LOS ANGELES (Nov. 28)
Jewish groups are applauding a landmark ruling by a Moscow judge that “The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion” is a forgery.
The ruling, which was announced Friday by Moscow District Court Judge Lyudmila Belikova, was the first such decision in the country where the notorious anti-Semitic tract originated.
In addition to labeling the tract a forgery, Belikova declared that publication of the “Protocols” by the Russian ultranationalist Pamyat organization constituted an anti-Semitic act.
The historic ruling concluded a trial that lasted, on and off, for 11 months.
The trial started when Pamyat filed a $19,000 lawsuit against a Moscow Jewish newspaper, Gazette, which had described the serialization of the “Protocols” in a Pamyat publication as an anti-Semitic act.
It is punishable under Russian law to incite ethnic conflict.
Belikova held that Pamyat was not entitled to any monetary compensation. She also fined the organization 200,000 rubles, or some $190 to cover court costs.
The “Protocols” was written at the turn of the century by czarist secret police agents, who in turn plagiarized most of the text from an anti-Semitic tract published in France.
In New York, the chairman of the National Conference on Soviet Jewry, Richard Wexler, applauded the Moscow judge’s decision.
He called the ruling “a milestone in combatting anti-Semitism in the former Soviet Union, and it is hoped that it will serve as an example to other judicial bodies in the region when faced with similar cases.”
“It is hoped that the court’s action will also send a strong message to anti-Semitic, anti-democratic elements in Russia that their views are unacceptable, and that czarist-era excesses will not be condoned” in modern Russia, he said.
‘A VICTORY FOR HISTORIC TRUTH’
The Los-Angeles based Wiesenthal Center had provided technical and financial assistance to the defendant in the case, Tankred Golenpolsky, the editor of the Jewish Gazette, which is Russia’s largest Jewish newspaper.
Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Wiesenthal Center, who traveled to Moscow to assist the defense, hailed the verdict.
The “decision is first and foremost a victory for historic truth and for the rule of law in Russia,” he said. Cooper also praised Golenpolsky for “having the fortitude to stand up to threats on his life and fighting the battle for truth.”
Commenting on the verdict, Golenpolsky said, “Anti-Semitism will appear every time prices on potatoes and bread go up.
“What is important is that law and government will take a stand,” he said.
The Los Angeles Times reported from Moscow that the judge based her ruling partially on testimony from a panel of three Russian academic experts who had examined the document.
The plaintiffs and defendant had both agreed to the panel, although Golenpolsky had stipulated that none of the experts be Jewish.
One of the experts, Lionel Dadiani of Moscow’s Institute of Sociology, wrote a 67-page opinion in which he concluded that the “Protocols” was a “prima facie apocryphal and anti-Semitic document.”
Throughout this century, the tract has been used as a pretext for pogroms in Eastern Europe. It was extensively cited by Adolf Hitler in his book “Mein Kampf.”
In 1927, an American judge ordered automaker Henry Ford to destroy a large printing of the “Protocols,” which Ford personally financed.