October 02, 2003


I'd meant to mention this post by Geitner Simmons of Regions of Mind, calling attention to a point made by Christopher Hitchens on al Qaeda and its allies in Slate (it should be noted that Geitner credited Clayton Cramer with first pointing this bit from Hitchens out):

The most toxic and devotional rhetoric of these Islamic gangsters is anti-Semitism. And what does anti-Semitism traditionally emphasize? Why, the moving of secret money between covert elites in order to achieve world domination! The crazed maps of future Muslim conquest that are pictured by the propaganda of jihad and that show the whole world falling to future Muslim conquest are drawn in shady finance-houses and hideaways of stolen gold and portable currency, in the capital cities of paranoid states, and are if anything emulations of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion rather than negations of them.

This reminded me of something I'd read before, but, since I couldn't recall where I'd left the book, I let it pass. Today I found it -- Norman Cohn's work Warrant for Genocide: The Myth of the Jewish World Conspiracy and the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. The work is a history of the Protocols, tracing its origins, its spread from country to country, and its influence. Cohn offers about as thorough a debunking as possible (although Umberto Eco did add one fascinating detail about its precursors in an essay contained in Six Walks in the Fictional Woods). He covers a great deal of ground, including details of the lawsuit brought in Berne in 1934 against Nazi-sympathizing distributors the Protocols. In writing of Hitler's relation to the Protocols, Cohn makes a point quite similar to that of Hitchens:

...to what extent did Hitler and his immediate associates model themselves on the Elders of Zion? According to Rauschning he took the Protocols as his primer for politics; and in the 1930s three whole books were written to show how in almost every particular Nazi policy followed the plan laid down there. The argument can be pushed too far, but that does not mean it is wholly false. It is worth reflecting on two more recent judgments. 'The Nazis,' writes Hannah Arendt, 'started with the fiction of a conspiracy and modelled themselves, more or less conciously, after the secret society of the Elders of Zion...', while Leon Poliakov comments that the Nazi leaders began by drugging themselves with sensational sub-literature of the type of the Protocols and ended by translating these morbid fantasies into a reality terrible beyond imagining. There is a good deal in this. The ruthless struggle of a band of conspirators to achieve world-domination -- a world-empire based on a small but highly organized and regimented people -- utter contempt for humanity at large -- a glorying in destruction and mass misery -- all these things are to be found in the Protocols, and they were of the very essence of the Nazi regime. To put it with all due caution: in this preposterous fabrication from the days of the Russian pogroms Hitler heard the call of a kindred spirit, and he responded to it with all his being.

I noted before, briefly, an aversion to comparing contemporary mainstream American political figures to Hitler. There is, I think, good reason for that.

Note: at the end of Cohn's work, he gives a bibliography of translations of the Protocols, tracing the appearance and some of the larger reprintings around the globe. Thus, we see an edition in Russia in 1903; an edition in Russian printed in Berlin in 1911, in New York in 1921, and in Paris in 1927; German translations in Germany and Austria in 1919; an English translation in London in 1920 and in Boston and New York the same year, and so on. Poland 1920, Hungarian 1922, Romanian 1923, and so on. Cohn adds a note of his own: "The above list covers only the period to 1945, and is not complete even for that period. For instance, the Arabic editions, of which there were several already in the 1920s and 1930s, are not included..." While googling the Berne trial (my search terms were Berne Trial Protocols), I came across this site, which tells us,

Radio Islam is working to promote better relations between the West and the Muslim World. Radio Islam is against racism of all forms, against all kinds of discrimination of people based on their colour of skin, faith or ethnical bakground. Consequently, Radio Islam is against Jewish racism towards non-Jews.

World Jewish Zionism, today, constitutes the last racist ideology still surviving and the Zionist's state of Israel, the last outpost of "Apartheid" in the World.

In attempting to tell us what the Protocols are, the author (who argues for their authenticity) manages to show herself the equal of the chief defense witness in the Berne trial, whom Cohn neatly described: "Frustrated, resentful, politically illiterate, he was indeed ideally qualified to become a champion of the Protocols."

Consider this sentence, from a section on Gershom Scholem, who introduced the modern world to Jewish mysticism, and traced its relationship to both Christian and Islamic beliefs:

Scholem tells how from 1500 to 1800 the Zohar was "a source of doctrine and revelation equal in authority to the Bible and Talmud" (p.7). Then it became less known to "the broad masses" until the 18th century: "the Jewish Enlightenment again brought it into prominence, seeking to make it an active force in its own struggle...supplementing the Bible and Talmud on a new level of religious consciousness". The ZOHAR is termed "the mystical-theosophical interpretation of Scripture" (p. 20) which simply means converting the Old Testament into a glorification of voodoo paganism and sex-worship.

I've read a fair amount of Scholem, and can honestly report that there's very little in the way of voodoo paganism or sex-worship...

Posted by Ideofact at October 2, 2003 11:41 PM

You probably want to close that italic tag. :-)

Keep up the good work!

Posted by: Gary Farber at October 3, 2003 01:00 AM

Doh! Okay, the end ital tag has been inserted.

And thanks for the kind words.

Posted by: Bill at October 3, 2003 01:05 AM

As you do a spiffy blog, full of interesting thinking and references, the words are not so much kind as truthful.


Posted by: Gary Farber at October 3, 2003 01:36 AM