This is a guest post by Raziq
In 2005 Marc Levin, a Jewish-American film maker released an interesting documentary about a rise in anti-Semitism after the 9/11 attacks. It consisted mainly of Levin engaging with a diverse range of people which included: white nationalists, black nationalists, Arab-Americans, evangelicals, Kabbalist rabbis, holocaust survivors and even the founder of the website Jew Watch.
According to Levin he had been prompted to make the film after an encounter in a New York cab shortly after 9/11. His driver an Egyptian immigrant had claimed that Jews had been warned not to go to work on the day of the attacks. When probed further the driver had told Levin that “it’s all written in the book”.
’The book’ he was referring to is commonly known as The Protocols of the Elders of Zion and despite being published over a hundred years ago it remains an international best seller. At the core of most editions are a series of twenty four recorded ‘protocols’ or ‘minutes’ allegedly produced by Jewish elders at the turn of the twentieth century. They describe a grand plan designed by the Jewish people to achieve global dominance.
In this article I will be looking the emergence of The Protocols, proof of its forged nature and how it still influences certain ideological groups today.
The first abridged form of the protocols had been serialised by a Russian newspaper in August 1903, a year that had been particularly bad for parts of the Russian Jewry. Earlier that year a Russian-Christian boy had been found murdered. A local newspaper had alleged that not only had the boy been murdered by Jews, but that his blood had been used in the preparation of matzo- an unladen bread. What followed was the first Kishinev pogrom which the New York Times described:”as a well laid-out plan for the general massacre of Jews on the day following the Russian Easter. The mob was led by priests, and the general cry, “Kill the Jews,” was taken- up all over the city. The Jews were taken wholly unaware and were slaughtered like sheep”. The murdered boy had in fact not been killed by Jews, but by a relative.
The text itself remained for a while obscure. However during the next two years it began to circulate more widely as problems in Russia began to grow. A wave of mass political and social unrest had resulted in the 1905 revolution, while in the same year Russia was defeated by Japan in the Russo-Japanese War. Sergei Nilus would be the first to have the whole text published in his book ‘The Great within the Small: The Coming of the Anti-Christ and the Rule of Satan on Earth’. The text was used by monarchists and ultra-nationalists to scapegoat the Jewish people who they believed were at the root of Russia’s problems.
It would be more than a decade before the text spread to a wider arena. The 1917 revolution and its dismantling of the monarchy caused white Russians (anti-communists) to abandon their homeland and head west, taking the obscure text with them. From abroad it was used to discredit the Bolsheviks who were portrayed as overwhelmingly Jewish and who were accused of carrying out the plans described in the protocols.
In the United States the text was initially used as part of the First Red Scare. In 1919 it appeared in the Public Ledger in a pair of newspaper articles with all references to “Jews” replaced with references to Bolsheviks. Later the Protocols were also used by the industrialist Henry Ford who stated that ‘…they fit in with what is going on. They are 16 years old, and they have fitted the world situation up to this time.” He sponsored the printing of 500,000 copies of the Protocols as well as supporting other anti-Semitic publications.
Another sinister undertone of The Protocols was the artwork that appeared on the covers of various editions. This included pictures of the Devil draped with the Star of David, a snake encircling the globe and other images commonly associated with magic and Satan worship.
A manuscript for the protocols had never been found and raised doubts about its authenticity. In August 1921 Lucien Wolf traced back the history of the concepts found in the Protocols to the works of Goedsche and Jacques Crétineau-Joly. A more dramatic series of articles appeared afterwards in The Times. Its Constantinople reporter, Philip Graves uncovered that text had been plagiarised from Maurice Joly’s ‘The Dialogue in Hell between Machiavelli and Montesquieu’.
On September 4, 1921 the articles were reprinted by The New York Times. An entire book written by Herman Bernstein documenting The Protocols was published in the United States in the same year. In 1934, an anonymous editor expanded the book a commentary. This 1934 text is the most common edition found in the English-speaking world, as well as on the internet.
The Protocols became a part of the Nazi propaganda effort to justify persecution of the Jews and were made required reading for German students. Hitler refers to the Protocols in Mein Kampf stating that there importance “is that with positively terrifying certainty they reveal the nature and activity of the Jewish people and expose their inner contexts as well as their ultimate final aims.” At the height of World War II, the Nazi Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbelsproclaimed: “The Zionist Protocols are as up-to-date today as they were the day they were first published.”
After the extent of the holocaust became clear most political figures in most parts of the world generally avoided claims that The Protocols represent a truth about a Jewish conspiracy. In the Middle East the opposite occurred. A Large number of Arab and Muslim regimes and leaders endorsed them as authentic. Many Arab governments even began funding new printings of the Protocols, and taught them in schools as historical fact. According to a Freedom House 2006 report, in Saudi Arabia the:
“textbook for boys for Tenth Grade on Hadith and Islamic Culture contains a lesson on the “Zionist Movement.” …It asserts that the Protocols of the Elders of Zion is an authentic document and teaches students that it reveals what Jews really believe. It blames many of the world’s wars and discord on the Jews.”
Many Islamist organizations also accept them as fact. Article 32 of the Hamas Charter states:
“The Zionist plan is limitless. After Palestine, the Zionists aspire to expand from the Nile to the Euphrates. When they will have digested the region they overtook, they will aspire to further expansion, and so on. Their plan is embodied in the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion”, and their present conduct is the best proof of what we are saying”
Even some largely peaceful groups have promoted the same view. In 1991 Mirza Tahir Ahmad (4th global head of the Ahmadiyyah Muslim Community) in a sermon cited The Protocols to support his argument that the Jews were secretly controlling the world. About the Protocols he states:
‘This was a scheme of the top leaders of Israel, who believe in Zionism, as to how they shall dominate the world, what mode of action shall be adopted for this purpose, what will be the work principles and objectives, what means will be adopted etc’
In 2003, al-Usbu, an Egyptian weekly reported that the Alexandria Library was displaying the first Arabic translation of the Protocols next to a Torah scroll. The museum’s director Dr. Youssef Ziedan was quoted as saying:
“…it has become one of the sacred [texts] of the Jews, next to their first constitution, their religious law … more important to the Zionist Jews of the world than the Torah, because they conduct Zionist life according to it … It is only natural to place the book in the framework of an exhibit of Torah”
Aside from the Arab world The Protocols remain popular worldwide especially among far-right groups and other fringe groups which use it as evidence of a new world order. The book in recent times has become more widely available and can be found on many sites on the internet.
On two occasions in South Africa in 1934, and Switzerland in 1937, the Jewish community won important civil cases against the publishers of The Protocols. Although the Swiss Appeal Court in the Berne trial overturned the decision, it was on a technicality, and the judges made clear their criticism of the evil nature of the forgery.
Despite being exposed as a forgery over 90 years ago the book continues – with the support of contemporary anti-Semitic literature – to strongly influence many people’s world view. In the words of the Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Elie Wiesel who suffered first hand the consequences of anti-Semitism in a concentration camp:
“If ever a piece of writing could produce mass hatred, it is this one. . . . This book is about lies and slander.”