Recently, there seems to have been revival of classic libels against Jews, such as the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and ye olde blood libel, in many parts of the world.
I’m not Jewish, but I have a personal interest in this topic, as a member of another, much smaller religious minority which has frequently been a target of what can best be described as warmed-over anti-Jewish propaganda. Also, I live in New York and have had quite a few Jewish friends.
Below, I’ll discuss some classic anti-Jewish claims, with links to sites refuting them.
I do question whether these beliefs have become quite as widespread as some folks claim. Pro-Israel hawks have seized upon the promulgation of anti-Jewish libels as a justification for their own intransigance, which makes me wonder whether some of them might be exaggerating just a tad. Nevertheless, the revival of traditional anti-Jewish nonsense does indeed seem to be a real and growing menace.
- The Protocols of the Elders of Zion
- The blood libel
- “International bankers” and the Federal Reserve System
Alas, the Protocols of the Elders of Zion seem to have gotten very popular these days, especially in the Middle East. Worse yet, they are part of the official ideology of Hamas and possibly some other groups too. According to The “Protocols of the Elders of Zion” and Antisemitism by Shaul Wallach:
… With the birth of the State of Israel and the eruption of the Arab-Israeli conflict, they became part of state-sponsored antisemitism throught the Arab world. Antisemitic ideas had already been spread by Christian missionaries in the Middle East since the early 19th century. This activity erupted in the Damascus blood libel in 1840, which was followed by many recurrences of the libel in other Arab countries in the latter half of the 19th century. European antisemitic works were already being published in Cairo in Arabic before the turn of the century. The Protocols were translated into Arabic from the French edition by al-Khuri Antun Yamin, probably in the late 1920’s. Many editions appeared starting in the 1950’s, mostly in Cairo and Beirut. President Nasser publicly asserted their authenticity, and his brother, Shawqi Abd’ al-Nasir, published an edition in 1968 entitled “Brutukulat Hukama Sahyun wa-Ta`alim at-Talmud” (“Protocols of the Learned Men of Zion and Teachings of the Talmud”). In the same year, an Islamic congress which convened in Cairo produced some papers containing antisemitic themes which had been rampant in prewar Europe. Unlike its counterpart in Europe, antisemitism in the Arab world seems to be officially sanctioned and promoted. It forms part of religious sermons and appears to be part of public education.
The Protocols today form part of the ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood and its allied Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas), whose part in the Palestinian intifada is well known. The statement that the “enemies” or the “Zionist invasion” are behind “secret societies” such as the “Freemasons, Rotary Clubs, the Lions and others” around the world for purposes of sabotage is repeated three times in the Covenant of the Islamic Resistance Movement. Mention of these organizations, together with the claim that the “enemies” were “behind the French Revolution, the Communist revolution and most of the revolutions we heard and hear about”, reveals direct borrowing from the Protocols and its predecessors. The Protocols are finally mentioned by name in Article 32:
… 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” (“Brutukulat Hukama Sahyun” in the Arabic original), and their present conduct is the best proof of what we are saying.
In summary, use of the Protocols by modern day Arabs is living testimony to the transplanting of classical European antisemitism into present-day Arab society.
Double-checking this, I found a copy of the Hamas Charter, 1988 on a pro-Palestinian website. Sure enough, it does indeed contain the above-quoted passage.
The Protocols are being promulgated not just in the Middle East, but in various other places too. See the section on Contemporary usage and popularity, especially the sub-section on Other contemporary appearances, in the Wikipedia article on The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.
In addition, there are a lot of folks who aren’t Jew-haters per se but who believe that the world is run by “the Illuminati.” a claim which has many parallels to and is historically intertwined with the Protocols. Anti-Illuminism has been used to scapegoat not just Jews but also Freemasons, Pagans, occultists, “Satanists,” atheists, gays, feminists, environmentalists, and the values of the modern secular West in general.
So, I think it’s important to educate people about the Protocols.
I should mention here that I don’t, currently, take any definite stand regarding the Israel/Palestine conflict, other than to be suspicious of the propaganda of both sides. There’s a lot I have yet to learn about the Israel/Palestine conflict. But it’s clear to me that the spread of nonsense about Jews isn’t helping the situation any.
An excellent debunking of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion can be found on the “Emperor’s New Clothes” website, in the following series of articles by Jared Israel:
- ‘The Protocols of Zion,’ Part One: Weapon Against Democracy
- ‘The Protocols of Zion,’ Part Two: Illogical, Sloppy, and Incoherent…
- ‘The Protocols of Zion,’ Part Three: Reader Comments: ‘I am no Antisemite. Why do some parts of “The Protocols” Ring True?’
Using facts, logic, and humor, Jared Israel does a great job of showing how ridiculous the Protocols are. It begins by showing how elites have used the Protocols for their own purposes, nut just to persecute Jews but also as a weapon against all kinds of political reform. He also provides a Transcript of Philip Graves’ articles published in the London Times, August 16 to 18, 1921, which originally exposed the Protocols as a hoax.
(Note: I do not necessarily endorse everything else on Jared Israel’s website. Among other things, he is very much a partisan of the Serbian side in the Yugoslav wars, a topic on which I don’t yet know enough to take a definite position one way or the other. Also, he’s very pro-Israel. I don’t yet have a definite position on the Israel/Palestine problem either.)
Other good refutations of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion are listed on David Dickerson’s website.
Shaul Wallach’s article The “Protocols of the Elders of Zion” and Antisemitism, which I cited earlier, also contains a brief history of literary precursors to the Protocols. Some other bits of relevant history can be found on the following pages:
- The Protocols of the Elders of Zion: Anti-Masonry and Anti-Semitism by Leon Zeldis
- History of the Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion on the website of the Masonic Grand Lodge of British Columbia and Yukon
- The Myth of the Judaeo-Masonic Conspiracy by W. Bro. A Israel, Master, in a collection of pages about Masonry on the website of Gary L. Dryfoos at M.I.T.
- Anti-Masonry Frequently Asked Questions on Mastermason.com
- Part 4: The “Illuminati Conspiracy”: The original, anti-Semitic version in The New Antipas Papers by S.R. Shearer, an evangelical Christian who is critical of the grand-conspiracy claims of other evangelical Christians such as Pat Robertson. Another, very similar page on the site is The Origins of the Illuminist Myth: The Fabrication of the Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion. Shearer’s info on the Illuminist myth is said to be primarily from two sources: Warrant for Genocide by Norman Cohn and Organized Anti-Semitism in America by Donald Strong.
- Protocols of the Elders of Zion on Carpe Noctem by Kristi and Mark Fisher
- Who Is Irma Plavatsky? Theosophy, Rosicrucianism, and the Internationalization of Popular Culture from the Dime Novel to The Da Vinci Code by Massimo Introvigne, Center for Studies on New Religions (CESNUR), 2006
(P.S., 6/10/2008: In my list of refutations of the Protocols, I previously included a link to a page by one Henry Makow. I subsequently deleted that link because it turns out that, while Makow disbelieves in anti-Jewish conspiratorial claims, he believes that Jews were framed by “the Illuminati.”)
By far the most egregious anti-Jewish myth is the old-fashioned blood libel, the idea that Jews ritually murder Christian (or Muslim) children and use their blood as an ingredient in matza dough, among other ritual uses.
To me, this idea seems so blatantly obviously false that it hardly needs to be refuted. Jews are forbidden to consume blood, even the blood of farm animals. (See Leviticus 17:14 and Deuteronomy 12:23 in a Christian Bible.) Human sacrifice is forbidden too.
Besides, I live in New York. If there were any truth to the idea that Jews routinely kill Christian babies, there would be an awful lot of missing Christian babies around here.
Nevertheless, an astonishingly large number of people seem to believe it these days. Google “Jewish ritual murder” and you’ll find lots of websites by people who insist that Jews really do kill Christian or other non-Jewish children. And, if you Google “blood libel,” you’ll find plenty of stories about how it’s being promulgated offline, too. A few such stories are here:
- Leading Egyptian Newspaper raises Blood Libel, Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), November 6, 2000. (Note: For some controversy about MEMRI, see the following articles in The Guardian, U.K.: Selective Memri by Brian Whitaker, Monday August 12 2002, and Media organisation rebuts accusations of selective journalism by Yigal Carmon, Wednesday August 21 2002)
- Blood Feast on Snopes.com, apparently drawing on the following WorldNetDaily article: Saudi news: Jews use teen blood in pastries: Columnist in daily paper claims ‘fact’ of ritual by ‘Jewish vampires’, March 13, 2002
- Another WorldNetDaily article, Saudi Media Revise Blood Libel, September 19, 2002, on the website of Teach Kids Peace, which also has a petition asking “the US and Canadian Governments, European Union, Arab League, and United Nations to stop the Palestinian Authority from promoting a culture of hatred, encouraging violence, and glorifying suicide bombing.”
- Passover and the Blood Libel by Steven Stalinsky, New York Sun, April 12, 2006
- Arabs Attack Jew in NYC, Blood Libel Returns to Russia by Ezra HaLevi, April 27, 2008
- The section on Contemporary blood libels in the Wikipedia article Blood libel against Jews
I’ve linked to several others in a recent post on my LiveJournal blog.
Some toned-down variants will claim that it isn’t Jews in general who kill Christian babies, but just one weird Jewish sect. Offhand, that claim seems extremely unlikely to me too. Here’s an account of controversy over one such allegation: The Blood Libel Returns by Rachel Neuwirth, American Thinker, February 25, 2007. According to this article, there is no evidence for the allegation other than confessions extracted through torture. More discussion about Ariel Toaff’s book can be found in Did Jews Drink Blood? Giving Proof To Blood Libel? by Emil Steiner, Washington Post blog, February 8, 2007. As the latter page points out:
Toaff, a professor at Bar Illan University, near Tel Aviv, bases his claims on confessions “extracted by torture” during a “medieval trial” in 1475. Suffice to say, this might not be the most reliable source, and even Toaff only goes so far as to say the accusations “might have been true.” Still, for centuries, this so-called “Blood Libel” has been used as an excuse for the segregation and annihilation of Jews, which is why people are in such an uproar over the new book. What seems to have been forgotten in the shuffle though is that Toaff is describing a “deviant sect” of fanatics some 500 years ago — a time when all types of brutal behavior (NAFW) took place. And even if there is some truth to his claims, to consider them indicative of an entire religion would be like believing the Branch Davidians are representative of all Christians. Admitting that these events may have taken place and examining the evidence empirically is not anti-Semitic; however, believing they provide justification for centuries of genocide is.
Alas, quite a few websites have indeed seized upon Toaff’s claims as one more excuse to hate Jews in general.
Other websites promote other, more recent alleged instances of Jews killing Christian (or Muslim) children for various alleged ritual purposes.
I have not yet studied any of these claims in detail. For now I’ll just say this: If I were ever to encounter any real evidence of any such crime by any Jews whatsoever, I would be inclined to suspect that it was not the accepted practice of any actual Jewish religious group, but that, perhaps, a few very disturbed Jewish teenagers might have decided to act out the myth. After all, there do exist disturbed teenagers, from Christian and other non-Jewish backgrounds, who have acted out other popular myths, e.g. by committing atrocities in the name of “Satanism.” So, if a few Jewish kids were to do something similar, that would just be one more way that Jews are like everyone else. To generalize it into an indictment of Jews per se would be absurd.
Some young Jewish men have enjoyed pretending that the age-old myth is true, as a joke. (See, for example, the satirical song Christian Baby Blood by Jewmongous, of which see also this review.) I have to wonder if, perhaps, some of the alleged evidence for the blood libel might be based on a misunderstanding of similar macabre humor.
As I said, I haven’t yet studied this matter in detail. I haven’t yet found a website devoted to comprehensive, detailed refutation of “Jewish ritual murder” charges. I hope some historian will put up such a website. There’s definitely a need for it these days.
The Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance have a collection of pages on Blood libel, host desecration, ritual murder, & other largely anti-semitic fables, which give some of the history of the anti-Jewish blood libel plus historical parallels to witchhunts and persectution of other religious groups.
Closely related to Protocols-style grand-conspiracy theories is the idea that thw world is secretly run by a cabal of Jewish bankers, primarily the Rothschilds.
Various right wing groups have advocated grand-conspiracy theories featuring “international bankers.” Such theories don’t necessarily target Jews. After all, the Rockefellers and the Morgans are WASPs, not Jews.
Nevertheless, banker-conspiracy claims have often been linked to Protocols-style Jewish-cabal claims, via the idea that the Rockefellers and the Morgans are somehow “owned” by the Rothschilds. And one of the most popular banker-conspiracy writings is Secrets of the Federal Reserve by Eustace Mullins, who also believed in the traditional anti-Jewish blood libel.
So, if one is going to debunk anti-Jewish claims, it helps to be familiar with “banker” claims too, and their fallacies.
Some common claims, e.g. in popular Internet videos such as Zeitgeist, are the following:
- That the Federal Reserve System is nothing but a private banking cartel, “as Federal as Federal Express.” In fact, it’s an odd mixture of public and private, neither strictly a government agency nor strictly a private entity either, nor is it a for-profit entity. It has a Board of Governors who are appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate. But it consists of 12 regional Federal Reserve Banks, each of which has “member banks,” which are private banks.
- That the Fed’s profits go into the pockets of member banks, at the expense of the U.S. Treasurey. In fact, only a small portion of the Fed’d profits go to member banks. The member banks are required to keep some of their own money at the Federal Reserve Bank, and they earn a dividend on that money. But those dividends are only about 2 or 3 percent of the Fed’s profits, most of which go into the U.S. Treasury. (See the Federal Reserve systems income and expense tables for 2005 and 2006.)
Many other claims are addressed in Debunking the Federal Reserve Conspiracy Theories by Edward Flaherty.
See also Jewish “Control” of the Federal Reserve: A Classic Anti-Semitic Myth on the ADL site.