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In ’50s, CIA secretly funded anti-Zionist lobby group in US

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Kim Philby

Kim Philby

From a book review in the Wall Street Journal today of America’s Great Game: America’s Secret Arabists and the Shaping of the Middle East, by Hugh Wilford. Part of the story involves the British spy Kim Philby. The reviewer is Michael Doran, from the pro-Israel Saban Center:

The Middle East in the 1950s offered surprising opportunities for such men. Kim was, for instance, the motive force behind the 1951 founding of the American Friends of the Middle East. Seemingly a private outfit dedicated to citizen diplomacy, it was actually a CIA front that sought to weaken support for the Jewish state in the U.S. You read that right: The CIA created an early counterbalance to the pro-Israel lobby, promoting an anti-Zionist reading of the region until 1967, when the radical magazine Ramparts exposed agency funding to domestic organizations.

Wikipedia says this assertion about the American Friends of the Middle East has been published before. Ramparts had this report that touches on the CIA allegation.

I’m curious to read Wilford’s book, though; the “Arabists” — whom both William Quandt and Robert Kaplan characterized as a Protestant elite — certainly lost out in their ability to shape the Middle East to a philosemitic Establishment that no one seems to be anatomizing.

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41 Responses

  1. Stephen Shenfield
    Stephen Shenfield
    December 13, 2013, 1:55 pm

    In 1951 Israel was still closely allied to the Soviet Union. This must have been a factor in the attitude of the US elite. If the CIA continued to fund anti-Zionist groups after Israel realigned with the West that would really surprise me.

    • W.Jones
      December 13, 2013, 2:48 pm

      I do not think it was ever “closely allied”. They got tons of weapons and support at the UN, as well as officers from the Soviet Union. But it was not really enough. The breaking point was when the State, despite considering itself neutral, supported the capitalist countries in the Korean War. They played a dual diplomacy and that is how both sides of the Cold War supported them at the UN in 1948.

      I vaguely remember hearing that in some relation to the RNC Convention in Minnesota a few years ago a pro-Palestinian group was infiltrated, and the person distinguished herself by being particularly radical and extremist in her announcements.

    • lysias
      December 13, 2013, 4:52 pm

      By 1951, the bloom was off the rose, as far as Soviet-Israeli relations were concerned. The Soviet campaign against Jewish “rootless cosmopolitans” (apparently provoked, at least in part, by the obvious sympathy of many Soviet Jews for Israel) began in 1948-9. In November 1951, Rudolf Slansky and other leading Czechoslovak Communists, mostly Jewish, were arrested, to later face show trails and execution or long prison sentences.

      In fact, I wonder if Philby might have promoted this CIA scheme precisely because it was consistent with what he, as a Soviet agent and convinced Stalinist, wanted.

      • lysias
        December 13, 2013, 7:01 pm

        Of course I meant “show trials”.

  2. BillM
    December 13, 2013, 2:05 pm

    The CIA doesn’t fund organizations to “counterbalance” anything. It funds organizations in order to control and manipulate them (and then destroy them when their usefulness runs out). I have utter contempt this type of propaganda (which I don’t think you were intending to support): the CIA manipulation of anti-Zionist organizations is used to suggest the CIA was anti-Israel. One might as well argue that COINTELPRO proves that the FBI opposed the Vietnam war.

    • Hostage
      December 13, 2013, 10:39 pm

      One might as well argue that COINTELPRO proves that the FBI opposed the Vietnam war.

      I’ve always suspected that John Kerry might have been working for the government during his days with the Vietnam Veterans Against the War. His campus speaking engagements were sponsored by the same groups that Ramparts says the CIA had infiltrated. The redactions were so heavy in some of the declassified documents that were released, that it looked like most of the persons who attended the board meetings could have been working for Uncle Sam.

      The latest revelations from Snowden indicated that there were so many government warrior elves on World of War Craft that they had to set up a “deconfliction group” to prevent them all from sounding false alarms about each other.

      • Citizen
        December 14, 2013, 9:21 am

        Looks like Snowden was runner-up to Pope as TIME’s man of the year.

    • bilal a
      bilal a
      December 14, 2013, 7:36 am

      Most of contemporary culture is manufactured, artificial, its corporate foundation kitsch, even the anti bourgeois anbstract expressionionists, pure artifice:

      MoMA was part and parcel of the CIA’s efforts to combat Communism with American culture. Not only were the presidents and board members of MoMA also directors or major funders of the Congress for Cultural Freedom (“Jock” Hay Whitney, William Burden, Alfred Barr), MoMA also directly organized and sponsored exhibitions in conjunction with the CIA. One example of this was the 1953-4 exhibition entitled “Twelve Contemporary American Painters and Sculptors” which was foisted on France via the Musée d’Art Moderne in Paris. The French press called the Parisian museum the new outpost of US territory, and the artists, “John Foster Dulles’ 12 apostles.”

      President Eisenhower endorsed MoMA as the bastion of freedom and democracy: “As long as artists are at liberty to feel with high personal intensity, as long as our artists are free to create with sincerity and conviction, there will be a healthy controversy and progress in art….How different it is in tyranny, when artists are made the slaves and tools of the state; when artists become chief propagandists of a cause, progress is arrested and creation and genius are destroyed.” Modern art, in Eisenhower’s estimation, was a “pillar of liberty.”

      It was, then, no coincidence that MoMA spearheaded the propulsion of Abstract Expressionists into super art stardom. It was, after all, the voice of authority. “Links between cultural Cold War politics and the success of Abstract Expressionism are by no means coincidental….They were consciously forged at the time by some of the most influential figures controlling museum policies and advocating enlightened Cold War tactics…” (Eva Cockcroft, op. cit.).


      Jackson Pollack and David Smith both died in car crashes. Arshille Gorky, Franz Kline, and Mark Rothko all committed suicide in one way or another. Rothko’s friends felt his suicide resulted from being so well paid for his paintings that “howled their opposition to bourgeois materialism.”

  3. irmep
    December 13, 2013, 2:33 pm

    “Counterbalance” is an interesting way to put it.

    If the quasi-governmental Jewish Agency laundered the equivalent of $35 million to the AZC and to AIPAC’s founder news via the Near East Report to buy politicians and PR:

    It would be interesting to know how much the CIA paid, and whether it was as skillfully deployed (apparently it was not).

    • marc b.
      marc b.
      December 13, 2013, 2:44 pm

      irmep, you can’t take what the CIA was up to at face value. it’s possible that there was significant, active opposition to Zionism in CIA, or perhaps the ‘outfit’ was established as a way of controlling and moderating the influence of anti-Zionists in government. you build an ark, fill it with like minded people, and then sink the ark. problem solved. who knows. I doubt most of the players in these spy-v-spy shenanigans really know what’s going on.

      • Kathleen
        December 13, 2013, 8:12 pm

        Former Middle east CIA analyst Ray McGovern, Kathleen and Bill Christison as well as others have said there have been major questions within the ranks of the CIA when it comes to the influence of Israel on U.S. middle east foreign policy for decades…as well as Israel spying on U.S.

  4. marc b.
    marc b.
    December 13, 2013, 2:38 pm

    I’m not sure it’s prudent to reduce anything that Philby was involved in to a single paragraph. And if this is old news, maybe it’s just a way to associate contemporary opposition to Zionism with disloyalty and duplicity.

  5. Krauss
    December 13, 2013, 5:59 pm

    The Arabist myth resurfaces. Kennedy, as early as 1960, thanked Jewish donors in hotel lobbies – this was recorded even by Goldberg, who beliveves a “red river of anti-Semitism” runs under America – which naturally lends itself to fleeing to Israel to volunteer in ruling over Palestinian prisoners.

    The last time you truly had an independent Middle Eastern foreign policy was with Eisenhower. But we shouldn’t glamorize those days. The coup of Iran, among other things, happened during those days. And the policy may have been independent, but it was not necessarily moral. Neither, of course, is the current policy.

    • LeaNder
      December 13, 2013, 7:13 pm

      I won’t subscribe to the WSJ to read that, but Scott Anderson’s review is interesting, apparently he can deal with the book without the special angle:

      Obviously, this is a wonderfully rich canvas upon which to draw, but in his effort to do so, Wilford hobbles himself in two critical ways. The first difficulty is not entirely of his making. Denied access to the relevant C.I.A. documents, he has had to rely heavily on the published records and private papers of his three principal characters, but — perhaps to be expected of spies — none of these come across as particularly trustworthy. Immediately after Mossadegh’s overthrow, for example, Kim Roosevelt openly boasted of — and possibly exaggerated — his pivotal role in the coup, only to backpedal when the notion of the United States toppling democratically elected governments had lost some of its luster.

      And since access is denied whatever myth seems appropriate can be merrily spun out. This reminds me of another myth whose colorful details seemingly even academics who should or could know better seem intent to keep alike, sometimes it hard to give up colorful stories about e.g. the Russian secret service, stolen manuscripts and French Loges. In that case the colorful tales are also related to dubious sources. Interestingly the scholar who started the tradition relented to the demands of his Russian wife, the stories no matter if true or not were simply too colorful to leave out of his study. There you go. Fiction meets academia.

      In any case, no doubt post WWII America missed a chance to make a difference due to the Cold War it considered worth fighting for in sometimes more covert ways. Not only in Iran but also slightly more in the West in Greece. …

  6. Kathleen
    December 13, 2013, 8:14 pm
    • Citizen
      December 14, 2013, 9:25 am

      Podhoretz had an article in WSJ last Thursday saying better Israel bombs Iran now, then face a nuclear war in the region once Iran gets the bomb.

  7. radii
    December 13, 2013, 9:09 pm

    and Scientology ultimately took over its biggest critic the Cult Awareness Network (CAN) … no doubt not long after the Kennedys were killed (if it even lasted that long) the CIA operations to check the zionists was co-opted

  8. Scott
    December 13, 2013, 9:40 pm

    It was pretty much a matter of the old establishment –which accepted Israel after ’48, but still wanted an evenhanded policy, to not leave America vulnerable in the Arab world, to the Soviets, especially. There was a humanitarian aspect to it, which attracted people like Dorothy Thompson, in the forties perhaps the country’s most popular newspaper columnist. She found she couldn’t approve of Israeli ethnic cleansing anymore than that of the fascists she had once fought. She was a stalwart in the group. Her syndicated column was dropped by the NY Post and most other papers.

  9. Ron Edwards
    Ron Edwards
    December 13, 2013, 10:09 pm

    No discussion of the CIA and Israel is complete without a look at the inimitable James Jesus Angleton, who spent time organizing and schmoozing with the pre-Israeli Zionists just after WWII as an officer of the OSO, a surviving component of the OSS, associated with CIG (the CIA did not exist, pre-National Security Act). Donovan was getting kind of barmy and was pushed out of power by Truman at that point, and Allen Dulles was more and more in charge, in practice. The CIG managed to shoehorn itself into the proposed clearing-house agency for the three military intelligence agencies, dragging the OSO with it; also, its direct-from-OSS operations group (now called “Plans”) continued as Dulles’ private/parallel appendix which although no part of the CIA’s charter, could suck on the U.S. Treasury like a vampire. All the more so after Dulles became CIA director in 1952, when this absurdly illegal branch was named the OPC and continued full blast until 1958, when it was officially folded into the CIA as the Operations branch, where it is today.

    Anyway. All of this is to say that Angleton, lurking about and breathing through his mouth, had managed to build a mini-empire within this bizarre organization based on his purported mastery of counter-intelligence. Based on the posts so far, I’m sure some of you are prepared to chat about Philby and “Sasha” for days, which would be fun, but I want to focus on that other thing Angleton did, often overlooked. Much ballyhoo has been exerted to discuss the separation of CI and regular spying in the CIA … all overlooking the fact that Angleton ran the Operations’ Israeli desk himself. Right. Completely independently of the entire Operations apparatus. Completely firewalled away from the National Security Council, at that point the only (and very dubious) oversight of the CIA at all. Students of intelligence will realize that this is a completely weird situation, as if Israel were an island within the world of intelligence collection and operations. And until his star began to fade in the mid-1960s, nobody but nobody told Angleton what to do or asked what he did. And every record of what that might have been disappeared in the burning of all his files in 1974, just before the Church investigation kicked in.

    What did Angleton and his CIA contacts do? Bearing in mind that on this earth there never existed a worse officer of counter-intelligence. All that bizarre security and secrecy, to the point of genuine fetish, and he still blurted out anything and everything to anyone who treated him like a friend (cough*Philby). And he had access to *everything* the agency was up to, “required” it for all that counter-intelligence, you know. Does anyone doubt that he spilled the entire guts of CIA operations and analysis to his Israeli pals, steadily until his forced retirement in 1974?

    • Citizen
      December 14, 2013, 10:42 am

      @ Ron Edwards

      Angelton sought to counter what he perceived to be the Arab bias at state, which he apparently thought was not good anti-comunism–by his close alliance with Mossad. The Israelis were so appreciative of what he did for them they’ve erected monuments and memorials to him–not many CIA agents have accomplished that. The following article discusses in detail never seen by the US public, just how antagonistic JFK was to Israel getting the bomb. In it you will read how JFK faced off against Meir and told her flat out that US interests were not the same as Israel’s–something no sitting POTUS has done since (although Obama’s hinting, and Carter did it after leaving office). Keep reading, until you come to Angelton’s role in this conflict that went on beneath the public eye right up until JKF was murdered and the ass hat Johnson took over:

      PS, FOIA is so redacted, the documents on this stuff is still kept from the American public.

      • Ron Edwards
        Ron Edwards
        December 14, 2013, 1:09 pm

        You and I are in agreement about this, and clearly we’ve been reading a lot of the same stuff. If you haven’t already, check out some of the 1970s not/fiction novels like The Rope Dancer by Victor Marchetti and Orchids for Mother by Aaron Latham – pure outrage written by people who’d been sucked into Angleton’s orbit for a while, thinly disguised as spy fiction to dodge censorship.

      • Ron Edwards
        Ron Edwards
        December 15, 2013, 12:31 am

        My favorite part of Avner Cohen’s book Israel and the Bomb is that Angleton is in the index, but at the page it refers you to, he’s nowhere to be seen.

    • lysias
      December 14, 2013, 3:39 pm

      John Newman, a retired Army intelligence officer and a professor of history at the University of Maryland, makes a persuasive case in his Oswald and the CIA (in the last chapter of the revised paperback edition) that it was Angleton who managed Lee Harvey Oswald as an intelligence operative and who organized the JFK assassination.

      • Citizen
        December 14, 2013, 4:18 pm

        @ lysias
        Anybody can research online and see that The Warren Commission which “investigated” the Kennedy assassination was stacked with the very cronies Kennedy had denounced.

      • James Canning
        James Canning
        December 14, 2013, 7:11 pm

        Angleton went to Mary Meyer’s house after she was murdered in Georgetown (Washington), to remove all traces of her relationship with JFK.

  10. bilal a
    bilal a
    December 14, 2013, 7:39 am

    Still no follow up on what Levinson and Ira Silverman were doing on their rogue mission to Tehran , for the CIA or Miami russian mafia ?

    • American
      December 14, 2013, 4:31 pm

      @ bilal

      Are you referring to the Levinson secretly hired by CIA analyst Anne Jablonski and his operation in Iran?
      Last I read CIA analyst Jablonski was fired by the CIA who knew nothing of her and Levinson’s operation.
      Then recently I read that emails discovered on Jablonski’s private email account show that Levinson disappeared immediately after he emailed her that he was meeting an informant who had a insider contact in the Iranian government.
      This secret operation by Levinson and Jablonski had to be about “Iran’—there is no Russian mafia in Iran which was Jablonski’s special field. Levinson may have been trying to track Iran money in and out of the country.
      But the major thing to the story is that the CIA didn’t know what Levinson and Jablonski were doing.
      No doubt his ‘informant’ was a lure to snatch him.

      some of the story.

      • bilal a
        bilal a
        December 16, 2013, 9:19 am

        It doesnt appear that Levinson was ever in Iranian custody, and he wasnt workign for the CIA, but most likely the American Mossad, given his ties to Bart Schwartz (guidepost) , Ira Levinson (NBC) , Jeffrey Katz (Kroll, Bishop International) , and Lobby security firm Kroll Associates. Raimondo hasnt picked up on the Kroll private security issue yet, they disappear people.

        The Levinson-Jablonski Illicit Finance Group clearly represented a major security breach for the CIA. It seems beyond dispute that this “rogue” unit inside the CIA wasn’t working on behalf of the US government, but rather in the interests of some other government or private entity eager to discredit the Iranian government, and particularly interested in tarring Iranian moderates such as Rafsanjani.

        What country or interest group has an interest in discrediting and otherwise spying on Iran’s alleged perfidious activities? What country has shielded Russian Mafia figures such as Michael Cheney, granting them asylum and immunity from prosecution by Russian and Western law enforcement? What country’s intelligence agency has a record of aggressive spying in the US and wouldn’t hesitate to infiltrate the CIA itself if it served their purposes?

        There’s something illicit about the Illicit Finance Group: I invite my readers to figure out what it is.

        And of course it’s just a coincidence that the issue of Levinson’s disappearance – and the fact that the CIA paid an agent to discredit Rafsanjani and other Iranian moderates – has been revealed just as sensitive negotiations between Washington and Tehran have reached a critical juncture.

  11. Andreas Schlueter
    Andreas Schlueter
    December 14, 2013, 1:15 pm

    Studying the history of the US Power Elite it becomes clear that the close association of a great part of it with Israel doesn´t stem from a great love for that country or for “Jews in general” and for quite a time the power elite rather counted on having the feudal aristocracies of the oil producing Arab states of the Region on their strings (which holds still true for a number, especially Saudi Arabia). The final turning point in its relationship to Israel became obvious in the war of 1967 (see USS Liberty). Again, not out of love this connection came true (as much as the conflict lateron also served to split and confuse Anti-Colonialist, Anti-Racist and in general leftist moverments). I suspect rather the opposite at the core of the ruling US Elite:
    The connection might have rather to do with the enormous capacity of the MOSSAD to detect dirty secrets within the US Power Elite, especially in its Neocon fraction (formerly dubbed “the Warriors”). We shouldn´t forget the fierce resistance of Kennedy against the nuclear armament of Israel, which wasn´t the decicive point in “replacing” him, but most probably MOSSAD got to know much of the background to Kennedy´s assassination:
    The knowledge about this might have given Israel´s government a blackmail power over parts of the US Power Elite which could hardly be overestimated. Nine Eleven might have given the Alliance between Israel and the Neocons the final clue which lead the “Soft Power Fraction” (an Orwellian Name, as stated many times) and the Neocons into a literal war among each other:
    Andreas Schlüter
    Berlin, Germany

    • Citizen
      December 14, 2013, 4:26 pm

      @ Andreas Schlueter

      See the comments above about the sole CIA agent in charge of the Israel desk during the JFK era, when JFK faced off against Golda M, the last POTUS to do so, followed by Johnson, the crass cracker who kicked the USS Liberty crew to the curb. Where they have been ever since, along with the rest of Dick and Jane America

      • bilal a
        bilal a
        December 17, 2013, 4:56 am

        J Raimondo is suggesting that the CIA Illicit Funds branch was infiltrated by the Mossad, or more likely, a cut out in the form of the Lobby’s security firm’s associates near Kroll and Bishop International, apparently as a means to extort corrupt Iranian officials through the Russian mafia. sees the relationship between the ‘russian’ mafia in Miami, with Israel and the shut down rogue group inside the CIA. But its not clear if the FBI’s Levinson was deliberately taken with the purpose of fingering the Mullahs, provoking a diplomatic incident., as we see AP/NYT have done recently.

        More on the Lobby private enterprise around Levinson including Bart Schwartz, implicated in the NYC contractor russian mafia scam, Ira Silverman once of NBC, and J Katz formerly head of european operations for Kroll Associates.

    • James Canning
      James Canning
      December 14, 2013, 7:08 pm

      Israel lobby rewards those Americans who work to advance objectives of Israel in general, and those of powerful supporters of Israel, in the US. And Lobby tries to punish those who do not follow the game-plan.

  12. James Canning
    James Canning
    December 14, 2013, 2:10 pm

    American “Arabists” were primarily Episcopalians (Anglicans) and Presbyterians, decades ago. Both denominations were experienced in Middle Eastern matters, and they saw the damage done to their interests by the creation of Israel.

  13. James Canning
    James Canning
    December 14, 2013, 2:13 pm

    Hugely significant fact noted by Phil Weiss, regarding the supplanting of the Presbyterians and Episcopalians, by others, in a “philosemitic Establishment THAT NO ONE SEEMS TO BE ANATOMIZING.” [emphasis added]

    • Citizen
      December 14, 2013, 4:33 pm

      @ James Canning
      The anatomy of the AIPAC crowd and their bought Congress has been exposed by Walt and Mearsheimer. Dick and Jane have yet to even be aware of their book. The Gentiles leadership has yet to even acknowledge W & M’s contribution to US foreign policy. They remain scared stiff of being called jew-haters. And they know on which side their bread is buttered. It’s disgusting, speaking as an ordinary American.

      • James Canning
        James Canning
        December 15, 2013, 7:01 pm

        The “average American” probably is not even aware there is an Israel lobby. And not a clue as to how the Lobby operates.

  14. James Canning
    James Canning
    December 14, 2013, 2:28 pm

    St. John Philby, the father of the notorious Soviet spy Kim Philby, was a British agent in the Middle East, and he double-crossed Britain to enable the Americans to get the lion’s share of the Saudi oil deal.

  15. American
    December 14, 2013, 2:38 pm

    Max Blumenthal should start his next book now…..

    ” The Great Zionist Game in America: America’s Israeli Agents and the Stealing of US Foreign Policy”….or maybe just stealing of the US instead of stealing of US foreign policy….more sensational title and would sell more books.

    Featuring the entertaining exploits of Elliot Abrams, Saban, Adelson, Feith, Perle, Schumer, Cantor, Lieberman, Hoyer, …all the gang.

    Now that would be a blockbuster.

    • American
      December 14, 2013, 2:43 pm

      Oh..and add the TV God Merchants explolits for Israel – Hagee, Roberson. etc… all the million C-Z’s would line up to buy the book.
      Guaranteed best seller.

      • Citizen
        December 14, 2013, 4:35 pm

        I think it’s coming down the line; get ready for Amazon’s special deals.

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