In moments of candor, Arab diplomats have since acknowledged that inept information methods had much to do with their failure to influence U.S. attitudes. Today, Arab propaganda is being stepped up in tempo and volume, and is becoming increasingly professionalized. (Four Arab governments--Lebanon, Libya, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Republic—retain professional public relations counsel in this country.) The clumsy, unselective approaches of yesteryear are being replaced by more sophisticated techniques aimed at particular audiences— such as church groups, the student left, or the disaffected blacks."
Thus begins a report prepared in July 1969 for the American Jewish Committee that throws a fascinating light on how Arab propagandists reacted to the challenge of turning American public opinion against the Zionist Entity.
Titled "Arab Appeals to American Public Opinion Today" the report continues:
"Israel clearly continues to enjoy vast good will in America today. Yet in the battle for Americans' minds, the Arabs who, after all, enjoy the same rights as do proponents of any other viewpoint, will no doubt make the most of their opportunities....
Up to the time of the Six-Day War, much Arab propaganda focused on Biblical and legal reasons against the existence of a Jewish state per se. Since then the emphasis has shifted to moral arguments against Israel as an actual entity. Israel is charged with heinous crimes against Arabs within and without her borders, and the Palestine refugee problem is brought up again and again.... [My emphasis here and below]
Official Arab propaganda in this country, as typified by the output of the Arab Information Center, differs quite markedly from Ameri can gutter anti-Semitism with its mythology of omnipresent plots and takeovers. Ostensibly appealing to reason and humanity rather than fear or hysteria, the official line proclaims that Arabs have nothing at all against Judaism and oppose only the "aggressive ideology" of Zionism.
A variety of pamphlets with titles like Zionism and the Bible argue that God did not promise Israel exclusively to the Jews. The old legal arguments, too, are still being hashed over: Britain, it is said, had no right to write the Balfour Declaration and betrayed prior agreements with the Arabs in doing so; President Truman was pressured by wealthy Zionists into approving the UN's Palestine partition plan of 1948; the Zionists, supported by the West, dispossessed the Palestinian people, and in defiance of the UN forced them to lead the desperate lives of stateless refugees.
But since 1967 these arguments have been supplemented by shriller claims. Israel's whole history is now depicted as a series of broken promises and aggressive acts. Even while exploiting the world's sympathy, it is alleged, Israel prevents peace in the Middle East and continues to violate the UN human rights conventions in her treatment of Arab refugees as well as her own Arab citizens. Israel, another accusation runs, has created a distorted image of the Arab by making the world see the Middle East through jaundiced Zionist eyes.
The favorite topic since 1967 has been the status of the Arab refugee, the issue most likely to elicit sympathy, and most easily interpreted in terms of "good guys" vs. "bad guys." Because the ranks of the displaced furnish many or most of the Arab terrorists bent on "liberating" their native soil, the press in the United States has been devoting greater and increasingly sympathetic atten-tion to the refugees. This, the Arab propagandists say, is the part of the emerging "reappraisal" of the Middle East situation which "Zionist control" of the news has supposedly prevented until now....'
What particularly interests me is the light the report sheds on the dissemination of anti-Israel propaganda within the Churches:
'An intensive campaign is underway to bring about what one Arab Christian leader has called a "Copernican mental change" in the attitudes of American churches toward Israel. In this campaign, the Arabs and their supporters employ not only anti-Zionism, but also religious anti-Semitism—from sophisticated theological arguments to Nazi slurs and medieval superstitions like the blood libel. Substantial headway has been made, especially among Protestant leaders.
Arab Christians, some under pressure from their governments, use their influence to undermine Western Christian support of Israel. So do American churchmen in the Middle East. A group of Protestant and Orthodox clergymen, operating from Beirut and New York, has prepared and widely distributed a "master strategy plan" calling, inter alia, for cooperation with existing pro-Arab groups and boy- cotts of tours to the Holy Land.
Clergymen, mostly Protestant, have set up national and local organizations to lobby before Congress and to sway public opinion through film showings, pamphlets and letter-to-the-editor campaigns. Perhaps the best known such group is Americans for Middle East Under-standing (New York)—a citizen organization headed by a Presbyterian minister, the Reverend Humphrey Walz, which states that its aim is to create a better understanding of how Middle East Affairs affect the interests of the U.S. The group issues a bimonthly journal, The Link.
The Arabs' efforts among organized Christianity have been greatly stepped up since the Six-Day War and now constitute a comprehensive, systematic and well-financed strategy which makes earlier approaches to the churches appear amateurish by contrast. In June 1968, Metropolitan Philip Saliba, the Syrian Antiochian Orthodox Church's Archbishop of New York and North America, reportedly urged Arab nations to double their contributions for "information centers" in the U.S. to $20 million per year (Al Hayat, Beirut, May 28, 1968).
The desired "Copernican mental change" was recently defined by a Lebanese Orthodox leader, Gabriel Habib, who is the Middle East Secretary for the World Student Christian Federation and for the Youth Department of the World Council of Churches. He called for an end to the "scandalous association" of Christianity with Israel, whose existence he called "a new form of Western aggression or a crusade against the Arabs and Islam" (Ecumenical Press Service, December 19, 1968).
The World Council of Churches, a federation of 235 Protestant, Anglican and Orthodox denominations, has been subjected to steady pressure. In the wake of the Six-Day War, seven Arab Christian patriarchs and clergymen, from Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria, called on the Council to condemn Israeli "aggression," and on the "conscience of the Christian West" to recognize that Israel should "cease to exist as a racial state" (June 19 and 27, 1967). The Council responded by sending its Associate General Secretary, Father Paul Verghese, then Bishop-elect of the Syrian Orthodox Church of India, to the Middle East. His mission, as he put it in his report, was to "express solidarity" with the Arabs, "ascertain ... the needs of suffering people," and interpret the "convictions and feelings" of Arabs to the Council.
To help sway Catholic opinion, •the head of the Egyptian Coptic Church, Patriarch Kyrillos VI, reportedly planned to visit Pope Paul VI in the spring of 1969, in a bid for a "unified stand" on the Arab cause and the "liberation" of Jerusalem (Religious News Service, January 8, 1969). The Patriarch's attitude toward Jews is typified by a statement he made at the time of the Second Vatican Council: "The Coptic Church proclaims the Jews' responsibility throughout the ages for crucifying Christ."....'The report concludes:
In the United States particularly, mounting disillusionment over Vietnam and growing pressures for neutralism may create new openings for Arab spokesmen. Champions of the Arab cause, both covert and official, can be expected to redouble their efforts in the months ahead, in a determined drive to wean Israel's friends among the American public from their present sympathies and to turn the uncommitted into supporters of the Arab hard line against Israel."
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(Hat tip: Y.S.)