Today we're going to point the skeptical eye at conspiracy theories that claim Jews are trying to take over the world. There is not just one version of this, there are many; and in their various forms, they've been around for centuries. There's hardly been a moment in the past 2,500 years when some group somewhere has not been fomenting mistrust and suspicion of Jews and their motives: The Jews want to take over your government, the Jews want to take control of your banks, the Jews want to abolish your church. The accuracy of these claims is one thing; the history behind them is another.
Although the word Zion means many things to many cultures, it's usually a place of peace and unity, and cross-cultural brotherhood. However it's most often associated with the Jewish people in particular. In that lexicon, the word Zion typically refers to the "promised land", the homeland promised by God to the Jews according to Judeo-Christian canon. Zion can also refer more specifically to the city of Jerusalem or the location of Solomon's Temple, and sometimes to the Biblical land of Israel.
Historically, a Zionist was any person who fought for the establishment of a Jewish nation in Zion. This was finally fulfilled over the course of many bloody months from 1947 to 1949, as various nations fought over the partitioning of Jerusalem and the surrounding region. The nation of Israel has held a tenuous foothold ever since, and it remains the political and spiritual homeland of all Jewish people all over the world. Since its establishment, the mission of Zionists has been to defend and strengthen Israel, and to oppose challenges to its sovereignty; in short, Zionism is Zionist nationalism.
Some critics of Zionism frequently broaden the application of the word Zionist to include any people anywhere who express support for Israel. Suffice it to say that antisemitism is not your everyday bigotry. Its roots run deep, it is cross cultural, and it's been institutionalized as an official national policy by some of the world's greatest superpowers. Nazi Germany is the only most obvious example of antisemitism as policy, but it's hardly the only one. 500 years before Christ, in the time of ancient Persia, Xerxes ordered all Jews in his kingdom to be killed. Various Roman emperors and Greek kings ordered the Jews to be exterminated. While the Christians prosecuted their Crusades against Muslims and Jews, the Muslims were forcing Christians and Jews to either convert or be killed. In the 1300s, Jews were widely burned at the stake throughout Europe for "causing" the plague. In the 1400s, the Spanish Inquisition burned some 30,000 Jews for refusing to leave their country. But this list could go on and on ad nauseum. Jews have always been blamed for something, and were always at the receiving end of the genocide. There are scant examples in history of Jews doing the same to anyone else.
And yet claims of Zionist Conspiracy have always persisted, lack of evidence notwithstanding. The most significant evidence of the existence of the Zionist conspiracy to rule the world appeared in St. Petersburg, Russia in 1903. Znamya was a small, short-lived newspaper published by an extreme nationalist faction called the Black Hundreds, for whom antisemitism was a core value. Znamya serialized 24 articles over 9 issues of the paper titled The Protocols of the Sessions of the World Alliance of Freemasons and of the Sages of Zion. They were, apparently, the recorded minutes of that group's meeting which took place sometime in the late 1800s. The headline was "A Program for World Conquest by the Jews: Minutes of a Meeting of the Elders of Zion". Its articles covered topics such as economic war, methods of conquest, acquisition of land, a transitional government, propaganda, destruction of religion, organizing disorder, and the control of stock markets. Russian ultra-nationalist Pavel Krushevan, the publisher of Znamya and openly antisemitic, refused to give his source for the articles, other than to say they were received by him in French and were translated.
The Protocols of Zion, as they were commonly called, were widely translated and reprinted. They appeared in numerous Russian publications for the next 14 years, and then arose in the west. Britain, the United States, and Germany began publishing them around 1920, and they've been available in print somewhere ever since. Today they are still published throughout the Middle East, in Venezuela, in Malaysia, and Indonesia; most often in Muslim countries.
The first Western publication is believed to have been in the Times of London on May 8, 1920, under the headline "The Jewish Peril". While some readers were shocked at what they believed the Jews were up to, others were more skeptical; and one of the Times' correspondents finally uncovered a shocker. A year after the publication, in August of 1921, the Times published a followup called "The End of Protocols" in which it was revealed that much of The Protocols of Zion was a nearly exact copy of an 1864 book by Maurice Joly called The Dialogue in Hell Between Machiavelli and Montesquieu. Joly, a conservative French lawyer, wrote it as a satirical account of how Napoleon III was planning to take over the world. Large sections of it were plagiarized word-for-word in the original French, literally replacing the word "French" with "the world" and replacing "Napoleon III" with "Jews". As Joly's book was (and still is) available for anyone to examine, this revelation established conclusively that The Protocols of Zion were a hoax.
But who was the hoaxster? Pavel Krushevan himself, perhaps? Many authors advanced theories over the ensuing 70 years, but it wasn't until 1992 and the collapse of communism that certain Soviet archives were unsealed and made available. Russian researcher Mikhail Lépekhine spent five years going through the records, and the story he unearthed was worthy of a modern spy tale.
In the opening years of the 1900s, the Imperialist Russian government correctly saw impending revolution as a very real possibility. The primary job of the Okhrana, the Russian secret police, was to stave this off as best they could; and in a war of ideologies, propaganda is usually the best weapon. Antisemitism was endemic in the Imperial government (indeed, discrimination against Jews was a national policy), and blaming the empire's problems on the Jews was a familiar tactic of the regime. Pyotr Rachkovsky was the head of Okhrana based in Paris, where he could keep an eye on the many revolutionaries who had sought safety in France. Around 1900, while researching propaganda campaigns, he came across The Dialogue in Hell Between Machiavelli and Montesquieu. Documents unearthed by Lépekhine show that Rachkovsky's office hired the author and political activist Matvei Golovinski to write something up showing that the Jews were behind everything the revolutionaries opposed. Golovinski wrote The Protocols of Zion using the text provided by Rachkovsky as a guide, and it was then delivered back to Russia by their agent Yuliana Glinka. She delivered it into the eager hands of publisher Pavel Krushevan, and the rest is history. Mikhail Lépekhine's findings were written up in the French magazine Le Figaro in August of 1999, and again to much greater attention in L'Express a few months later.
In what seems like an almost pitiful last gasp of a dying regime, as the revolution progressed, the Imperialists began calling the Bolshevik revolutionaries themselves Jews. The term Judeo-Bolshevism was invented to associate Jews with communism, and later became one of Adolf Hitler's pet phrases. The ironic footnote to all of this is that Golovinski, author of the most infamous antisemitic document in modern history, changed allegiances after the 1917 revolution and became a Bolshevik himself.
With The Protocols of Zion having been so thoroughly proven to be a hoax as early as 1921, its continued publication and endorsement by such world leaders as Hugo Chavez and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad suggests that belief in the Zionist Conspiracy is driven by something other than true history or evidence. Many scholars have identified three basic types of antisemitism:
Ancient antisemitism, which despised Jews because they were poor and considered inferior. Their culture had a late start and few friends, and they never got a strong foothold.
Modern antisemitism, on the other hand, is largely based on suspicion of the Jews trying to control the world economy. Since the establishment of Israel, suddenly Jews have been considered to be in a position of strength from which they can wield international power.
Christian antisemitism, which has its roots in Jewish deicide. This is the belief that all Jews, everywhere, are responsible for the execution of Jesus Christ. This underlying theme has been the primary driver of European antisemitism for two thousand years.
Why were the Jews always on the receiving end of holocausts, crusades, inquisitions, and imperial edicts? Why are there no stories of Jews riding forth and exterminating their enemies? The Christians and the Muslims fought each other, and both fought the Jews; we don't seem to have ever seen the Jews fighting back. The simple answer is that throughout most of history, there has never been a Jewish homeland. For 2,000 years, there have been no Jewish kings to send armies against the Christians and the Muslims. There were no Jewish dungeons in which confessions of apostasy could be extracted. The Jewish culture has been largely a civilization of refugees ever since Biblical times. They are history's greatest scapegoats and toughest survivors.
So far, not a single one of any of the myriad Zionist conspiracies has ever come true or been evidenced to exist. The only foundations supporting the current Zionist conspiracies are profound, historically-rooted antisemitism, and hoaxed or nonexistent evidence. Centuries of oppression have marginalized the Jewish community and they remain a tiny minority in the world; hardly the likely suspects to rise and conquer the world's economies and governments.
Some conspiracies are, undoubtedly, real. But of the many conspiracy theories that claim to predict future events, like a Zionist world government, not one has ever materialized. To those who promote or fear any given Zionist conspiracy, consider that all of its predecessors has faded away unfulfilled. I urge you instead to find your own Zion, a place of peace, unity, and cross-cultural brotherhood.
But if you insist on having evidence for the Zionist conspiracy, the official logo for the 2012 Olympic Games in London — a grouping of jagged polygons — is said to spell out the word Zion. Watch out.
Cite this article:
Dunning, B. "The Zionist Conspiracy." Skeptoid Podcast. Skeptoid Media,
16 Aug 2011. Web.
8 Feb 2016. <http://skeptoid.com/episodes/4271>
References & Further Reading
Conan, E. "Les secrets d'une manipulation antisémite." L'Express. LEXPRESS.fr, 18 Nov. 1999. Web. 10 Aug. 2011. <http://www.lexpress.fr/culture/livre/les-secrets-d-une-manipulation-antisemite_817525.html>
Hadassa, B. The Lie That Wouldn't Die: One Hundred Years of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Portland: Vallentine Mitchell, 2005.
Handwerk, B. "Anti-Semitic "Protocols of Zion" Endure, Despite Debunking." National Geographic News. National Geographic Society, 11 Sep. 2006. Web. 13 Aug. 2011. <http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2006/09/060911-zion.html>
Joly, M. Dialogue aux enfers entre Machiavel et Montesquieu. Bruxelles: Impr. de A. Mertens et fils, 1864.
Lendering, J. "Ancient Antisemitism." Articles on Ancient History. Livius, 25 Jul. 2001. Web. 9 Aug. 2011. <http://www.livius.org/am-ao/antisemitism/antisemitism02.html>
Philo Judaeus of Alexandria. Against Flaccus. Alexandria: (Ancient publication), c.40.
Pipes, D. Conspiracy: How the Paranoid Style Flourishes and Where It Comes From. New York: The Free Press, 1997. 85-87.