Arab Voice, an Arabic-language newspaper published weekly since 1993 from Main Street in Paterson, N.J., appears to be just another one of America's many ethnic publications.
Its news pages are replete with items about Palestinian travails and possible war with Iraq. Its featured columnist is James Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute. Its publisher, Walid Rabah, modestly describes himself as "an activist with the Palestinian Writer's Guild in the United States." Its pages are filled with ads hawking Arab-owned restaurants, travel agencies, real-estate offices, retail stores and doctors' offices.
It all appears achingly ordinary. But it is not.
For some weeks now, the Arab Voice has been serializing an Arabic-language version of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion in its pages (but not - revealingly - on www.arabvoice.com, its Web site).
And The Protocols is no ordinary book.
It purports to be the secret transcription of a Zionist Congress that met in Switzerland in 1897, as taken down by a tsarist spy and first published in St. Petersburg in 1903.
At the meeting, Jewish leaders allegedly discussed their plans to establish Jewish "sovereignty over all the world." The Protocols includes their boasts of being "invincible" and plans to establish a "Super-Government Administration" that will "subdue all the nations."
In fact, The Protocols is a fabrication forged by the tsarist secret police, the Okhrana, in about 1898-99. This pseudo-document had limited impact until 20 years later, after World War I and the Russian Revolution, when a receptivity had developed for its message about a Jewish conspiracy to dominate the world.
The Protocols quickly became a best-seller on appearing in German translation in January 1920. The former German royal family helped defray publication costs, and deposed Kaiser Wilhelm II had portions of the book read out loud to dinner guests. Translations into other languages quickly followed. Henry Ford endorsed the book, as did The Times of London.
Although the book's forged nature was established by 1921, somewhat reducing its appeal and reach (the Times and Ford both retracted their endorsements), it remained a powerful force. A 1926 study found that "no piece of modern literature has even approximated the circulation of The Protocols."
The historic importance of The Protocols lies in permitting anti-Semites to reach beyond their traditional circles and find a huge international audience. Its vagueness - almost no names, dates or issues are specified - was one key to this success. The purportedly Jewish authorship also helped to make the book more convincing.
Its facile embrace of contradiction - Jews supposedly use all tools available, including capitalism and communism, philo-Semitism and anti-Semitism, democracy and tyranny - made it possible for The Protocols to extend its insidious ideas to both rich and poor, Right and Left, Christian and Muslim, American and Japanese.
Its hold on the extreme right prompted a hitherto cautious Adolf Hitler to endorse the book, refer often to it and make it a centerpiece of Nazi Jew-hatred and a key argument in justifying his murder of 6 million Jews. In the words of historian Norman Cohn, The Protocols served as the Nazis' "warrant for genocide."
The forgery has since polluted public life wherever it appeared; as Italian novelist Umberto Eco explains, it was "self-generating; a blueprint that migrated from one conspiracy to another."
The process continues; this week, an Egyptian television station begins airing a 41-part blockbuster Ramadan special, Knight Without a Horse spreading The Protocols' defamation to a vast new audience and creating new legions of anti-Semites.
That a forgery that helped cause the Holocaust is now openly published in New Jersey points to two important realities:
- Arab and Muslim institutional life in the United States remains as radicalized after 9/11 as it was before.
- Arab and Muslim institutions are now the primary advocates of anti-Semitism worldwide, including in the West.
To prevent The Protocols from making further inroads in the United States, advertisers, James Zogby and the newspaper's printer must immediately and completely disassociate themselves from the Arab Voice. In addition, Arab and Muslim groups in the United States must explicitly denounce The Protocols and condemn all those who forward it, whether the Arab Voice or Egyptian television.
Not to do so makes them complicit in the prejudice and villainy of this foul tract.
Nov. 7, 2002 update: See "Follow-up coverage on 'The Paterson Protocols'" for the ramifications of this exposé.
Sep. 18, 2003 update: Almost a year later, Irfan Khawaja looks at this issue in "Some Questions for the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee," published by the Institute for the Secularisation of Islamic Society.