The Elders of Zion and the Masters of Discourse I
By Israel Shamir
The troublesome concept of the Hidden Hand or the Elders of Zion is superfluous and unnecessary.
"The latest controversy to involve the Arab World concerns a TV program A Rider without a Horse that started airing on Wednesday, Nov. 5th, the first day of the holy month of Ramadan on several Arab satellite channels. The source of the controversy is that the program is partly based on "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion", the old forgery originating in Tsarist Russia", writes Qais S. Saleh, a business consultant from Ramallah on the excellent website CounterPunch. Expectedly, Saleh condemns the broadcast and warns the Palestinians and the Arabs to stay away from the bad old wolf of anti-Semitism, or, as he put it, "the trend of importation of anti-Semitic bigotry".
Saleh's view coincides with that of Michael Hoffman, on whose site the Protocols can be found. Hoffman thinks Arabs have no need to import anti-Semitic arguments from the old and far-away sources, provided they have a fresh round-the-clock local source: actual behaviour of the Jewish state and its Jewish citizens. It is much more convincing than old tales.
However, the Protocols are still with us and still entertain minds. Recently, the leading Italian novelist and thinker Umberto Eco contributed his opinion on the subject to the Guardian. Eco "explains" the popular feelings towards the Jews: "They engaged in trade and lent money – hence the resentment towards them as "intellectuals". In my limited knowledge, it is not the intellectuals who lend money, but bankers and loan sharks, while true intellectuals find their behaviour repulsive. Probably Eco has a different definition of 'intellectual' up his sleeve. "The ill-famed Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion were a rehash of serialised fictional material, and prove their own unreliability, since it is hardly credible that "the baddies" would reveal their full purposes so blatantly" - concludes Eco.
One can forgive a business consultant from Ramallah, but Umberto Eco could notice that his definition would fit some other books, for instance, Gargantua and Pantagruel, an even older forgery, pretending to be a real chronicle of the Giants family, and built on 'serialised fictional material' . Don Quixote, Pickwick's Club, 1984 of Orwell - all these books "pretend" to describe real events to the same extent. They are 'forgeries', as they are ascribed to somebody else: Don Quixote to Sid Ahmed Benengeli, and Gargantua to Maitre Alcofribas Nasier.
The Protocols of the Elders of Zion are best described as 'pseudo-epigrapha', rather than 'fake'. They belong to the same category as Tomas Friedman's Letter of President Clinton to Mubarak. After all, pseudo-epigraphic genre is an old and venerable one. It is even better to consider the Protocols, 'a political pamphlet'.
In this essay, we shall attempt to find out why the Protocols refuse to lie down and die. We shall stay clear from the usual question, "who wrote it". Its real author remains unknown, and it is difficult to imagine this person, for the Protocols are a literary palimpsest. In the days of yore, a scribe would write his composition on a piece of old parchment, previously removing an older text. The erasure was rarely total, and a reader was treated to an integrated version of the Golden Ass and Fioretti of St Francis. In the Protocols, there are layers of old and even older stories, and it precludes meaningful quest for ultimate creator. Every text should be treated on its own merits, disregarding the question of authorship. Although, Jorge Luis Borges wrote that the author is an important part of a text. Indeed, if we would know the Protocols contain real blueprint of some Jewish elites, we would have our answer ready in minutes. But Protocols were published in the end of 19th-beginning of 20th century "as found", as apocrypha. They became a great bestseller and still stay there, though in some countries (notably the Soviet Union), mere possession of the text was punishable by death.
The Anonymous author of the Protocols describes a master-plan for vast restructuring of society, creation of a new oligarchy and subjugation of millions. The final product is not too different from the one described in a contemporary piece of writing, The Iron Heel by Jack London, the great radical from Oakland, California. However, London expected harsh cracking down, while Anonym's way to subjugation leads through Machiavellian manipulations and mind control a la Orwell's 1984. (Orwell's homage to the Protocols is even more striking as it is rarely noticed).
The difficulty of the Protocols is in an uncanny dissonance between its uncouth language and deep social and religious thought. It is a rude parody-like rendering of a satanic, subtle and well-thought out plan, wrote the Nobel Prise winning novelist Alexander Solzhenitsyn in his (written in 1966 and published in 2001) analysis of the Protocols.
"The Protocols . show a blueprint of a social system. Its design is well above abilities of an ordinary mind, including that of its publisher. It is a dynamic process of two stages, of destabilization, increasing freedom and liberalism, which is terminated in social cataclysm, and on the second stage, new hierarchical restructuring of society takes place. It is more complicated than a nuclear bomb. It could be a stolen and distorted plan designed by a mind of genius. Its putrid style of an anti-Semitic grubby brochure [intentionally] obscures the great strength of thought and insight"
Solzhenitsyn is aware of faults of the Protocols. "Its style is that of a filthy leaflet, the powerful line of thought is broken and fragmented, mixed up with ill-smelling incantations and psychological blunders. The system described is not necessarily connected with the Jews; it could be purely Masonic or whatever; while its strongly anti-Semitic current is not an organic part of the design".
Solzhenitsyn makes a textual experiment, removes words "Jews", "Goyim" and "conspiracy" and finds many disturbing ideas. He concludes: "The text demonstrates impressive foresight on the two systems of society, the Western and the Soviet one. While a strong thinker could possibly predict the development of the West in 1901, how could he grasp the Soviet future?"
Solzhenitsyn braved the Soviet regime, dared to write and publish the mammoth Archipelago Gulag, an indictment of the Soviet repression, but even he stalled and did not publish his research of the Protocols. He asked it to be published after his death only, and it was printed against his will in a very small number of copies in 2001. Let us follow Solzhenitsyn's line of thought and gaze into the crystal ball of the Protocols, while temporarily discounting its "Jewish line" and paying heed to the idea of creating a new system, not necessarily a Jewish-dominated one. The master-plan begins with reshaping of human mind:
"People's minds should be diverted (away from contemplation) towards industry and trade, and then they will have no time to think. The people will be consumed by the pursuit of gain. It will be vain pursuit, for we shall put industry on a speculative basis: what is withdrawn from the land by industry will slip through the hands of workers and industrialists and pass into the hands of financiers.
The intensified struggle for survival and superiority, accompanied by crises and shocks will create cold and heartless communities with strong aversion towards religion. Their only guide is gain that is Mammon, which they will erect into a veritable cult".
Foresight of Anonym is amazing: in the days of the Protocols' publication, Man was still the measure of things, and full eighty years would pass, until Milton Friedman and Chicago School would proclaim Market and Profit as the only guiding light.
The tool for enslavement of minds is the media, writes Anonym. "There is a great force that creates the movement of thought in the people, and that is the media. It is in the media that the triumph of freedom of speech finds its incarnation. Through the Press we have gained the power to influence minds while remaining unobserved. We shall erase from the memory of men the historical facts we do not want them to know, and leave only those we wish".
Years will pass since the publication until a small group of people who control our discourse while remaining unobserved, the media lords, would rise. The free discussion of the media barons, Berlusconi and Black, Maxwell and Sulzberger, Gusinsky and Zuckerman is banned from the media they own, while their cooperative affinity remains impressive. The freedom of discourse survives wherever independent (from media barons) media still exists. Hundred years ago, this force was much weaker than it is now, and it is amazing the Anonym recognised its potential.
A century before the rise of World Bank and IMF, the Protocols noticed the foreign loans are the best tools to rob countries of their wealth. "While the loans were internal, money remained in the land, but with externalisation of loans, all nations pay tribute of their subjects to the oligarchy". Indeed, the bigger loans poor countries get, the poorer they become.
Concentration of capital in the hands of financiers, concentration of media in few hands, extra-judicial killings of unyielding leaders, stock market with its derivatives sucks out wealth and it accumulates in the hands of the priesthood of Mammon, gain (or "market forces") as the only measure of successful strategy. Yes, the interest to the Protocols does not disappear because the described plan of creating oligarchic (not necessarily Jewish) rule is being implemented in real time and it is called the New World Order.
Sometimes, the Protocols are described as extreme-right-wing anti-utopian piece of writing. However, it spans both left and right-wing discourse. A right-wing writer would bless strengthening of Law and Order, but the following prediction of Anonym could be written today by a leftist libertarian, say, Noam Chomsky, witnessing the present transition to the New World Order: "The race of armaments and the increase of police force will bring forth society where are only the masses of the proletariat, a few millionaires, police and soldiers".
Continues in Part II
Last updated 24/11/2002