Conspiracy Theories: “World Zionism”

Blogging for me recently has become something of a chore, which is strange, because it never used to be. That’s not to say that I don’t still enjoy it – I do – but only that it has become more difficult for me to find the motivation to sit down and write. Now that summer is here, maybe I’ll be able to find more time… I talk a lot about different kinds of conspiracy theories on this blog, and I do it because generally I find them to be absolutely fascinating. I love learning about them, and I love reflecting on how these theories influence people to act in society. So today I figured I’d write about a conspiracy theory that is so ingrained into the landscape of conspiracism that when other conspiracy theories are articulated, you can often find this one nested within. I’m talking about the belief in the existence of an international Jewish conspiracy, and the belief that Jewish people are really the ones who control everything.


It is no stretch to say that the vilification of Jews is an old phenomenon. As far back as ancient Greece, members of the Jewish faith have been on the receiving end of various expressions of bigotry and persecution. Certainly during the time of the Roman Empire, Jews were often seen as persona non grata, and there are many examples of antagonism between Roman authorities and Jewish people. This conflict continued through the Medieval age in Europe, where the position of many churchmen was that Jews as a race, were guilty of the crime of deicide because, according to parts of the Christian scripture, Jews were responsible for the trial and execution of Christ. But many of the most horrific pogroms against Jews in the West did not occur until the first half of the 20th Century, where ostracism and persecution gave way to open campaigns of genocide. The earliest example of modern anti-Semitism can be found in one of the most notorious forgeries of all time, the Protocols of the Meetings of the Learned Elders of Zion. Published 1903 by Russian government operatives, the Protocols were supposedly the minutes of a secret meeting of the heads of a global Jewish power structure that was responsible for secretly running the world. The Protocols received a bit of a boost in exposure in the United States after they were published in the Dearborn Independent, a weekly newsletter published by Henry Ford. Yes, that Henry Ford. The Protocols were, as I said, fraudulent, though many believed – and continue to believe – that this piece of Russian propaganda was truth. And that belief has not gone away. Today, the Protocols are merely one of the forms of anti-Semitic propaganda floating around the interwebs. These papers – or excerpts at least – have become the foundations for new iterations of an old theme: Jews are secretly controlling the world banks, governments, and international organizations for their own, nefarious purposes.

Dogwhistle Racism and Anti-Semitism

These days, being a howling bigot is considered gauche by the standards of society, and so rather than, say, not being racist, modern-day anti-Semites – and racists of all stripes – do what they can to cloak their bigotry in more ‘palatable’ language; sometimes that language is coded such that certain phrases or words, while sounding innocuous are in fact signals to other racists that a like-minded person walks among them. “World Zionism” is just such a code. The term “Zionism” itself has a number of different meanings, but the most common two meanings are religious, and political.

  • Political Zionism: A nationalist movement dedicated to the establishment of a Jewish homeland in the Middle East around Jerusalem. The most obvious manifestation of this form of Zionism can be found in the movement that resulted in the creation of the State of Israel after the Second World War.
  • Religious Zionism: The belief that Jews, no matter where they live, ought to remain true to the principles of Judaism, and that they should retain their cultural practices and beliefs.

Within these two broad – and often linked – umbrella terms, there are innumerable debates, schools of thought, nuances, and philosophies. Zionism is many things to many people, but these are not the only ways that term is used. Here’s how the term “World Zionism” is used in white nationalist, white supremacist, or anti-Israel/anti-Semitic circles:

  • World Zionism: The belief that Jews are secretly attempting to – or have already – take(n) over the world and pull the strings of the world’s most powerful nations and organizations.

Can you spot the differences here? I should point out that when I type the term “World Zionism” into the Google Machines, 4 of the top 5 results link to explicitly white nationalist (so, racist) sources, including one leading directly to the homepage of Klansman and racist activist David Duke. The odd-duck out in those search results is the Jewish Virtual Library, where you can find information on the Zionist Organization, founded in 1897 and credited with much of the activism that went into the creation of Israel. In other words, “World Zionism” is a nifty code-word for the belief that those sneaky, perfidious Jews are out there, controlling the world and dominating the banks. Which is pretty much the core of contemporary anti-Semitism.

There is no Jewish conspiracy. There is no Grand Plan to perpetrate a genocide against white people, or force white people to marry non-white people. There is no program of Liberal Zionist Indoctrination or Cultural Marxism or whatever these folks are calling it these days. Occupy-Wallstreet-anti-Semitism-II-328x230

Like so many other racist, sexist, or bigoted beliefs, “World Zionism” has found new life online, where anyone can stumble upon it and add it to their repertoire of ideological and personal hang-ups. And that’s all this is: a hang-up. Like so many other conspiracy theories floating around, the belief in a global network of sinister Jewish figures running the show provides people with a narrative that is easy to understand and internalize. You didn’t lose your job because national and international structural inequalities, coupled with unsound fiscal planning and a reckless policy regarding sub-prime housing loans imploded the national economies of dozens of capitalist countries around the world: the Jews did it. You didn’t lose your life-savings because of a crisis in international banking: the Jews did it. You weren’t picked for a job, or denied a loan, or rendered unemployed by outsourcing, class-warfare, or your own personal choices: the Jews did it. They did it; them. Them. Because if it was Them, then it wasn’t you; it wasn’t me. It was Them. The Jews. The Other who is to blame.

If you are a poor, or marginalized person who has been victimized by a vast and nebulous thing like structural inequality at the national or societal level, then the thought of fighting back can be overwhelming. It can be overwhelming to figure out who to fight back against in the first place. But if the enemy is someone easily identifiable, then fighting back is as easy as shouting at that person – or someone from their group. It’s always easier to fight when the enemy has a face – even if it’s the wrong one.

You can find this sort of mentality in many of the more common conspiracist groups online, as well as among several of the less conspiratorial, but still reactionary movements out there. Look at the various “Men’s Rights” groups in operation online: many of their more central complaints – male workplace deaths, homelessness, and poverty – are best analysed as issues of socioeconomic status or class. It’s not rich men dying in the coal mines, or rich men fighting on the frontlines in wars, and it’s certainly not rich men who are at risk of homelessness, but rather poor men. Instead of activism focussing on this real vector of oppression or marginalization, Men’s Rights groups instead invoke the spectre of “radical feminism”, “female supremacy”, or sometimes simply women in general as the source of their problems. It’s a monumental challenge, after all, to marshal the energy and will to fight structural inequality, but singling out feminists – an already marginal voice – as the source of all one’s ills? That’s a lot easier. All it really takes is a quick glance to notice the correlation between rising social inequality and the visibility of women’s advocacy groups to make that connection – even if the link between the two is as unimportant as the link between instances of piracy and rising sea temperatures.lies-poster-color

“World Zionism” is a myth. There is no global network of Jewish oligarchs controlling the affairs of the world. There is no “Zionist agenda” guiding the policies of international monetary agencies. Jews are not the insidious puppet masters that anti-Semites make them out to be. What there is, is a long and dark history of scapegoating a people whose only crime is following a minority faith. They are one of the Western World’s perennial scapegoats and, in a somewhat ironic twist, the use of the term “World Zionism” is a shibboleth for white nationalists.

Cartoons and Fables – How Cosmos Got the Story of Bruno Wrong

Now, don’t get me wrong; I enjoyed the latest incarnation of Cosmos. I loved the Carl Sagan version as well, because both versions did their best to communicate the wonder of scientific discovery to a lay audience. And that’s great.

What bothers me however, is how quickly – and unthinkingly it seems – these shows veered off course and into unfamiliar waters. Sagan and DeGrasse Tyson were/are both formidable scientists with some pretty hefty CVs attached to their names; Seth McFarlane, the new Cosmos’ executive producer is a talented screenwriter and television producer. But historians and social scientists they ain’t.

Again, because it bears repeating (and apparently needs to be repeated): being an expert in one field does not make you an expert in others, and just because you want to tell the wonderful story of the evolution of science, doesn’t mean that you should get a free pass on bungling history. If you want to know how things went down in the past, why not take the time to actually ask an historian, instead of parroting worn-out pseudohistorical myths and New Atheist fables as fact?

Here’s a blog post that says it much better than I. Take it away, Tim…

The Renaissance Mathematicus

One of the joys of writing this blog is that I have a number of readers/commentators who are more intelligent, more knowledgeable, more erudite and above all more sensible than I. Every now and then I succeed in trapping, blackmailing, bullying or conning one of them into writing a guest post in order to give you the readers an alternative perspective on the world of the history of science and the chance to read something of quality. This time I have succeeded in acquiring the literary services of Tim O’Neill, historian and inexhaustible warrior against the misuse and abuse of the history of science. In his post Tim adds his tuppence worth to the debate raging far and wide about the Bruno cartoon in the first edition of the Cosmos reboot. Enjoy! 

A few months ago while visiting Rome I did something a tourist should not do in a strange…

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