The "Protocols of the Elders of Zion" represented the most notorious attempt to spread anti-Semitism in the world. It drew its popular support from old-fashioned libels promulgated in Medieval Europe. The Crusaders circulated unsubstantiated tales among the masses that secret rabbinical authorities were having conferences whose aim was
to subjugate and annihilate Christians. These accusations were fantasies and total fabrication. In 1993, in a historic ruling, a Russian court made a final verdict. The court pronounced the Protocols of the Elders of Zion to be an anti-Semitic forgery. Unfortunately, ten years after that ruling, it is still cited as evidence to justify anti-Semitic activity in Egypt and other Islamic countries.
The inspiration for the Protocols and its anti-Semitic message originated at the time of the French Revolution in the 18th century. Abbe Barruel, a French Jesuit distributed a forged letter allegedly sent to him by a disgruntled police officer who opposed Napoleon Bonaparte's benevolent policy toward the Jews. Abbe Barruel was a member of a reactionary element of the French police force opposed to the French Revolution and blamed the Jews for their supposed conspiracy to set the French Revolution in motion. The anti-Semitic myth that there was an international Jewish conspiracy to take over the world resurfaced in 18th and 19th century Europe especially in Russia, Poland and Germany.
In the last two centuries, the Protocols served the interests of governments and individual anti-Semites in many European capitals. The document was used as a key manifesto and a pretext for Eastern European Pogroms. The Protocols became public in 1905, when the Russians were defeated at the hand of the Japanese inferior forces during the Russo-Japanese war. The shock and disappointment of the Russian people at their defeat, plus the oppression of the proletariat under the Czar led the "Okhranka," or secret police, to concoct a document against the Jews and use them as a scapegoat. The document was fashioned to portray Jewish elders as planning a Jewish plot for world hegemony and destruction of governments, nations, and institutions.
The Russian pogroms started in a gradual and methodical order. They reached a climax during the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, and followed during the constitutional amendment in Russia. The Jews were blamed for the Revolution as well as the institution of the
, the Russian Parliament that was opposed by nationalistic supporters of the Czar.
The Russian Pogroms against the Jews reached their height in the early part of the twentieth century. However, waves of pogroms had started after 1880, organized and sponsored by the Russian government and with police encouragement. The perpetrators and hooligans raped and murdered their Jewish victims while pillaging and looting their personal properties. Tens of thousands of Jews were killed through government- sponsored pogrom violence in the Ukraine region and other parts of Eastern Europe.
The mass violence against the Jewish communities of the Russian Empire led to mass immigration of Jews to other European countries. They hoped to enjoy the new legal freedom and equality that supposedly reigned in Europe. They were even ready to integrate themselves into European societies, and enjoy their "natural rights." Many Jews took on gentile names and tried to blend in as common folk. Unfortunately, with greater integration into European society, business, and intellectual life, Jews found themselves in close proximity and scrutiny, and thus, more prone to anti-Semitism, violence, and discrimination.
One such case was the Dreyfus Affair, which shook the foundations of the French Republic, and exposed anti-Semitism as the new weapon against the Jews in France. No longer did a nation need to state sponsor a pogrom against Jews. Anti-Semitism was transformed into a political, economic and social tool to keep Jews from sharing Europe's new legal freedom and equality. Unfortunately, the hopes and expectations Jews had for equality and integration were dashed aside by renewed violence and anti-Semitism in France.