Wednesday, July 13, 2005

About the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, and Jewish conspiracies

Supposedly there's this secret Jewish conspiracy, run by all the Jewish bankers and the rest of them, all Jews are bent on running the world. That there's an international jewish conspiracy of jewish bankers who eat children for breakfast. Therefore we must kill all Jews before they try to subvert our ways and destroy us. Nonsense like that has been distributed for years, right? But is it true, or is it just part of the history of demonizing the jews?

Now, where did that nonsense come from?

This book is a graphic novel by Will Eisner that gives the history of the forgery that created the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, the unmasking of the forgery, and the continued popularity of the book despite it being known as a fraud.

I, myself, had never heard of the Protocols until hearing Dave Emory mention it, and I didn't get an appreciation of what they are until reading this book by Will Eisner. The Protocols are the source material for the entire Jews-taking-over-the-world conspiracy theory. That story and the use of The Protocols to justify that story has been behind so much of the bloodshed and angst piled upon the Jewish people, including its use in Nazi Germany as the justification for the Holocaust.

What Will Eisner shows is the origins. A lesser known French author in the mid-1800's had a mission, he thought, to write novels that would inflame the public to rise up against Napoleon III. Instead he simply got arrested each time he wrote a new novel, Napoleon III stayed popular until his ill-fated war against Germany, and the lesser known author eventually committed suicide.

In 1905, however, some members of the Russian Court wanted to change Tsar Nicholas's attention and thought if they could make the Jews a scapegoat it would work to their advantage. They hired a propagandist who took a book written by a lesser known French author, changed some details, changed the names, and turned it into a screed against the Jews. The work was good enough for their ends, but the book lived well beyond the purpose to which they put it.

Originally it was meant simply to influence opinion in the Russian elite. It however spread, and spread, and spread, the first stop being Nazi Germany. But it went well beyond, being translated into dozens of languages all over the world, spread in many countries, especially in the Islamic world. And, as I said, it was a direct contributing factor to the Holocaust.

Eisner's book tells the story very well. As a graphic novel it tells the story in a way a written book relying on words cannot, especially in the hands of a master of the graphic novel like Eisner.

What strikes me most about this story is a spiritual teaching I've heard.

In a way, hate is hate is hate. Eisner starts the book with this idea:

Whenever one group of people is taught to hate another, a lie is created to inflame the hatred and justify a plot. The target is easy to find because the enemy is always the other.

What these Russian propagandists did was to take a hate-filled screed and change the target. Changing the target meant simply changing a few words here and there, as Eisner shows with a long series of of panels quoting, in parallel, matching sections from each book.

Hate is hate is hate. When you have a new target for hate, you simply change the name of the thing/person/event/etc you're hating. The hate stays the same, it is the target that changes.

Here are a few related books: