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A Rumor about the Jews: Antisemitism, Conspiracy, and the Protocols of Zion [Paperback]

Stephen Eric Bronner
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Book Description

Sept. 30 2003
In its portrayal of Judaism as a worldwide conspiracy dedicated to the destruction of Christian civilization, the Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion remains one of the most infamous documents ever written. Despite being proven a crude forgery, the pamphlet managed to pervade twentieth-century thinking, often being twisted to suit its handlers' purposes, and to justify the most extreme persecution of the Jews. As recently as 2002, a documentary was aired in Egypt falsely presenting the Protocols as fact - and the Protocols is still regarded as a historical document in many other parts of the world. In A Rumor About the Jews, Stephen Eric Bronner systematically debunks the antisemitic assertions made in the Protocols. He also explores its history, its influence on right-wing movements throughout the twentieth century, and the ongoing appeal of bigotry. A work of intellectual history, A Rumor About the Jews takes the reader on a historical journey that provides a new and deeper understanding of an insidious ideology and its broader implications. Bronner's sharp and penetrating analysis offers new insights into the nature of antisemitism, along with a warning against underestimating the power of this hateful tract.

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"This is a significant work that should be read by all those who are concerned with religious and political extremism. It warns us at a time in which religious dogma is influencing our own politics that some of the abuses of the past can happen again."--Jewish Currents

About the Author

Stephen Eric Bronner is Professor of Political Science and Comparative Literature at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey. He is the author of numerous books on contemporary political thought and culture, including Ideas in Action: Political Tradition in the Twentieth Century (Rowman and Littlefield, 1999) and Imagining the Possible: Radical Politics for Conservative Times (Routledge, 2002).

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4.0 out of 5 stars The lie that won't die June 28 2008
By Pieter Uys HALL OF FAME TOP 50 REVIEWER
In the introduction, the author calls this infamous forgery The Manifesto of Antisemitism. Responsible for much violence and bloodshed, the Protocols targeted Jews and Freemasons; it remains the most notorious conspiracy of all time.

The text represents a pathetic level of discourse with tortured prose, blatant contradictions, banal imagery & stereotypes and preposterous projection. Ultimately its worth derives from what it reveals about the mind of the antisemite.

Part 2 consists of selections. Stylistic similarities to contemporary conspiracy theories like those of the 911 Troofers overwhelm you.

The "elders" inform their followers that they are causing economic crises, creating discord through contradictory opinions, establishing monopolies, controlling the media & financial system, undermining education and eradicating Christianity.

Whilst it is primarily an attack on enlightenment values, its portrayal of Jews as omnipotent speaks volumes. The over-used word "goyim" implies a helpless flock of sheep. Nowadays cattle as I learnt from a recent encounter with a conspiracist. Goats next!

Part 3 looks at varieties of antisemitism, the cultural atmosphere of the time and the rejection of modernity.

Judeophobia existed in classical antiquity, infected Christianity soon after its birth and triumphed along with the victory of the Constantine version. It is present in the foundational texts of both Islam and Christianity in a web of contradictions, historical impossibilities, suspiciously vivid imagery and venomous language which is the very opposite of the authentic words of Jesus, as far as these can be identified.

The roots of the calumnies are here, from deicide to blood libel to replacement theology.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The lie that won't die June 28 2008
By Pieter Uys - Published on Amazon.com
In the introduction, the author calls this infamous forgery The Manifesto of Antisemitism. Responsible for much violence and bloodshed, the Protocols targeted Jews and Freemasons; it remains the most notorious conspiracy of all time.

The text represents a pathetic level of discourse with tortured prose, blatant contradictions, banal imagery & stereotypes and preposterous projection. Ultimately its worth derives from what it reveals about the mind of the antisemite.

Part 2 consists of selections. Stylistic similarities to contemporary conspiracy theories like those of the 911 Troofers overwhelm you.

The "elders" inform their followers that they are causing economic crises, creating discord through contradictory opinions, establishing monopolies, controlling the media & financial system, undermining education and eradicating Christianity.

Whilst it is primarily an attack on enlightenment values, its portrayal of Jews as omnipotent speaks volumes. The over-used word "goyim" implies a helpless flock of sheep. Nowadays cattle as I learnt from a recent encounter with a conspiracist. Goats next!

Part 3 looks at varieties of antisemitism, the cultural atmosphere of the time and the rejection of modernity.

Judeophobia existed in classical antiquity, infected Christianity soon after its birth and triumphed along with the victory of the Constantine version. It is present in the foundational texts of both Islam and Christianity in a web of contradictions, historical impossibilities, suspiciously vivid imagery and venomous language which is the very opposite of the authentic words of Jesus, as far as these can be identified.

The roots of the calumnies are here, from deicide to blood libel to replacement theology. A series of "saints" like Melito of Sardis, Tertullian, Chrysostom and Augustine as well as the reformer Martin Luther kept Anti-Judaism alive or inflamed the hatred.

In time these myths & images entered the collective subconscious of the West. They migrated to Christianity's secular Salvationist offspring like nationalism, fascism, socialism and the First Church of the Boiling Globe.

Anti-Judaism was religious intolerance. The post-Enlightenment prejudice was of a social type; reactionaries wanted to recreate the ghetto. The final stage was denial of individual as well as group identity.

Emancipation succeeded in the USA and UK because the constitutional Anglo-Saxon version of (classical) liberalism was more effective than the continental in protecting individuals against the state. With the exception of the Netherlands, no genuine liberal tradition exists in Europe.

The Protocols aided in the formation of a new type of political antisemitism by integrating the existing religious, social and political dimensions and tying the trends of modernity to "the Jewish spirit". The concept of race provided the plague with an anchor.

Part 4 investigates its origin and permutations from 1890 to 1913. Most likely compiled between 1894 & 1898, the text first appeared in a Russian newspaper in 1903 and represented a flourishing antisemitic literary tradition.

The 1868 novel Biarritz provided some inspiration but most of the text was plagiarized from Dialogue in Hell: Conversations between Machiavelli and Montesquieu by Maurice Joly, a 1864 book critical of Machiavelli. Bronner goes into much detail about the personalities involved in the original forgery and its distribution.

Part 5 traces its path to fame, initially as bridge between the romantic nostalgia of the old right & the neo-romantic racial obsession of the new. Fascism as Salvationist movement promised to end class conflict, economic chaos and the threat of anarchy; it also infused antisemitism with a new missionary zeal. Fascist organizations across Europe promoted the pamphlet; even churches endorsed it.

It was published by newspapers worldwide, French writers like Celine loved it, Henry Ford sponsored its publication in America, it inspired Ezra Pound and "Father" Charles Coughlin used it in his broadcasts. Its popularity lasted through the 1920s and the next decade.

Those who fought against it include Pierre Charles, Lucien Wolf, Binjamin Segel and Rev Elias Newman. It was exposed as plagiarism and forgery in the famous Swiss trial of the 1930s.

The final chapter examines contemporary antisemitism. Since publication of this book in 2000 the plague has returned in virulent new strains; it seems the author is aware of a new variety but unwilling to name it.

The Protocols confirms that antisemitism is a faith in which projection equals prayer. The perceived power of the Jew reflects the antisemite's impotence. When he accuses the Jew of being an insalubrious chameleon in roles like capitalist, communist, corrupter or deviant he reveals the viral nature of antisemitism, a contagious mental virus with remarkable powers of mutation.

Bronner believes that antimodernism and Judeophobia are twins and that Jews are safest where liberal institutions are strong and cosmopolitan culture thrives. I agree but having recently read Menace in Europe I think the idea's universal validity ought to be re-examined.

Warning against postmodern interpretations of the Protocols, he argues that claims must be measured with reference to empirical reality. Amen! And this would have been the ideal passage in which to utter those "verboten" words: Liberal Antisemitism. Suspicion of conservatives and "the right" is evident throughout the book. I respectfully disapprove. Yes there are some creepy things on the right like traditionalist Paleotards but postmodernism is not on their menu of grotesqueries.

In the light of history Bronner's distrust of Christianity is understandable but like Abraham Foxman he ignores the threat from the religious left as expressed through their divestment campaigns. Traditional American Christianity contains Philosemitic strains that will forever stick closer than a sibling to both the State of Israel and the diaspora community. Never underestimate the power of archetypes, in this case Ruth who clung to Naomi.

Penultimately, the unwarranted agonizing in The Vanishing Jew wearies the soul. Bronner is concerned about " ... an eschatological orthodoxy and an expansionist xenophobic Zionism" that holds the constitutional state and multicultural society in contempt. Such tendencies are not much in evidence in the USA or Israel where the rule of law has not buckled in the face of terrorism and existential threats. As for multiculturalism, I'm sure he employs the concept in a positive way as representing tolerance, mutual respect and the intellectual/spiritual riches to be gained from cultural sharing.

Unfortunately the word is rapidly acquiring sinister shades of meaning when referenced to empirical reality in Europe. It is a matter of definition. So it is with his use of the word liberalism by which I am convinced he means classical liberalism. Sans qualifier the meaning seems to be shifting shape - just like antisemitism which is an expert shape shifter - according to Nick Cohen in What's Left or Jonah Goldberg in Liberal Fascism.
10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Conspiracy Theories and a Rumor about Jews March 31 2005
By Wilfredoa A. Ruiz - Published on Amazon.com
A Rumor About the Jews: Antisemitism, Conspiracy, and the Protocols of Zion, Stephen Eric Bronner, Oxford University Press 2003. 177 pp., Notes, index. $12.95 [ISBN # 0-19-516-956-5]

Reviewed by: Wilfredo Amr Ruiz

"Criticism of any work of political theory depends upon the ability to draw lines, no matter how blurry, between fact and falsehood or authenticity and inauthenticity, consistency and tautology" (Bronner, p. 131)
"And argue not with the people of the Scripture, unless it be in a way that is better... " (Qur'an 29:46)

" There is no substitute for an open dialogue, a willingness to deal with the genuine criticism, or an ability to justify claims by making reference to empirical reality. " (Bronner, p. 131)
"And say: `Truth has arrived and Falsehood perished: For falsehood is bound to perish."
(Qur'an 17:81)
"Say the truth has arrived, and falsehood neither creates anything new, nor restores anything. " (Qur'an 34:39)

The worldwide known Protocols of the Elders of Zion, an evident forgery, has carried and still carries today a considerable weight in the historical and contemporary analysis of the antisemitism. Stephen Eric Bronner's book: A Rumor a About Jews: Antisemitism, Conspiracy, and The Protocols of Zion, exposes the author's thesis on the origins, sources, development, `consumption', applications, influence, effects, and present survival of the forever enigmatic and mysterious Protocols. This book is thus, an exceptional approach in the study of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion since it not only brings up to discussion the theories of its origins, distribution and their historical effects degenerating in the Holocaust, but also goes a step ahead in analyzing the present day force of the ever transforming purposes behind them.
In what appeared to be contradictory, Bronner qualified the Protocols as dead documents: "... The Protocols is no more a living document than Mein Kampf" (p. 7), but immediately recognized their present force and potential for resurgence: "Nevertheless, if political antisemitism is now mostly latent, it might still resurface and take dangerous forms." (p. 7). Bronner recognized antisemitism as a living present danger and in his book he aims to expose this by first providing the reader with a well summarized historical tradition of the Protocols, following with an analysis of its contemporary potential force and resurgence. The author presented on his study an in depth analysis of the phenomena of how the Protocols, even as a publicly recognized falsehood, have had not only the historical effects and marked influence in paving the way to the Holocaust, but also how they still influence the contemporary antisemitic thought.
In the fourth chapter of the book, Bronner brings the story behind the fabrication of the Protocols. Its origin is presented in the book as a forgery created around 1894 through 1899. The Protocols were a product of a plagiarized publication: A Dialogue in Hell: Conversations between Machiavelli and Montesquieu about Power and Right by Maurice Joly (p. 83), involving a perversion of its political intent (p. 85). It was first published in Russian language in 1903 with a cloudy origin as to its author. Bronner attributes its creation to the Okhrna (Russia's secret police) (p.1). On its origins the Protocols was used to blame the Jews and their `allies', the Freemasons, for the Revolution in Russia. (p. 1), expressing fear about the growing influence of socialism upon Jewish organizations in the country. (p. 89). On the environment at its origins Bronner described: "Judeophobia was, in short an important part of the political climate when the Protocols first appeared..." (p.89).
On the Preface to the paperback edition Bronner `prescribed' the medicine to counteract the ill symptoms of antisemitism: a devoutness to progress in a liberal democracy with its accompanying elements. Bronner recognized that antisemitism can only be `treated' but not cured:
"But it was not meant to suggest that progress will somehow magically make prejudice disappear: only that a cosmopolitan, liberal and socialist, world view is the most appropriate way of fighting it." (p. ix)
From my own Muslim perspective it also caught my attention that, although treated relatively light and superficially, in an obvious honest response to the historical reality, Muslim antisemitism appeared to be overly highlighted in the Preface. Bronner's multiple references and conclusions over this specific topic lacked of the overwhelming bibliographical references made in the annotations of the book with respect to the rest of the contents of his book. The rise of antisemitism on Muslim countries in response to governments' policies, publications, and other media influences coming from countries like Syria, Iraq, and Egypt was poorly referenced and sustained by Bronner.
On the other hand, the author made a very accurate approach to the study of the Protocols as he jumped over its fraudulent origins and contents in a very welcomed fast pace; thus moving the Protocol's untruthfulness to a lower importance status. "Whether the Protocols was proved a forgery or not ultimately made little difference to future antisemites who, while distributing the pamphlet, often openly admitted its questionable origins". (p. 122). Bronner classified antisemitism as an act of faith and focused then on the active role of Protocols into sustaining his theory of the active role that the Protocols played on the antisemitic thought development:
"But simply disproving the various falsehoods of works like the Protocols is insufficient. Antisemitism is ultimately, in practical political terms, a matter of faith: arguments become legitimate only insofar as they support the claim made on faith. Antisemitism presupposes a belief in the overwhelming power of an evil Jew. The Protocols cast a special light on it: the fanatical antisemite turns the Jew in more than a scapegoat. The Jew is responsible because the antisemite is not" (p. 8)

On the second chapter of the book Bronner provided a well-grouped summarized collection of exerts of the Protocols. The concise summary brings to the attention of the reader the very nature of the Judeophobia stating, among other allegations that:
"Through the press we have gained the power to influence while remaining ourselves in the shade." (p. 13); "All the wheels of the machinery of all States go by the force of the engine, which is in our hands, ... Gold." (p. 16); W shall soon establish huge monopolies, ...(p. 17); Around us again will be a whole constellations of bankers, industrialists, capitalists, and the main thing - millionaires, because in substance everything will be settled by the question of figures." (p. 19); We must have everybody vote... (p. 20).
As grounds to his further discussion on the influence of the Protocols, on the Third Chapter Bronner presented a discussion of the varieties of antisemitism. Bronner presented the Jews as having being constant victims of prejudice throughout history. Initially subjected to religious intolerance, presented as Christ's murderers. (p.34). Later during late 18th and most of the 19th century Jews would experience rishes, a social form of prejudice connoting a form of resentment and jealousy over their ability to make good on the opportunities offered them by capitalism. Following, on late nineteenth to early twentieth century a political expression of prejudice arouse: antisemitism; Bronner followed to claim that it is only then that the Jews would be: "...popularly identified as a race, feared as an international threat to Christian civilization, and finally subjected to systematic genocide." (p.34). It was in this stage were the Protocols made their entry and pounded their full weight into what degenerated later into the unfortunate Holocaust.
On its fifth Chapter Bronner exposed the career and dissemination of the Protocols as well as their influence and connection the political movements after World War I. Even though the Protocols were given a heavy weight in developing a fascist world view, the author recognized that: "The Protocols was, by itself, insufficient for the formation of a new fascist worldview." ( p.101). Bronner wisely subtracted some weight from the Protocols recognizing that it was not by itself the only and sufficient cause of the creation and development of the fascist worldview .
On his final chapter the author used the Protocols to bring up the current status of antisemitism. The author made a balance of his fatalistic view on the effects of the Protocols and qualified today's antisemitisim as: "...having become like a background noise, an incessant and irritating hum, that should not be mistaken for the real music." (p. 133). He also recognized that: "The destruction of fascism initiated what has become a strengthened commitment to the values of a liberal state..." (p.134). Outstandingly Bronner logically simplified the `reasoning' behind antisemitism: "Antisemitism is the stupid answer to a serious question: how does history operate behind our backs?" (p. 140). Bronner reminded his readers that the Protocol's issue is a universal problem and not one exclusively pertaining Jews: "Protocols was directed not simply against Jews, but rather the progressive political legacy of the Enlightment and modernity in general" (p.147). As such the Protocols came to be and still is the voice of those fearing that of what Enlightment encompasses: social liberties, cosmopolitanism, and rationalism. Interestingly he encapsulated those advocates of today's antisemitic policies as `losers' living in a state of paranoia and prejudice, "...victims of a self chosen blindness."(p. 146)
Bronner interestingly warned about the fear of today's fundamentalists and ultra nationalists and relate
4.0 out of 5 stars Useful lesson March 20 2013
By Mr. Stephen J. Brook - Published on Amazon.com
Verified Purchase
This book is a useful reminder of one of the most tragic events of the recent past. The saddest thing is that it is still necessary.
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