Published online by Cambridge University Press: 28 June 2009
At various times throughout the modern period, the myth of a “Jewish world conspiracy” has attracted adherents. Jews have been accused of plotting to take over the world by undermining the existing social and political order. The myth of the “Jewish world conspiracy” springs from diverse sources. As one source of the myth, Yehuda Bauer has pointed to the medieval anti-Jewish Christian accusation that, as the people of the devil, Jews, like the devil, aim to control the world. Others have highlighted the charge that Jews aim to avenge their century-old oppression by Christians, or the idea that Jews inherently strive for national and/or world power. Before the emergence of revolutionary socialist parties in the last decades of the nineteenth century, subscribers to the myth that the Jews covertly planned to take control of the world believed they had proof in what they perceived was the inordinate Jewish presence as “court Jews,” advising and financing rulers; in the role Jews allegedly played as leaders and members of the supposedly antichurch and liberal Freemasons (a secretive international fraternity for mutual help, advancing religious and social equality); and in the establishment by prominent Jews in 1860 of the Paris-based Alliance Israélite Universelle (the first international organization to represent worldwide Jewish interests). In more recent times, Jews were assumed to be the backers or originators of radical and subversive movements whose chief aim was allegedly to bring down the reigning national political order.