Gresham College Lectures

Antisemitic Conspiracy Theories: Past, Present and Future?

November 30, 2023 Gresham College
Gresham College Lectures
Antisemitic Conspiracy Theories: Past, Present and Future?
Show Notes Transcript

Antisemitism has existed and continues to exist on many levels, from unthinking prejudice to highly developed theories. Common to all levels is an explicit, or more often, implicit belief that all Jews, usually defined in racial terms, are conspiring secretly to undermine civilisation, order, or social and cultural stability.

This lecture considers the evolution of this conspiracy theory since the Middle Ages, examines its nature and operation today, and considers its future development.

This lecture was recorded by Sir Richard Evans on 22 November 2023 at Barnard's Inn Hall, London.

The transcript and downloadable versions of the lecture are available from the Gresham College website:

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It is great privilege indeed to have been invited to deliver this year's Alfred Vivino Holocaust Memorial lecture. Although, as Sophie said, when I accepted the invitation to do so many months ago, I scarcely imagined that I'd be speaking in the situation in which we find ourselves today. On the 2nd of November, staff at the Venner Library discovered that the sign outside its door in Russell Square had been defaced by someone who'd sprayed the word Gaza on it as the director Dr. Toby Simpson, who's very good to see here tonight, said in an act, uh, it was an act, obviously intended to cause damage and distress, and to use ignorance he added as a weapon against an institution of learning is stupid and wrong. To lash out against Israel by targeting a Holocaust institution is an action that can only make sense to anti-Semites and their enablers. This isn't the first time that an action of this kind has targeted the library. Five years ago in 2018, a poster in Russell Square Tube Station advertising an exhibition at the Venner Holocaust Library on a nationwide Nazi pogrom of the ninth or 10th of November, 1938 in Germany, popularly known as the Ice krisna or Knight of Broken Glass from the glass shards that littered the streets of Germany's towns and cities. After the windows of some seven and a half thousand Jewish owned shops and premises had been smashed by Nazi stormtroopers was defaced with the words free Palestine. But since 2018 and above all since the current crisis in the Middle East, the number and intensity of such in such incidents has multiplied many times over. As Dr. Simpson has said, the proliferation of antisemitic has hate in the current climate should be a matter of grave concern to us all. Between the first and 18th of October this year, the number of anti-Semitic hate crimes officially recorded in London amounted to 218. A dramatic increase from the 15 1 5 reported over the same period last year, from Saturday the 7th of October to Tuesday, 31st of October, the Community Security Trust, the British Jewish Organization that plays a leading role in protecting vulnerable sites and monitoring hate crime recorded 893 anti-Semitic incidents across the uk, the highest ever total recorded across a 25 day period. Since the trust began reporting in 1984, these incidents included physical assaults and damage to property as well as verbal abuse in person and online. The VNA Holocaust Library is the world's oldest research institution dedicated the history of the mass murder of some 6 million Jewish people in Europe by the Nazis and their allies in the 1930s, in the first half of the 1940s. It was founded in 1933 by Dr. Alfred Ner, as you see here, who in the years before the Nazis came to power in Germany, worked for the Central Association of German citizens of Jewish faith, a matting, a huge collection of anti-Semitic propaganda produced by the Nazis, including newspapers, posters, letters, memoirs, school textbooks, magazines, and other materials, which he eventually brought to London In 1938. The libraries continued to enlarge its collection over the years, and the directors now added the damaged sign to it, which is where of course it belongs. When I agreed to give this lecture many months ago, I chose the subject of anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. But now of course, I've got to address this in the context of recent events. On 7th of October this year, the self-styled Islamic resistance movement, Hamas founded during the first Palestinian uprising or ADA against Israel in 1987 as a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood and the ruling party in the Gaza Strip since 2006 launched a violent attack on Israeli territory, during which some 1400 people in Israel, including young people attending a music festival just three miles from the border were massacred. Some of them were tortured, including a young German Israeli female to two artists and peace activist who was dragged away, killed her body, stripped and paraded through the streets to cries of God is great from the men who surrounded him. Hamas did not spare children or old people or babies in the massacre, up to 200 Israelis and others, uh, more than 200 Israelis and others abducted during the assault are being held as hostages by Kamas at undisclosed locations. Here are some being taken away. In retaliation, the Israeli government ordered a massive airborne and then ground assault on Gaza, which has caused many more thousands of deaths, perhaps now, uh, almost 20,000 an inflicted extreme suffering on the inhabitants of the strep deprived of food, water, medical care, subject to continual, uh, bombardment. 2 million men, women and children who live there are experiencing suffering, which is aroused, horror and sympathy across the world, accompanied by growing demands from many quarters, including United States, uh, president for a, a ceasefire, either for a pause in hostilities to enable humanitarian relief to be given or a longer term end to the armed conflict. Essential supplies not only medicines and medical equipment, but also the basic necessities of life like food, water, and shelter being denied to most of the civilian population with devastating effects, maimed and injured children are forced to go without adequate treatment and are succumbing to their injuries. What lies behind these terrible events? Why have they come to, uh, lead to the rise of antisemitism in Britain and other countries that I began by describing? Let me turn, first of all to look more closely at Hamas and its ideology before I move on, to examine the politics of the present government of the state of Israel. That's Hamas for you. Who does it represent? What's its relationship to the Palestinians? In 1988, shortly after its formation, Hamas issued a covenant outlining its core aims and belief to document that breathes a spirit of religious fanaticism of the most uncompromising kind at its core, is a racist indeed genocidal conspiracy theory directed against Jews across the world. Hamas believes that articles 22 and 32 of the covenant declare that Jews were behind the French Revolution, the Communist Revolution in Russia, and most of the revolutions we heard and hear about here and there, as it says, with their money it goes on, the Jews were able to control imperialistic countries and instigate them to colonize many countries in order to enable them to exploit their resources and spread corruption. There they were. Hamas goes on. They were behind World War I when they were able to destroy the Islamic caliphate making that's, uh, let's say the Osman Empire, uh, making financial gains and controlling resources. They obtained the Baur declaration. That's the declaration that promised, uh, the Jews would have a state, uh, in, in, uh, at then controlled British controlled Palestine. They formed the League of Nations through which they could rule the world. It goes on. They were behind World War ii, through which they made huge financial gains by trading in armaments and paved a great way for the establishment of their state. It was they, I the Jews who, uh, instigated the replacement of the League of Nations with the United Nations and the Security Council to enable them to rule the world through them. There's no war going on anywhere. Hermas continues without having their finger in it. Today, this Palestine tomorrow will be one country or another. The Zionist plan, it says, IM limitless. After Palestine, the Zionists aspire to expand from the Nile to the Euphrates. When they have digested the region, they overtook, they aspire to further expansion and so on. Their plan is embodied in the protocols of the elders of Zion, and their present conduct is the best proof of what we are saying. So that's the end of the quote From the covenant of 1988. Hamas has never repudiated this covenant, but in 2017, it issued what was in effect. A new one described as supplemental, which made no mention of the protocols of the elders of Zion, focused far more exclusively on the liberation of Palestine from Israel, as they saw it toned down the religious element dropped the most obvious elements of antisemitism and committed itself in principle to ideals such as freedom and democracy. It still proclaimed the need for, uh, armed struggle and, uh, the aim of the, uh, destruction of Israel as a senior Hammas official. Azi. Hamad recently told the Lebanese television reporter here, 7th of October was just the first time. There will be a second, a third, a fourth, asked if Hammas was bent on Israel's annihilation. He replied, yes, of course. So in fact is in fact the aim of the struggle is not the liberation of Palestine or the defense of the people of Gaza. Indeed, one Hamas official asked by a television reporter, if the organization's more than 300 mile network of underground tunnels in Gaza could be used to shelter civilians from bombing raids from Israel explained this wasn't gonna happen. Quote, the tunnels are for us. Hamas, the citizens of the Za Strep, he said, are under the responsibility of the United Nations end quote, despite the 2017, uh, additions to the covenant, which are more secular and seemingly more reasonable in character, it's a naive illusion, I think, to think that this has anything to do with democracy, humanitarian, or even Palestinian rights. It's true that Hamas won elections in Gaza early in 2006, but opinion polls indicated that this was above all because voters thought Hamas would bring the rampant corruption of the Qatar government in Palestine and the Gaza Strip to an end, other polls carried out in Gaza at the same time, showed strong support for an agreement with Israel. In the summer of 2007, Hamas shown here, carried out a violent kta in Gaza, killing Fata officials and closing down the institutions of democracy. And since then, the Jihadists of Hamas have Brooks neither opposition nor descent, exercising a rigid Islamist extremist dictatorship over its inhabitants, including the end of elections, the banning of same-sex relationships, and the repression of women. Now, it's notable, uh, that its original and still valid. 1988 Covenant Hamas refers to the protocols of the elders of Zion. What is this document and, uh, why is it so widely cited by anti-Semitic conspiracy theories? The protocols are short tracked, published in Russia, in Zarris Russia that is in, in 1903. Uh, this purports to be the minutes or IE protocols of a secret meeting held by Jewish elders on the sidelines of the first Zionist Congress held in Basel in Switzerland in 1897, consisting of 24 short paragraphs. It presents an account written in the first person, uh, plural, uh, of how the Jews are averting civilization by creating economic chaos and undermining the political order through movements such as socialism and anarchism everywhere they cause revolutions and upheavals. They control the world's media dulling people's minds to the threat they pose. Once they achieve supreme power, they'll make Judaism the only permitted religion. All Jews over the world, it says, are controlled by the so-called elders who strategy for world domination they slavishly follow. Now, the protocols are an obvious forgery exposed here in 1921 by the London Times in a series of articles showing they were plagiarized from a mid 19th century. French satire rewritten with added elements copied from a gothic gothic novel written by an ultra reactionary German police agent and forger around the same time in the wake of the failed 1848 revolutions, uh, in the wake of the, um, a, a Bolshevik revolution in 1917. This is taken up by Russian reactionaries who, uh, brought it to the West, where it was translated into other languages and became well-known in far right circles the young extremists who in 1923, for example, assassinated the German foreign minister, Alana, a Jewish liberal, claimed to have committed their crime under its influence. The protocols cited by Hamas for a number of reasons. First and foremost, they claim to be proof of a world Jewish conspiracy that comes, and it's a crucial point from the Jews themselves condemned, as it were, outta their own mouth. Of course, this is nonsense. The 1897 Zionist Congress is a small rather obscure affair held at a time when Zionist, uh, Zionism. The, the, the movement to encourage Jews to settle in Palestine was a tiny organization, unknown even to the great majority of Jews themselves. The idea that it represented all Jews worldwide was no more than a fantasy it had and has no foundation in reality. Secondly, the protocols are not framed in the traditional language of Christian antisemitism. There's no mention of the supposed guilt of the Jews for the death of Christ or the Christian myth of the blood liable according to which Jews kidnapped and murdered Christian boy, Christian boys in order to drink their blood, uh, uh, in a, a kind of perverted ritual, or the accusation common sense and Middle Ages that Jews engaged in the ritual desecration of the host, the wafer wide used at Holy communion to carry the body and blood of Christ as a medieval illustration of this ritual, the influence of the protocols can be seen in some aspects of the 1988 Hamas covenant, such as the its mention of Freemasons and rather oddly rotary clubs as part of a world Jewish conspiracy. At its core, what matters is the idea that all Jews all over the world are acting in concert behind the scenes to achieve global dominion. It was an idea central to the ideology of Nazism, shown very clearly in the conspiracy theory that lay behind the collar horse, according to which the global community of Jews was the instigator of every action taken by Germany's enemies and therefore, uh, had to be entirely exterminated in his, uh, an astonishing Nazi propaganda poster, which imagines, uh, a Jews are, as it says, behind the enemy powers the Jew, and this is Britain, America, and the Soviet Union, all acting in concert, all steered from behind. You just have to think, uh, when, uh, about it to realize what absolute paranoid nonsense this is. Stalin himself, the Soviet Union was antisemitic. Uh, for example, there's, uh, no evidence at all for any, uh, Jewish influence behind Roosevelt or church, or the influence of the protocols can be seen in, uh, uh, therefore in in some of this propaganda for the Nazis, this kind of global conspiracy was a, a product of racial instinct. Already in the mid twenties, in his autobiographical tract and manifesto, mine come my struggle. Hitler expressed his belief that whatever their prominence, the protocols expressed in essential truth showing consciously, he said he wrote what Jews did unconsciously writing his diary On the 13th of May, 1943, the Nazi propaganda minister, yours of Bels agreed, has always been told by staff. He reported that the protocols were not suitable to be used in propaganda, but this wasn't the case. He concluded, even if the Zionist protocols are not genuine, he wrote, they were nonetheless invented by a brilliant critic of the age midday he went on. I touch on the subject in conversation with the Furah Hitler. The furah he wrote takes the view that the Zionist protocols can make a claim to be absolutely genuine. Nobody can describe the Jewish drive to world domination as the Jews themselves feel it. The Furah takes the view that the Jews don't need at all to work to a fixed program. They work according to their racial instinct, which will always prompt them to undertake the kind of action shown in the course of their entire history. The key aspect of the protocols was for the Nazis and others who cited them not what they contained, uh, which frankly, in many paragraphs is quite nonsensical. But the fact that they exposed or seemed to exposed or could be claimed to expose an essential truth about the Jews in the words of the Jews themselves, that supposedly all Jews everywhere acted in concert to implement a secret set of aims for world domination opinion within the leadership of highs about the relevance of the 1988 Covenant has for some years been divided with some taking the view that's a historic document, much of which no longer applies, others seeing it as a continued declaration of enduring fundamental principles. But the 2017 additions reasonable, as many of them seem, are belied by the events of 7th of October, where the distinction they drew between Jews and Zionists, uh, was ignored by the men who carried out the indiscriminate massacres of men, women, children, and babies, clearly driven above all by racial and religious hatred. The influence of conspiracy theory in a much milder form is evident in a much more widespread belief that Israel and its Jewish population are part of a global Jewish community that orchestrates support for whatever the Israeli government does. This can be recognized in claims, for example, that there is a Jewish lobby in the USA, an assertion that echoes the 1988 Hamas coven and further back the Nazi, uh, party in its belief that the press and the media are controlled by Jews manifestly untrue. Even in the case of Germany in the early thirties, where the non-Jewish press mogul, Alfred Berg was one of the most powerful media mags on the right. Uh, in of the time, Dominic Vidal writing on the antisemitism of the French far right now somewhat toned down under the impact of recent events, had described the concept of an all powerful Jewish lobby as a, a phrase that combines standard antisemitic fantasies about Jewish finance, media control and power. The term is the contemporary evident, uh, equivalent she says, of the protocols of the elders of Z. The absence of religious elements in the protocols pointed to a major change that had come about in the nature of antisemitism in the late 19th century. Up to that point, hostility to Jews had been a matter of religion. If an adherence of Judaism converted to Christianity, then in theory at least, they no longer be subjected to discrimination by the Christian majority in the country where they lived during the Middle Ages. And for a long time afterwards, Jews as a small religious minority in Europe had been to numerous restrictions on where they were allowed to live and what they're allowed to do. It's made them vulnerable to scapegoating in times of crisis, pushed by conspiracy theories that blame them, for example, for the massive and poorly understood mass deaths caused by the Black Death Bubonic plague, uh, in 13 48 49, uh, when they're accused of poisoning drinking water and subjected to massive popular violence above all in the Rhineland being burned alive here in this contemporary illustration. But the emergence of racial theory, drawing on ideas first put forward by the evolutionist Charles Darwin, the French racist artino and other writers, and then transformed into a kind of poisonous, which is Brew of Prejudice, shifted the focus away from religion and towards heredity. As we can see from the version of antisemitism espoused by Hitler and Bels, what religion Jews followed here in this idea was immaterial. Indeed, in some ways, the Jews were seen as more dangerous if they abandoned Judaism for Christianity 'cause it made them more difficult to identify what mattered was who they were descended from, what mattered were what their supposed racial characteristics were. Of course, this is absurd in more ways than one Nazi cartoonists showed Jews as hook knows, dark hair and overweight. Yet the third RIF forced them in, uh, from 1941 almost to identify themselves as the yellow star in order to make it easy to identify them. Nor could the Nazis ever work out definitively what to do with people who were half Jewish or quarter Jewish. Was their thinking like the Nazis here was their Jewish blood so potent that it overwhelmed their Aryan or German blood? What was it the other way around? And when it came to filling in a certificate of racial identity forced on all Germans under Nazi rule, the only way you could show whether or not you were to any degree Jewish, was by using the official census, which before 1939, defined Jewishness by religion and not race. During the 19th century, liberal reforms, extended civil rights to the previously disadvantaged Jewish religious minority. But this led to a counter reaction by di uh, extreme conservatives, of which the protocols, uh, or rather the sources in which they drew, uh, were an example. A further shift took place with a dissolution of Europe's global empires and the emergence of post-colonial ideology directed above all that righting the wrongs done by empire and by the continuation of European imperialism and American imperialism in other forms, one of the most notable of the 2017 updates to the Hamas covenant refers to Israel as the product of a racist anti-human and colonial Zionist project. And this is proved, uh, persuasive to many on the left. But is Zionism racist or colonial as a historian? Simon Seaberg? Montefiore has recently pointed out, and I quoting at the heart of decolonization ideology is the categorization of all Israelis historic and present as colonists. But Simon Si Fury says, this is simply wrong. Most Israelis are descended from people who migrated to the Holy land from 1881 to 1949. They were not completely new to the region. I'm going on. Uh, to cite what he says, Jewish people ruled, ruled Judean kingdoms and prayed in the Jerusalem temple for a thousand years, and then they were ever present there in smaller numbers for the next 2000 years. In other words, Jews are indigenous to the holy land and one believes in the return of exile people to their homeland and in the return of the Jews. Exactly, that even those who deny this history or regardless irrelevant to modern times, must acknowledge. He says that, that, uh, that, that Israel is now the home and only home of 9 million Israelis who've lived there for 4, 5, 6 generations. Yet he concludes his Israeli families. Residents in Israel for a century are still designated as settler colonists ripe for murder and mutilation. Contrary to ha Hamas apologists, he says, the ethnicity of perpetrators or victims never justifies atrocities. They will be atrocious anywhere committed by anyone with any history. And he might also have added that. After the extermination of 6 million Jews by the Nazis and their allies in Europe on the sole grounds of their ethnicity, Israel became a refuge for Jewish people fleeing persecution in many parts of the world, from Russia to Ethiopia. Given this history, the state of Israel, in my view, certainly has the right to defend itself, the right to exist, yet historically, thus has cost others dearly. Some 700,000 non-Jewish Palestinians lost their homes in the course of the state of Israel's creation outta the British mandate of Palestine in what Palestinians call the nakba or catastrophe. More than 500 Palestinian villages were destroyed or depopulated by Zionist militants in the late forties with their former inhabitants, denied the right of return. Many of them fled to the Gaza Strip where their descendants still live. But as neighboring Arab states waged war on the nascent state of Israel, over a quarter of a million Jews fled their territory or expelled from it, while many more left other Islamic countries and took up residents in Israel. Conflict has continued above all the war of 1967 as Israel defeated an attempt to destroy it by neighboring Arab countries, mainly Egypt, Syria, and Jordan. And again, in 1973 in the so-called Yom Kippur War. Since then, a peace process has brought a cessation of hostilities, though the original post-war, United Nations plan for a two-state solution with independent, uh, Palestinian and Israeli states living side by side Jerusalem being granted, international status has largely faded from the agenda. It's still surely in the longer term the only viable proposal for settling the con the, uh, conflict. And in the 1990s, the two-state solution for a time looked a real possibility. But they're now really massive obstacles in the way the Palestinian authority creation in 1994 as part of the peace process has turned out to be both corrupt and inefficient and also divided run by the Palestinian Liberation Organization . It is heavily factionalized and since 2007 has lost its role in Gaza, only controlling the West Bank of the River Jordan. If a two-state solution were to be adopted, this would be the basis for a Palestinian state. And currently the Palestinian authority controls only 39% of the territory of the West Bank with arrest being under Israeli military occupation. Since the 67 War, this is regarded as illegal by the international community, but it's been subjected to the creation of a growing number of illegal Jewish settlements established in both urban and rural areas. Since October the seventh, settlers have increased their aggression against the Palestinian and be inhabitants of the area well over 120 of whom have been killed by armed settlers. The current Israeli government has done nothing to stop the settler movement or bring to justice the people who murdered innocent Palestinian civilians. Indeed, it's doing everything it can to prevent a two-state solution. Prime Minister Netanyahu is on record of saying at a meeting of his own liquid party in 2019, that, and I quote, anyone who wants to thwart the establishment of a Palestinian state has to support bolstering Hamas and transferring money to Hamas. This is part of our strategy. He said, Netanyahu's cabinet includes extremist such as Biza ish, currently Minister of Finance, who declared there's no such thing as the Palestinian people. He displayed maps of Israel that include Jordan. Uh, he's advocated shooting Palestinian demonstrators and tweeted that Jewish and Palestinian women should be segregated on hospital walls. Anyone who wants to protect the Jewish people who said and opposes mixed marriages, he says, not a racist. Whoever wants to let Jews have a Jewish life without non-Jews is not a racist schott's, uh, decisive plan, as he called it, 2017 envisage. And I quote again, flooding simply. So the areas of Judea and Samaria with settlements and Jewish settlements, when this happens, he went on. The Palestinians are supposed to understand that they have no chance to get a state of their own. They'd have to choose between one of three options, a life of subjugation under Israeli rule, immigration, or a martyr's death. It's important to remember this context that some 25% of Israeli citizens are Arab, not Jewish with democratic rights that SSM Smartish and his fellow extremists would like to see removed more generally indeed, the Netanyahu government in which, uh, the times of Israel newspaper has observed the extremists are increasingly settling. Setting the tone has been dismantling key pillars of democracy, such as the independence of the judiciary, arousing, widespread, and furious protests in Israel. There's a cartoon illustrating, uh, the situation with regard to Hanya who's reforms of the judicial system. Essentially bring it under, uh, under, uh, uh, government control. Underlying all this is a claim that the Jewish people have been granted by God, exclusive control over a greater Israel in which the Palestinians have no right to live. The Gresham College lecture that you're listening to right now is giving you knowledge and insight from one of the world's leading academic experts, making it takes a lot of time. But because we want to encourage a love of learning, we think it's well worth it. We never make you pay for lectures, although donations are needed, all we ask in return is this. Send a link to this lecture to someone you think would benefit. And if you haven't already, click the follow or subscribe button from wherever you are listening right now. Now, let's get back to the lecture. But these extremists are not widely supported in Israel. Opposition within the country to Netanyahu is widespread and determined its government's failure to warn about and prevent. The Hamas atrocities of 7th of October have not been forgiven. Many Israelis are deeply uneasy about the policy of eliminating Hamas by destroying Gaza and a military action that's been carried out indiscriminately and without plausible exit strategy. And it's causing untold, horrific human suffering, as well as arising global condemnation and deeply damaging Israel's standing in the world. It's important to emphasize that justice Hamas and the Palestinians are not the same. The Netanyahu government and the Israelis are not the same either, let alone representing Jews elsewhere. In the end, in my view, the two state solutions, the only conceivable way forward to a longer term piece, plans involving land swaps seen here to make it more viable, have been in place for some time. At the moment, the extremists are in charge, but at some point, they have to find their way to compromise. The idea that Hamas can be eliminated purely by military means is completely unrealistic in my view. It leads to terrible atrocities against civilians. The Israeli Defense Force may bomb hospitals in Gaza because Hamas has built tunnels underneath them for military purposes. But all this does is to create yet more bitterness and extremism for the future. Among younger generations, Kama may slaughter Israeli civilians 'cause they think this is the way towards the destruction of the state of Israel, and its replacement by an Islamist theocracy. But the effect of this policy is the same only makes Israel all the more determined to defend itself. Wars end either when one side achieves victory, as in Europe and East Asia in 1945, or when both sides realize they're not going to win, as in Northern Ireland in 1998. Unfortunately, there's uh, no persuasive signs this is gonna happen, or either of these things gonna happen in Gaza anytime soon. There are widespread and growing demands for a ceasefire in Gaza. The conditions for this at the present are not anywhere near being fulfilled. First of all, there's no sign of the 200 and more Israeli hostages, uh, taken by Hamas on the 7th of October being released. Secondly, Hamas has shown no willingness to stop firing rockets into Israel, which it does every day on a large scale or abandoning its other military actions. Yet it's clear that without these commitments, Hamas would use a pause in a conflict to regroup. And re thirdly, the Netanyahu government in Israel has consistently rejected requests for a cease fire because it apparently believes it can achieve the total elimination of Hamas and doesn't care, uh, about the human cost. This is already involving both sides have been and are committing war crimes against civilians. Time will surely allow a better accounting of these crimes in terms of their nature number and severity. Likelihood of either side being held to account for them by the international community at the moment is very small. So I don't really see a clear way out of the current conflict. One modest step would be for the supporters and sympathizers of both sides to tone down their rhetoric and stop flinging about accusations of Nazism. Some Israeli politicians accuse Hamas in particular, behaving like Nazis. Though the prime motivation of Hamas is religious and that of the real Nazis was certainly not, others have claimed that. In contrast to Hamas on the 7th of October, the actual perpetrator of the Holocaust during World War II killed Jews reluctantly, though in fact, they did so with glee. And, uh, you can see this from the compilation of their testimonies in a book edited 20 odd, odd years ago by CLE and others entitled, those were the Days the Holocaust through the eyes of perpetrators and bystanders. You can read dead and nauseating testimony of Nazi mass murders who are clearly enjoying what they did. Hamas routinely refers to Zionists as Nazis. An equation made by the more extreme of its sympathizers, as in this banner carried during the recent pro-Palestinian demonstration in London. You can see there the star, the Jewish star intertwined with the soft. That's only a very small minority of the demonstrators, most of whom are, are motivated by, uh, a, a genuine, I think a genuine concern for peace and a stop to the slaughter. But language has its own effect in fueling extremism. It's made recently clear by the, uh, uh, home secretary that then home secretary. It's hard, hard to keep track, uh, or swell braman in labeling November the 11th, peace March, a hate march, which then called forth the real hate marches in the form of the violent counter protesters at the far right. It would help if politicians and parts of the news media could avoid inflaming the situation. Conspiracy theories in particular are a powerful element in driving extremism, not only in the Middle East, but in other parts of the world as well. One of the most influential is the so-called Great Replacement Theory, which, uh, posits a hidden conspiracy to replace the, the, uh, Jewish population of Israel with Arabs and Muslims who are deliberately having more children in order in the long run to take over the state of Israel. Or alternatively, uh, there's a hidden plot to replace the white majority in the USA with blacks and, and Hispanics, uh, and yes, Jews. This is from the, uh, Charlottesville, uh, demonstration of white supremacists a few years back. Far-right Conspiracists who allege there's a plot to force Sharia law in European countries turning Europe into Arabia have spread across the internet, particularly now since Twitter's being deregulated and anti-imperialist sentiment in the uk, as in other country, European countries, all too easily spills over into Islamophobia. There's been a sevenfold increase in islamaphobic incidents in this country since the 7th of October, including hate crimes and incidents of physical as well as verbal abuse. Even more bizarre conspiracy theories have emerged, including, for example, the idea that the atrocities committed by Hamas on the 7th of October were a false flag operation conducted by the Israeli security forces to provide a pretext for the bombing and invasion of Garza paranoid, paranoid conspiracy fantasy has no base at all in reality, and one of the most widespread conspiracy theories involves the self side fantasy of Q Anon, which puts forward the idea as an anonymous figure Q usually identify with. Donald Trump is leading a crusade against Hillary Clinton, various Hollywood media stars who are kidnapping young boys and draining their blood for medical and other purposes, of course, the modern version of the antiseptic Medieval Bloods liable in which Jews are accused, often with fatal results of committing the same crimes for supposedly reli religious purposes. A central figure and such paranoid conspiracy theories as being the billionaire George sro, who's used his fortune to support liberal causes. And it's no coincidence that he's Jewish by origin, such anti-Semitic conspiracies, uh, conspiracy theories spread with unprecedented repeated across the internet and the removal of content monitoring on some social media outlets, notably Twitter or X, as we must now call it, as well as Telegram, have made it easier for these fantasies to gain traction, controlling them more effectively, surely necessary if we were to stop the degradation of political discourse and truth, uh, and curb the dissemination of harmful hate-filled conspiracy theories. Well, as I'm speaking this morning, a short term truth has been negotiated through Qatar, between QAs and Israeli government to allow humanitarian intervention finally, on a meaningful scale. Perhaps this will be the starting point for a more lasting, more widespread ceasefire. Of course, many obstacles lie ahead, but we must surely hope that they can be overcome. Thank you very much. So, um, I'm going to take the chair's Proative and start with a quick question, if I may. Um, so part of what we are talking about tonight is a situation which has been fueled by the perpetuation of these conspiracy theories. Mm-hmm, <affirmative> like over history. And you spoke a bit and you sort of gestured about how these have changed over time and how, um, in the course of their sort of evolution, they never quite go away, but they changed. So it might have been sort of religiously orientated Mm-Hmm.<affirmative> at one point with the sort of bloodletting and all that sort of thing. Yeah. And that's sort of the religious element's gone, but we're seeing again, it reappears in different forms. Mm-Hmm.<affirmative>. Um, I suppose my question is sort of if I could draw you on a little bit more about how these stories have traveled through time, why they're so persistent, why they're so compelling to people. Well, first of all, as I said, uh, although there were Muslims in parts of Europe in in the Middle Ages, the Jewish minority was much more widespread in sort of small pockets. And this is a society, medieval Europe, which is dominated, it's universally religious. Uh, political rule is also religious rule. Uh, and that lasted well into the 19th century. But then, as I said, the, uh, when, uh, social Darwinism and adaptation of Darwin, uh, in a, a kind of racist sense, seeing, uh, history as a struggle between races for supremacy, then, uh, that involved the Jews. It built on the, on the, um, history of religious antisemitism and took on a new form with the spread of racial doctrine and racial racial theory. And you still have a minority because, uh, the Jews are banned from many, many activities in the Middle Ages and the early modern period, such as land earning, for example. And, uh, so they were focused in a, a number of particular occupations, law banking with money lending, because the, uh, Christian, uh, rule for bad money lending usy, it was, it was known. Uh, but so the Jews became, uh, concentrated in certain towns and in certain activities, and it was a kind of easy paranoid conspiracy theory to grasp for when you had an already discriminated minority who could then form a center of these, these fantasies. You get almost like a palest effect of Yes, exactly. Stories, feeding stories, begetting stories, yeah. And so on. Right. So we've got some great questions coming through for you. Um, so radio fours all in the mind this week cites a study that the level of all conspiracy theories is quite static and has been since the 1960s. Um, has there been much fresh recent, um, research into, um, specifically anti-Semitic theories? Do you know? Or is this an area that we need to catch up on? Yes. Uh, well, of course there are teams, uh, of academics and researchers and social scientists everywhere working on conspiracy theories. Um, I ran one in Cambridge from 2013 to 2018, funded by the Lie Him Trust. Uh, and we looked at a whole range of conspiracy theories, um, because they have become more widespread, more frequent and applied to almost everything, almost, almost nothing of any note happens in the world without somebody developing a conspiracy theory about it, uh, these days. And that is also partly the influence of the, of the internet, um, uh, and of course work on apparently superficially, uh, non antisemitic conspiracy theories. Like Q Anon has then turned out, turned up that the, the, uh, ha has revealed there actually the, the antisemitic background to them. So there's a lot of work is going on here. They, it's essentially always the same kind of conspiracy theory, conspiracy theories, uh, the ascription of, uh, events to a hidden machinations, uh, and intentions of a, a group of people, whether it's a large one or a small one. Uh, so there's a lot of work going on in this area, and we're learning more about them all the time. But it's like the, uh, the legend of, uh, Hercules and the Hydra. You know, every time you chop one head off, another one turns up. And it's interesting how these, um, stories will somehow seem to find a way to connect to each other. Yes. So they have this sort of That's right. Hugely conspiratorial metaverse, yes. In the end. Wonderful.<laugh>. Very, very exciting. Mm-Hmm. Um, so someone wanting to draw a little or pull this, um, element out a little bit further. What, what are the pur what is the purpose of these theories? I mean, I think you've touched on that, but maybe more specifically, why, why do you so often the focus of them, Why do, why do I why do you so often the focus of these sort of, uh, theories or conspiracy theories? Yeah. Well, um, if you, of course, psychologists have looked at the people who spread them, and partly political motivation, uh, it's partly has a sort of psychological compensation. So when you look at who supports them, uh, you often find that it's people who feel disempowered in some way or marginalized. Uh, we had in our project, uh, an arrangement with Ugo, the pollsters, the pollsters, and just before Brexit, uh, they, uh, investigated the propensity of supporters and members of different political parties to believe in conspiracy theories of some kind or another. And, uh, we, we found that supporters of EU kipp were much more likely to believe in conspiracy theories, obviously, 'cause they felt they were out outside the mainstream. And it's also, um, you have a, a, if you believe in conspiracy theory, what you believe in is that you and your friends know the real truth behind whatever it might be. Nine 11, uh, is one example. Um, moon landings not necessarily political, uh, but you know, the real truth. And that gives you a feeling that you are much better than scientists. You know, that COVID-19 was manufactured in a Chinese lab, for example, you know, uh, that, uh, you have the truth about the vaccines that, uh, covid vaccines, that they're really a conspiracy by Bill Gates and others to inject people, and they'll throw a switch and you all turn it to zombies. So, uh, and this eminent scientists and distinguished people are all fools. You are the one with the real knowledge, and that has a huge psychological compensatory effect. So if you're not doing quite so well, or as well as you think you should be doing in the world, in society, then maybe you find stories for reasons. Well, it could be, yes. I mean, in the 18, um, 1880s, 1890s in rural Protestant, rural Germany, for example, um, there's an economic crisis in 1873, and a lot of hardworking small farmers found that they were going bankrupt without actually being anything to do, able to do anything about it. And they were then, uh, became recruited by, uh, anti-Semitic activists who said, look, it's all the fault of the Jews in the banks in the cities. Um, you, you may not, you know, you can't work harder. The harder you work, the worse it getss, but it's all a plot to destroy your good, hardworking Germans. Mm-Hmm, <affirmative>. Okay. So, um, there's another question here. Um, are we seeing something actually right now just a little bit different? So we've been talking about conspiracy. Some conspiracy theories is something which, although quite possibly your farmers are a useful link here as something that often belongs to a sort of fringe minority or a very right wing minority. But increasingly, we're actually seeing elements, elements, aspects of them cited by, um, a kind of new anti-racist, almost Black Lives Matter style view of Israeli white colonists. Is this, is this quite firstly, is this quite a, a sort of new departure? Um, and is this something we should be concerned about? We've certainly got, um, more traction, I think, recently. Um, but, uh, I, it doesn't seem to me that Palestinians and pro Palestinians are conspiracy theorists. Uh, what they believe is there is a hidden truth behind Zionism, which there's a form of imperialism and colonialism, but it's not the same level as, um, antisemitic conspiracy theories, for example. So I think that is relatively new. Uh, and it has existed for some time, but it's now much more widespread. So the distinction to jaw maybe is that there is, um, do you, would you say that there's more of a sort of conscious condemnation of Israel, rightly or wrongly, but not necessarily, but that's a distinction we should draw from something more anti-Semitic. Yeah. It's been around for a time, I think. Okay. Um, let's see. Um, so a couple of questions, again, drawing back to these ideas about how, um, the internet and media is fueling this. Mm-Hmm, <affirmative>, I've got a question from Victoria. Thank you, Victoria. How much of social media is fueling the rise of anti-Semitic crimes? And then, um, someone else said into this, which I think connects so we'll put them together. Um, how much stock do you think there is in the i in the idea that we are in a post-truth era? And has there been any great shift in the way these conspiracy theories are being propagated and spread now? Yes. I, I think, uh, a lot of this goes back to the internet because particularly if, like, say Elon Musk, you, you built, you, you destroy or, or remove safeguards such as they are that have been put on, uh, language used and opinions and so on. Um, you know, before the arrival of the internet, which remember it's incredibly new. I mean, we're talking about maybe the last 20 years, if that 15 to 20 years. Um, the, uh, then you had gatekeepers of opinion expression and reporting and, and so on. You had magazine editors, newspaper editors, TV and radio editors. Uh, you, uh, there's a lot of restrictions, structural restrictions on how wacky ideas, for example, could be passed around. Uh, but the internet has allowed, uh, sort of bypasses all of that. So there's an enormous explosion of unsubstantiated, uh, and, and unprovable, um, uh, uh, expressions of opinion and theories. Um, you and the internet, of course, uh, it's not a, not like a magazine which has 5,000 word articles in it. You've got 280 characters, and that means that, or is it words Anyway, it's a very restricted number, and that, that means that all you can do is express your opinion. You can't have a rational argument on the internet at all, except by providing links and references to serious long, uh, long pieces of journalism or, or academic writing. Uh, so whoever shouts loudest is, is heard. And I think that's the kind of degradation of public discourse. And you mentioned that in your Ity. Yeah. Which is seriously worrying, you know? So in that case, just to finish this off then, and hopefully maybe drift to a more, more positive note. So what kind of things might we be thinking about now to sort of, you know, in terms of education or reshifting the public sort of conversations so that whilst we can, we can still talk about difficult things, we can still have differences of opinions, we can still ask maybe, um, awkward questions, but it doesn't have to resort into these small echo chambers or pithy, you know, 140 character opinions. What Can we do? Well, the echo chamber is, of course, that's an idea as well, because the algorithms of, of, um, on the internet steer you towards people that have the same views as you. Uh, and so rational argument becomes much more, much more difficult. I think, what can we do? Uh, we can have, uh, sorry, say more regulation. I think Elon Musk is causing a great deal of harm with his, uh, absolutist free speech idea, allowing people like Trump to spread his lies across the internet, for example. Um, I think you can, uh, the other thing is you just have to get, uh, get down to it and, uh, circulate, as it were, factual rational rebuttals of conspiracy theories. Uh, I took part a few years ago. It was actually in 2019, uh, on, um, the anniversary of the 1969 Moon landings at the science museum, at which, uh, the scientists, I mean, I talked about conspiracy theories, but the scientists talked about, uh, the kind of fake news that they were spreading. So, for example, the idea that the moon landings in 1969 took place in a Hollywood studio is wrong on two counts. One, the, uh, photographic video recording technology did not exist, uh, by which you could put the stuff on two two, of course, the technology to land on the moon did exist. So, uh, and you know, you can show this in some detail, so just like I can, you know, it's a bit boring, but insist on the, on the truth or on rational argument and hope you'll get some traction that way. I think that's perfect ending. Insist on the truth and insist on rational argument and come to Aggression lecture. Absolutely. Yes, of Course. Professor Sir Richard Evans, thank you very much. Thank.