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What is the Protocols of the Elders of Zion?

By G. Melanson
Updated May 23, 2024
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The Protocols of the Elders of Zion or the “Protocols of Zion” is a literary forgery which propagates an alleged Jewish plot to accomplish world domination. Since its first reported publication in a Russian newspaper in 1903, it has been deemed by scholars as an antisemitic hoax. The Protocols of the Elders of Zion gained wider notoriety in 1905, when it was incorporated into to the second edition of a book about the Antichrist by self-named mystic, Serge Nilus.

The Protocols of the Elders of Zion is written in first person, posing as the perspective of a Zionist Elder. It instructs fellow Zionists on methods, or protocols, of conspiratorially dominating the world’s financial institutions and harnessing the power of mass-media. The protocols cited in the text include such societal problems as alcoholism and materialism, and thereby presents them as the result of an orchestrated plot. Excerpts from the text were plagiarized from a 1864 book by French satirist, Maurice Joly, titled, “Machiavel et Montesquieu (Dialogue in Hell Between Machiavelli and Montesquieu).”

Also known as “The Illuminati Protocols”, “The Jewish Peril”, “The Protocols and World Revolution”, and “The War Against the Kingship of Christ”, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion has adopted several different titles by various anonymous editors, and has been customized to fit varying antisemitic agendas. Following the Russian revolution of 1905, the Protocols were used to propagate the conspiracy theory that the Bolshevik movement had been a component of the so-called Jewish plot for Jewish world domination. Distributed publications of the Protocols were often printed bearing menacing occult symbols such as the mark of the Antichrist, “INRI”, or the tag line, "Thus we shall win".

In 1919, excerpts of an English language translation of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, now called the "Red Bible", were published in the Philadelphia Public Ledger. The text was presented as a Bolshevist manifesto, and all references to a purported Jewish authorship had been omitted. In 1920, the first English language edition of The Protocols of The Elders of Zion was published in London, under the title “The Jewish Peril” and sold out in five editions. Also in 1920, industry magnate Henry Ford, sponsored the publication of 500,000 copies; Ford also ran an antisemitic periodical, “The Dearborn Independent."

In 1921, Times of London reporter, Philip Graves exposed the Protocols as a combined plagiarism of both Maurice Joly's "Dialogue between Machiavelli and Montesquieu in Hell", and German anti-Semite, Hermann Goedsche's novel, "Biarritz." The Protocols were again exposed as literary forgery by anti-Bolshevik Russian emigre, Vladimir Burtsev, in his 1938 book, “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion: A Proved Forgery”, published in Paris. Despite its debunking, the Protocols continued to be treated as authentic, and was used as propaganda by the Nazis during the 1930s-40s as required study material for students in Germany.

The Protocols of the Elders of Zion continues to be propagated as an authentic text into the new millennium. The Protocols is a best-seller in Syria, Turkey and Japan; the basis of antisemitic public TV documentaries in Iran; referenced as factual in schoolbooks distributed under the Palestinian National Authority; and formally accepted by The Charter of Hamas.

Language & Humanities is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By anon45887 — On Sep 21, 2009

The protocols of the learned elders of Zion. Having history as witness, the proof is in the pudding! The controversy is justified! Blue print for world hegemony? Without doubt! A forgery? Yes and No Hating Jews because of the elders of Zion is akin to hating Germans because of Hitler! What all of humanity should lament and hate is the depravity that can be found in each and everyone who has ever been born of women, save one! The Christ of Israel the savior of all men and Lord of creation, who will soon make his presence known to all the world by the power of the resurrection! Resurrecting the King of his people, who sleeps in a foreign land, a land not of his fathers.

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