When American Jews first discovered that the Protocols were being disseminated throughout their country, Charles Reznikoff said they thought it would be inappropriate, “humiliating” and “beneath their dignity” to acknowledge or respond to them. Louis Marshall, a constitutional and civil rights attorney, a founder of the American Jewish Committee and one of the foremost leaders of the American Jewish community, explained that they thought the Protocols seemed “so infantile in character that men of intelligence would laugh at it.”
“To Our Fellow Citizens”: Debunking the Myth
Once American Jews saw the extent to which these lies and innuendos were being circulated and believed, they realized silence was no longer a valid response, Reznikoff noted. On December 1, 1920, the major Jewish organizations published an address “To Our Fellow Citizens” that appeared in many of America’s leading newspapers in its entirety, and in practically every other daily newspaper in extended abstract. The absence of any refusal or reluctance to publish this editorial was all the Jewish leadership could have asked from the media.
The organizations signing the editorial were the American Jewish Committee, the Zionist Organization of America, the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, the Union of Orthodox Congregations, The Provisional Organizations for American Jewish Congress, the Independent Order of B’nai B’rith and the Anti-Defamation League, the Conference of American Rabbis, the Rabbinical Assembly of the Jewish Theological Seminary, and the Union of Orthodox Rabbis of the United States and Canada.
Written by Marshall, the article systematically debunked the Protocols’ libels against the Jews. There was no such thing as the Elders of Zion organization or any other such Jewish entity with a mandate to topple civilizations in order to control the world. The Jewish people never imagined establishing a Jewish dictatorship, destroying other religions, interfering in commerce, or conspiring with any of the other groups for any purposes put forth in the Protocols.
The article gave some historical background to support the above-mentioned points: After the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem by Titus in 70 CE, the Jews were forced to wander the world in search of refuge, to avoid persecution. They did not have civil or political rights, let alone a political state of their own. Until World War I, the Jews of Europe, comprising the majority of Jews in the world, were still not allowed to become citizens in lands where their forebears had lived for generations.
Efforts by European Jews to earn a livelihood were impeded at every turn. Rather than scheming to rule the world, they wanted to be left alone so they could live in peace. Jews comprised less than one percent of the world’s population, yet more than half of them were on the brink of starvation. The idea that in this pathetic state, a group of Jewish elders were meeting clandestinely to seize power and dominate the other 99 % of the world’s inhabitants was so ludicrous that even “madness” could not have conceived of something “more preposterous.”
Further, the Protocols never mentions where these secret elders live, who they are, the nature of their organization or what sources revealed their secret plans to assume world domination.
Significantly, the Protocols have no signatures, though they are alleged to have been signed by Zionist representatives. The locations of the central Zionist office and of the secret vaults from which the Protocols were surreptitiously removed remain a mystery.
The Jewish representative attending the First Zionist Congress, held in Basel, Switzerland on August 29–31, 1897, met openly to discuss the miserable plight of their brethren in Eastern Europe and to find a way for them to seek shelter in the Holy Land, observed Reznikoff. Theodor Herzl, the father of modern political Zionism, presided at the Congress, which was held publicly, and not in the clandestine manner in which the elders’ meeting was alleged to have taken place.
Marshall asserted the allegation of a Zionist initiation process was also a “malicious” attempt to establish a link between Jews and Freemasons in order to subject the Jews as well to the bizarre and implausible charges leveled at Freemasonry, which is to conspire to control the world. To achieve this objective, Freemasons have been accused of being responsible for fostering revolts, but they simply “belong to the oldest fraternal organization in the world.” It was never mentioned, Reznikoff noted, that 15 American presidents, including George Washington and leading US, and European statesmen were members of the order.
The attempt by the Black Hundreds, the Russian counter revolutionary movement, “to crush” the Jews to thwart the liberalization of the Russian government, did not surprise the American Jewish community. A few years earlier, in 1913, the Russian Government falsely tried Mendel Beilis, a Jewish workman, for brutally murdering a young boy near the city of Kiev, in order to use his blood for Passover matzos. Although Beilis was ultimately cleared of this ritual murder charge, the trial highlighted the antisemitism in the Russian Empire. Bernard Malamud’s 1966 fictionalized novel of the case, “The Fixer,” won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction, and novelist Maurice Samuel’s excellent narrative “Blood Accusation: The Strange History of the Beilis Case” excellent narrative also received wide acclaim
Dr. Alex Grobman is the senior resident scholar at the John C. Danforth Society, a member of the Council of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East, and he is on the advisory board of the National Christian Leadership Conference of Israel (NCLCI). He has an MA and PhD in contemporary Jewish history from The Hebrew University of Jerusalem.