Jonathan Institute, extract from The "Terrorism" Industry

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This page on the Jonathan Institute is extracted from The "Terrorism" Industry: The Experts and Institutions That Shape Our View of Terror by Edward S. Herman and Gerry O'Sullivan, New York: Pantheon, 1989, pp. 104-6. It is reproduced by permission of Edward S. Herman.

The Jonathan Institute was the most important product of the new Israeli public relations strategy. The institute was founded in 1979 by Benjamin Netanyahu, a prominent rightist and Israeli ambassador to the United States, who named the organization after his brother Jonathan, who died in the Entebbe airport raid in 1976. Its propaganda function and its design to influence U.S. and other Western opinion makers were suggested by its opening offices in Washington, D.C., and New York, as well as in Jerusalem. Its main activity from its birth was the organization of conferences, carefully designed to bring in sympathetic leaders, experts, and journalists to get across the message: the PLO is a terrorist organization. and the Soviet Union is its parent and supporter.

The names of the institute's board of directors are not made public, but the organization serves as a virtual arm of the Israeli state.[1] Institute officials told Dial Torgerson of the Los Angeles Times that while the organization was privately financed, the 1979 conference was being run 'with the assistance of the Israeli government.'[2] Brian Crozier, a participant in the 1979 conference, wrote in the National Review that the committee organized to sponsor the conference included Menachem Begin, '[who] heads the Committee, followed by Moshe Dayan. . . and most of the famous names in Israel's brief history.'[3]

The two conferences organized by the Jonathan Institute, in Jerusalem in July 1979 and in Washington, D.C., in June 1984, were major events and highly effective for Israeli and Western propaganda. Both drew in many high officials and big-name journalists and successfully attracted extensive press coverage on the threat of terrorism as portrayed in the Western model. The 1979 conference, held under heavy army and police guard, attracted some four hundred journalists. Attendees included Annie Kriegel and Jacques Soustelle from France;[4] Lord Alun Chalfont, Brian Crozier, Paul Johnson, and Robert Moss from Great Britain; George Bush, Ray Cline, Midge Decter, Norman Podhoretz, Claire Sterling, Ben Wattenberg, George Will, and Senators John Danforth and Henry Jackson from the United States; and numerous Israeli political, military, and intelligence figures.[5]

The opening session of the 1979 conference was addressed by Israeli Prime Minister Begin, who successfully urged the assembled guests to get out and sell the message. One of the participants, Claire Sterling, spelled it out in her best-selling book The Terror Network. Its themes, expounded at the conference without deviation, were presented in a booklet issued by the conference itself, entitled 'International Terrorism: The Soviet Connection', with chapters by Crozier, Moss, Jack Kemp, Major General George Keegan, Jr., Henry Jackson, and Richard Pipes. It is interesting to note that although the conference was held in Israel and was supposedly of international interest, four of the papers were written by Americans, the other two by an Australian and an Englishman famous for their long service as CIA assets. All six were notable exponents of hard-line views and strategies[6] and fall into the right-wing category of positions on the opinion-policy spectrum.

The 1984 conference succeeded in assembling a similarly large and prestigious group of participants and audience. Leading addresses were given by U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz, UN Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick, and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. Also in attendance were Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Midge Decter, Paul Laxalt, Edwin Meese, Jack Kemp, and media stars Daniel Schorr and Ted Koppel. As in 1979, the conference featured terrorism as the new focus of Israeli, U.S., and European foreign policy concern, and the participants chosen assured the uncontested reiteration of the Western model, with a strong bent toward its extremist version. The Palestinians, with their alleged Soviet 'sponsors', were held responsible for almost every (retail) terrorist attack cited by the body of experts in attendance, who, among others, included Michael Ledeen, Claire Sterling, Ray Cline, Arnaud de Borchgrave, Lord Chalfont, and Jillian Becker.

The institute also effectively publicized its espoused doctrine of 'preemptive retaliation', the Israeli policy of killing those designated as terrorists before they can act. To the delight of institute sponsors, U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz pushed this line at the conference and earlier in appearances before the Denton committee. The 1984 conference also produced a widely reviewed book edited by Netanyahu, Terrorism: How the West Can Win, and established Netanyahu as a leading international voice in the war against terrorism.[7]


  1. In pursuing his M.A. thesis, which focused on the institute, Philip Paull found that there was no published information on its officers or board. Written inquiries elicited responses that contained some names, but admittedly not all. See Paull, 'International Terrorism;' p. 58.
  2. Ibid., p. 32.
  3. Quoted in ibid., p. 33.
  4. Annie Kriegel, a French journalist of the extreme right, formerly a super-Stalinist on the left, became a Free World notable upon her reversal of extremism. Her 1982 book, Israel: est-il coupable? claims that the Sabra-Shatila murders were organized by the KGB to discredit Israel. Jacques Soustelle betrayed his army oath in favor of counter-revolutionary support for the OAS in Algeria. Condemned for treason, he was eventually pardoned, and assumed his position as a spokesman for Free World principles.
  5. A list of participants is given in Paull, "International Terrorism pp. 103-7.
  6. Pipes and Keegan achieved some fame as members of the "B team" selected to rewrite CIA estimates concerning the Soviet threat to justify building more weapons. David Binder, 'New C.I.A. Estimate Finds Soviet Seeks Superiority in Arms;' New York Times, Dec. 26, 1976.
  7. On Netanyahu's definition of terrorism, and misrepresentations of fact, see chapter 3, p. 50, and chapter 8, p. 203.