by Agha Hussain (News & Analysis, Crescent International Vol. 48, No. 4, Ramadan, 1440)
Is an Israel-centric, Zionist-manufactured propaganda thrust currently taking place in the Russian media? Would this make sense given Russia’s foreign policy and external relations? Is the Russian media also following certain propaganda themes with roots in partisan Zionist politics and a well-documented record of being carried by pro-Israel lobbyists in other countries?
A look at recent reporting by premier Russian media, combined with historical context about these themes and how they are tailored to match Israel’s strategic and soft-power objectives reveals realities that may surprise the Russian media’s burgeoning community of alternate media admirers.
Given the deep strategic alliance Russia has maintained with Israel both pre- and post-September 2015 Syrian intervention, the possibility of a largely Israel-centric propaganda thrust in the Russian media is real. As outlined and documented in detail in this January 1, 2019 article, Russia’s ties with Israel involve striving to prop up an unrelentingly aggressive Israel against what are commonly assumed to be Russia’s closest allies — Iran and Syria. Taking real steps to contain Israel’s rivals (mainly Iran) while doing nothing regarding Israeli aggression, Russia’s pro-Israel bias has become impossible to ignore.
A detailed report by the Council of National Interest (CNI) website’s staff highlights prominent voices in the Western Islamophobia industry operating as part of a network of pro-Israel interests. CNI, whose Executive Director Philip Giraldi is a prolific writer on the working of the Israel Lobby in the US, pulls no punches in outlining how common themes of modern-day Islamophobia (that Muslims are engaged in a secret Islamization of the West and that Israel is a “victim” of radical Muslims and so on) find their origins in individuals who have made it big, thanks to the Israel Lobby. Names such as Robert Spencer, Daniel Pipes, Frank Gaffney, and Rachel Abrams in the Islamophobia industry had more to do with promoting Israel’s supposed utility in “containing radical Muslims” than they did in identifying a “Muslim threat” to the West. They receive ample reward from Israel and its lobbyists for such activities.
Decades ago, Norman Podhoretz, editor of Commentary magazine from the 1960s to 1995, declared that “Islamofascism” posed a deadly risk to the world and required a harsh response from the West. One of the earliest intellectual shapers of the band of Likudnik pro-Israel war-hawks that came to dominate policy positions under Ronald Reagan and George Bush Junior, Podhoretz’s career and work were dedicated to pushing for US militarism that achieved nothing for the US and everything for Israel. The fear mongering about a “Muslim threat” was part and parcel of that plan.
Similar trends in reporting style on Muslim-related events to those in the early-2000s Islamophobia surge can also be noticed in Sputnik and RT’s recent reports. It is important to keep in mind that RT also shares a chief editor with Sputnik.
A notable theme in the Islamophobia industry has been the portrayal of “Muslims” as more or less a large homogenous group with a certain consistent, hostile stance toward the West. It is ludicrous to suggest that “Muslims” are anything remotely resembling a singular, coherent socio-political entity spanning all Muslim-majority states. The objective behind this crass generalization was fairly obvious: consider one Muslim state’s alleged crimes as those of all Muslims. Considering the speed with which the neoconservatives progressed from Iraq war hysteria to anti-Syria and anti-Iran hysteria, the benefit of this generalization paradigm to them and thus Israel’s geopolitics was obvious.
“Illegal Muslim Migrant Jailed for BRUTALLY murdering His Christianised Wife” was the provocative title of an April 6 news report by Sputnik. The emphasis on the illegal immigrant status of the killer is relevant, since migrant crimes are a legitimate issue for discussion with socio-economic ramifications. However, the specific mentioning of Muslim identity betrays an ulterior motive similar to that behind the framing of the large “Muslim” bogeyman by the Zionists in the early-2000s Islamophobia surge discussed above.
Rather than use terminology that specifies the source of the migrant crisis (NATO’s destruction of Libya) and nudge the reader toward tracing Western aggression against Libya to the real cause of the crisis, usage of the “Muslim tag” seeks to give credence to the same fraudulent “Muslims attacking the West” narrative spun by Israel Lobby-backed anti-Muslim agitators.
Highlighting the “Christian” faith of the killer’s wife also clearly seeks to play into the “Muslim versus Christian” theme. Its significance cannot be missed, since portraying Muslims and Christians as each other’s enemies despite obvious religious commonalities (such as reverence of Jesus and Mary – Ç) has been a huge part of Zionist psychological warfare and propaganda. The Zionists use the “Judeo-Christian values” canard to this purpose to assure Christians in the West that they are their allies, not “the Muslims.” It also ties into the “Clash of Civilizations” framework pioneered by pro-Israel partisan and Jewish Zionist scholar Bernard Lewis and incorporated fully into the early-2000s Islamophobia campaign.
Also aiming for this effect, clearly, was Sputnik’s April 5 report on a Russian family fleeing Sweden and seeking asylum in Poland due to the Swedish authorities taking custody of their daughters. Emphasizing in the title that the family receiving custody of the children was Muslim and Lebanese, the report mentioned that the Russian father had no full employment and thus Swedish social services took his children to the Muslim family several hundred kilometres away.
It mentioned the Muslim foster father “admitting” that social services paid for his trip to Poland to appear in court, which eventually granted the Russian family asylum, likely a subtle jab considering the “welfare leech” narrative weaponized against Muslims since the migrant crisis took off. Despite mentioning the Russian father’s inadequate employment status at the start, Sputnik concluded its report by stating that the social services had “no specific reason” for taking away his daughters and did not speculate as to his own likely reliance on Swedish welfare for subsistence.
Postings on Jewish “victimhood” related to Israel and Zionism have also begun to surface more gradually in the Russian media.
An April 28 report by Sputnik following a synagogue shooting in the US described the backstory of a family of a survivor as having “fled rockets from Gaza.” Another report on 29 April described growing migration of Jews from Germany to Israel due to “rising anti-Semitism.” It quoted one Jewish woman as saying she is afraid of “Muslim anti-Semitism” in particular. It also described the harassment of a Jewish girl in Germany embarking upon Israeli government-sponsored migration to Israel for “wearing a T-shirt with the words Israel Defense Forces (IDF).”
Mentioning a girl being harassed for idolizing the IDF, which participates in war crimes against Palestinians and enforces Israeli apartheid, sets in the victim’s seat in this context the Israeli military. Similarly, the report chooses to ignore that Israel’s subsidization of the migration of anyone in the world belonging to the “Jewish race” (as Israeli authorities define it) to Colonized Palestine is part and parcel of its racially exclusivist policies. The Israeli preferential treatment of Jews over non-Jews in terms of property rights, state-provided housing, and degree of voting rights as well as racially segregated colonies (“Jewish settlements’”) programme across Colonized Palestine was, quite obviously, not explored.
In addition, the report also cited the German right-wing Alternate for Germany (AfD) party as a cause of worry for Jews, leaving out the fact that AfD focuses on anti-Muslim rhetoric and supports German state attempts to curb “anti-Semitism.” Incredulously, Sputnik failed to mention that AfD, in fact, adores Israel.
Raising the spectre of “rising anti-Semitism” is part and parcel of the Russian media’s pro-Zionist drive. Nothing else but a heavy pro-Zionist tilt would explain media outlets that have occupied the limelight for their “alternate media” status giving momentum to such a heavily fraudulent, Orwellian, and mainstream media narrative as the “rising anti-Semitism” charge.
Talk of “rising anti-Semitism” has a long history of being exaggerated to suit ongoing Israeli political agendas such as pushing legislation in the West to criminalize public criticism of its policies. Countries such as France have already declared anti-Zionism to be anti-Semitism while the US has even appointed a “Special Envoy for Monitoring and Combating Anti-Semitism” at the State Department to counter “anti-Semitism” worldwide.
The Islamophobia industry in the US as described above took off in the early-2000s as part of a highly coordinated campaign. It coincided with dominant parts of the George W. Bush regime being occupied by the clique Podhoretz and his ilk helped form (the neoconservatives).
With the US being railroaded into wars in the Muslim East to benefit Israel, the Islamophobia surge fit in perfectly into the broader geopolitical context. Considering Israel’s well-fleshed out objectives in the region, the neoconservatives strove to stay on track despite significant setbacks in recent wars and conflicts. Given Israel’s increased reliance on Russia to “contain” Iran, the foundations exist for similar media operations to the early-2000s Israel Lobby-led promotion of Islamophobia.
Does the current Zionist manoeuvring in the Russian media explain its following traditional Israeli propaganda themes of “evil Muslims” and “Jewish victimhood”?
RT’s Middle East Bureau Chief since 2005 has been the Jewish Zionist Paula Slier, tasked with covering events in Libya, Syria, Iraq, Egypt, Lebanon, Palestine, Israel, and Afghanistan. Working as a foreign correspondent, anchor, and news editor, her profile page on RT states she has “twice been recognized by Russian President Vladimir Putin for her ‘colossal input into the development of Russian journalism’.”
According to this post by the Jerusalem Post from 2006, Slier was “discriminated against” by the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) on account of being Jewish and blacklisted in 2004 by the SABC to report on Middle East conflicts. At that time Slier was working as a freelancer based in Israel. She also reported live from conflict zones for Russia Today (RT’s old name). According to the Jerusalem Post, she decried the decision by the state-run SABC’s news head to blacklist her “assuming” she was a Zionist simply for being Jewish and thus not an impartial reporter. The SABC has traditionally sympathized with the Palestinian cause resulting in Slier being removed from reporting on the region, claimed the Jerusalem Post.
Articles by Slier such as a fairly recent one from March of this year titled “Is BDS a real concern for Israel?” affirm her apologetics for Israeli apartheid and belief that the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement rallies “attempt to de-legitimize Israel.” BDS is a popular non-violent grassroots activist-led global campaign to boycott Israel owing to its colonization of Palestinian territory, human rights violations, and apartheid policies. How a state built after a comprehensive, armed ethnic cleansing campaign of the indigenous inhabitants of Palestine and which has carried out several territorial annexations throughout its history is “legitimate” is not a question one may expect Zionists, whether “right-wing” or “left-wing” (tags Slier enjoys using), to ask themselves.
Slier still works out of Tel Aviv at RT’s Middle East Bureau’s office building. She is also the CEO of Newshound Media, which according to a 15 March post to its Facebook page “arranged for” Israeli Education Minister and Security Cabinet member Naftali Bennet to appear on RT and talk about ongoing hostilities with the Palestinians. This signifies Slier’s personal connections to the Israeli state. Coupled with her Zionist disposition, it makes her an odd choice to be RT’s top representative in the Middle East. This fits in with Russia’s preference for Israel over the anti-Zionist coalition led by Iran and involving Syria and Hizbullah.
The fact that Russia has long provided a platform for voices that have been strongly critical of Israel and Zionism adds a particularly deceptive angle to the overall tilt of its media. The recent incorporation of key facets of Zionist propaganda into Russian media reporting reflect Moscow’s extremely close ties with Israel. They are so intimate that Israel has begun to recreate with Russian media what it pulled off so spectacularly well in the Western media following 9/11.
Agha Hussain is research analyst at the Institute of Regional Studies, Islamabad, Pakistan.