were designed by the KGB as part of their ongoing campaign against “the world’s Zionist centres” – and it appears other Soviet bodies thought similarly. We now know that those propaganda lines were rooted in sincere antisemitic beliefs – including even belief in the authenticity of the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion”.
It has long been suspected that there are direct links between traditional pre-Holocaust antisemitism and the more extreme beliefs about Israel which have become common in some left-wing circles over recent decades. Thanks to the work of Bergman on the KGB archive, we can now identify at least one such link.