London, 11 March 2005 (RFE/RL) -- Book launches in Britain don't often take place in the halls of the British parliament, in the presence of a number of its members.
But that's exactly what happened earlier this week with the English-language publication of "The Lie That Wouldn't Die." The book authoritatively debunks the myth of a Jewish conspiracy to rule the world.
That belief was based on a 100-year-old book called "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion," which was translated into many languages and used to justify the murders of Jews in tsarist Russia and in the Nazi Holocaust.
James Clappison, who heads the Parliamentary Committee Against Anti-Semitism, organized the book launch. "Well, sad to say that some of the lies and some of the material which are dealt with so effectively in ['The Protocols of the Elders of Zion'] are still current today," Clappison said. "And I am afraid we can have no complacency about nailing them down [as false] as many times as we have to. It's sad to say that there are still today some extremist forces who peddle these sort of lies for their own perverted ends."
"I was most excited because it was published in Russia. I went to university, I went to parliament, to historical institutes. And for the first time, there were big articles telling the truth about 'The Protocols' in the Russian press. Never for a hundred years was the truth about 'The Protocols' out -- a whole lot of interviews with me and articles and live television, live radio, telling the truth."
The author of "The Lie That Wouldn't Die" is Polish-born Hadassa Ben-Itto, a former diplomat and judge on the Israeli Supreme Court. Much of her family perished in the Holocaust.
Ben-Itto is 78-years-old, yet radiates energy. She explained to RFE/RL how the book came about. "I represented Israel twice at the General Assembly of the United Nations, and [some people who were attending the assembly] quoted 'The Protocols' at me," Ben-Itto said. "And I had not read them, because Jews didn't read 'The Protocols.' We just said, 'The Elders of Zion'? Hah!' 'The Protocols' were translated into every language around the world, except Hebrew. So, after a few of these encounters with 'The Protocols,' which I describe in my book, I read them, and I became very angry. I wanted to know the truth."
Ben-Itto says "The Protocols" were written in Paris in 1895 on the instructions of a Russian secret agent, Piotr Ivanovich Rachkovsky, in order to justify tougher policies against Jews in Russia. They became widely known after being added as an appendix to a book called "The Great and the Small" by Sergei Nilus, which was published in Russia in 1905.
"The Protocols," Ben-Itto discovered, were based on a little-known book of imaginary dialogues between the philosophers Machiavelli and Montesquieu by the French author Maurice Joly. The book had appeared under the title "Dialogues in Hell" 40 years earlier.
The author of "The Protocols" lifted whole chapters from Joly's book, alleging they were records of the first conference on Zionism in the late 19th century. "I started researching, and the truth hit me in the face," Ben-Itto said. "I realized that the truth about 'The Protocols' is out there, but it was only told in academic, footnoted books. But 'The Protocols' are read by millions of people around the world. Unbelievable. So I decided to tell the public the story, readable for the general public --a popular book. I wrote it like a 'whodunit' -- a thriller. And because I wanted to be very precise, I did my research as a fact-finding judge. So it took me six years."
With the English translation, "The Lie That Wouldn't Die" has now been translated into eight languages, including Russian, Romanian, Bulgarian and Hungarian.
Ben-Itto says reactions have been positive. "Very good reactions," Ben-Itto said. "Three editions [were published] in Israel. It was 12 weeks on the best seller list in Israel. Three editions [were published] in Germany. [The respected news weekly] 'Der Spiegel' bought the rights to publish excerpts. German television sent a special team to Israel to interview me for a prime-time program."
Frank Cass of Vallentine Mitchell, its English-language publishers, says the book's success is due to its documentary evidence. "Hadassa Ben-Itto has proved beyond any reasonable doubt that 'The Protocols of the Elders of Zion' was a forgery," Cass said. "There is now no doubt about it, and anyone who uses it to promote anti-Semitic actions against the Jews are plainly using a text which has no validity. The book is, in my view, as important as 'The Protocols' themselves."
Ben-Itto says the book's publication in Russia was especially gratifying. "I was most excited because it was published in Russia," she said. "I went to university, I went to parliament, to historical institutes. And for the first time, there were big articles telling the truth about 'The Protocols' in the Russian press. Never for a hundred years was the truth about 'The Protocols' out -- a whole lot of interviews with me and articles and live television, live radio, telling the truth."
But she regrets that her book is unlikely to be published in Arab and Muslim countries: "We can't publish it in Arab countries, although Arab and Muslim countries are using 'The Protocols' as a major, major propaganda thing on television and radio," Ben-Itto said. "I have quotes here. My good friend Bernard Lewis is one of the most eminent experts on Islam in the world. He goes to Arab capitals. He's tried. He cannot get it published in an Arab country. Now, there is an idea maybe to translate it into Arabic and put in on a website."
In an interview with "The Times," Ben-Itto said the existence of "The Protocols" has left her with a moral dilemma. She said she is against banning books, which she associated with Nazi Germany. But she said a case can be made when something has been specifically designed to incite racial hatred.
She acknowledges that is now impossible due to the Internet. "So the best I can do," she said, "is expose it as widely as possible for what it is."