The Talmud teaches that in order to be credible, every good lie has to have a kernel of truth. This is not so when it comes to the libelous “Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” a totally fabricated tale about how Jewish leaders gather to plan controlling the world.

It is hard to imagine a text more heinous and scandalous, painting an entire people with a broad brush of utter falsehood. What is perhaps equally, if not more, scandalous is how people embraced this forgery and disseminated it widely as truth. Tragically, but not as surprisingly, many attribute much of the narrative to have originated from a Jew, Jacob Brafman. Brafman had a falling-out with the semi-autonomous “kahal,” the committee of Jewish leaders that would self-govern a local community. The battle with local Jewish leaders led him to convert to the Russian Orthodox faith and pen several libelous missives promoting the paranoid idea that the Jews met in secret to undermine Russian businesses, seizing property and gathering power. In 1868, Brafman published, “The Local and Universal Jewish Brotherhoods,” and “The Book of the Kahal” in 1869.

“Protocols” claims to document the minutes of the meeting of, as Brafman calls them, the “Elders of Zion” who were conspiring to control the entire world.

The Protocols of the Elders of Zion were first published serially in Pavel Krushevan’s St. Petersburg-based paper Znamia, beginning with the issue dated August 26, 1903, corresponding to the 16th of Elul. Four months earlier, Krushevan had triggered the Kishinev pogroms against the Jews. Articles based on the infamous Protocols were broadly disseminated, including in Henry Ford’s “Dearborn Independent,” beginning on May 22, 1920. Ford even sponsored the printing of 500,000 copies of the forgery. In 1927, due to pressure, Ford issued a retraction, although it is not surprising to note that he was a prominent early admirer of Nazi Germany.

On May 29, 1933, Congressman Louis T. McFadden read the charges contained in the Protocols in the Congressional Record, the first anti-Semitic speech in Congress. McFadden then used his Congressional franking privilege (free use of the postal system) to disseminate the speech widely, to anti-Semitic organizations. Thankfully, the electorate did not vote him back into office.

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