Thursday 19 May 2011

The Consolations of Conspiracy Theories

When you arrive at the core of any conspiracy theory, you can be as certain as make no difference that the Jews are behind it, whether it be the two World wars or 9/11.

What explains the extraordinary appeal of conspiracy theories? According to an article in the Budapest Times by Péter Krekó, they provide psychologically comforting explanations for unexpected and shocking events that are otherwise difficult to explain.

Conspiracy theories allow us to believe that the world is essentially just. If people living in Arab countries take the view that the governments of Israel and the United States carried out the September 11 attacks, then they can avoid facing up to the problem of Islamic fundamentalism burdening their own communities.

Conspiracy theories help to explain adverse social events, reconstruct the past and predict future events, call attention to threats to our own group, spur the members of our own group to collective defence, and provide moral justification for cruelty and violence towards external groups.

The villains in conspiracy theories are the Jews. Conspiracy theories about them sprang up in the Middle Ages. They were blamed, for example, for the destruction of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem in 1009 and the Rome earthquake of 1020. Jews were also held responsible for the famine that struck Europe in the 14th century, leading to repeated pogroms on French soil. Some people even ascribed the Black Death that claimed the lives of almost a third of the population of Europe to a Jewish conspiracy designed to wipe out Christian communities despite the fact that the Jews were also among its victims.

Conspiracy theories are also indispensable ideological and political props for radical groups, as demonstrated by the longevity and persistence of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Hadassa Ben Itto is the author of The Lie That Wouldn’t Die, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. She served for 31 years as a judge at all levels of the Israeli courts, including as an acting justice of the Supreme Court. She has also served as an official representative of Israel in various international forums, including UNESCO and the UN General Assembly, and is currently the honorary president of the International Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists.

In a recent Jerusalem Post article, she points out that in the demonstrations in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, there were placards of Hosni Mubarak with a Star of David on his face. Lara Logan, an American journalist, was sexually molested in the middle of the square and was called a Jew, although she is not Jewish. She does not have to be Jewish. The word “Jew” has become an accepted insult in the public square. A well known Egyptian preacher stood up and talked not about freedom but about the Jews, about what is going to happen to the Jews when the masses take over. So Israelis are rightfully worried.

Why is The Protocols – a proven lie and forgery – important today? Because it is being published around the world, with new editions in Arabic almost every year, and in Persian and Turkish. These publications are financed by government money and distributed not only in Arabic-speaking countries, but also to Muslim minorities around the world.

New editions are necessary because the introductions are updated every year. The introductions say if you do not believe that the Jews are really planning to take over the world, look at what is happening in your country and region. Everything that is happening is rooted in The Protocols, an implementation of the “Jewish conspiracy.” If there is a financial crisis, an AIDS or a flu epidemic, a terrorist attack, an upheaval or a catastrophe, one can always point to a chapter or page in The Protocols because it is such a devious document that everything is there. There is a whole detailed plan of how to take over the world.

The Protocols is not only a forgery, it is plagiarism. It was actually written in France in the last decade of the 19th century. During the preparation for the Russian Revolution, Bolshevik cells could not operate openly in Russia, so they were active elsewhere in Europe, including France. A special envoy of the Russian Secret Police was sent to France to uncover the Bolshevik cells. The Russian Secret Service and the Black Hundreds, an ultra-nationalist movement in Russia whose slogan was “Beat the Jews and Save Russia,” were trying to convince the czar that the Jews were behind the Bolshevik Revolution. The czar was already convinced, but they needed proof.

The Protocols is not just a libel, it is also a political document describing a Jewish criminal conspiracy to dominate the world, and almost the first leader outside Russia who picked it up was Adolf Hitler. As a strategic step, the Nazis decided to use The Protocols of the Elders of Zion as a central part of their ideology, as we know from correspondence between Hitler and Goebbels. A German historian describes in his book how Hitler used The Protocols on the way to the Final Solution, but he had already mentioned it in Mein Kampf. The Nazis were masters of the “Big Lie” and their tactics have been adopted by the Muslim world. The theory is that the bigger the lie, the better success of brainwashing the public.

The Protocols is a central issue in Arab and Muslim propaganda, even in what we call moderate countries, including countries that made peace with Israel. The Protocols is everywhere, at every Arabic book fair, more in Egypt, less in Jordan. It is in public discourse, in newspapers, even in TV soap operas. It describes world history from beginning to end, including the French Revolution, as part of the Jewish conspiracy to dominate the world. Until the end of World War II, the problem was the Jews, but after the establishment of the State of Israel, the target has become Israel.

There may be no Jewish conspiracy to dominate the world, but there is certainly an anti-Jewish conspiracy that seeks to demonise the Jewish people and delegitimise the state of Israel.

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