If you may permit me to be so crude, Benjamin Disraeli was the height of the new generation of Jewish intelligentsia who were born to their banker fathers in the nineteenth century. His singular achievement was perhaps not his conquering of the House of Commons and position as Queen's Minister, but his victory over London high society. For whatever measures had been taken to emancipate European Jewry in political terms, they always remained on the whole social pariahs. Aristocractic society demanded from its non-aristocratic participants eccentricity, by virtue of which a Jew could perhaps find admittance - but they were required not just to be exceptions from the rest of Jewry, but exceptional human beings in themselves.

Disraeli was a product of the secularization of the Jewish intelligentsia, the shift in focus from Judaism to "Jewishness". He was inordinately proud of his Jewish identity, a pride matched largely by his ignorance of the conditions of his fellows. English Jewry was largely made up of what were called in the parlance of the time "exception Jews" - but in England they were no exceptions at all. This was not because of the lavish equality of English Jewry, merely because of its small size - after the expulsion of the Jews from England by King Edward I, English Jewry was composed largely of rich Jews from Portugal. Disraeli knew very little about the political truth of the Jewish condition on the Continent, but he did a very good job of analysing what the truth appeared to be - the very "truth" that anti-Semites would later peddle.

The Jewish state bankers on the Continent were the nexus of the conspiracy theories. Although totally a-political themselves, the appearance fooled even the Jew Disraeli - the international financial network set up and operated by the Jews, with its careful transfer of information and close connections, had all the outward trappings of a secret society. Disraeli was convinced that the bankers pulled the strings of government - as a Jewish chauvinist, he indeed believed his people were superior to everyone else. He saw the acts of the House of Rothschild, a famous banking cartel, as a controlling one - they did, he said, hold the world's destinies in their hands. There was talk of "revenge" by his people on Christianity. All of this was obviously very dangerous talk indeed.

As an insatiable careerist himself, Disraeli had trouble believing that the "Jewish money" of the bankers was being used for anything other than the furtherance of what he saw as his people's goals. He could not conceive of their indifference to politics. Of course, the "international Jewish conspiracy" never existed, and no-one at this time ever even really thought of it save charlatans, but the fact Disraeli could arrive at this conclusion shows just how easily reality could be distorted by a fantasy that seemed more credible. Disraeli had always had a vivid imagination - one of his early novels described a Jewish Empire with an élite ruling class of his people. And if in later life his ideas mellowed somewhat, they never entirely touched ground - even in the 1870s he talked of "secret organisations" which moved "beneath the surface" to determine the course of history.

Anti-Semitic propaganda rested largely on this notion that Disraeli stressed so vigorously. Even the particularly ludicrous notion that both the Jewish capitalist and the Jewish Communist worked in tandem, which was much favoured by Adolf Hitler, was expressed by Disraeli - he claimed the Jews were at the heart of every Communist group and that they made the politics of Russia (the Tsar's Byzantine autocracy made this a patent falsehood, more the pity for both the Russian people and Russian Jewry as a subset of them). Of course, there was an outward kernel of truth to such claims - because the Jews had rarely engaged in capitalistic enterprise, the proletariat didn't develop an antagonism towards them as it did the bourgeoisie. Class antagonism towards the Jews came largely from the bourgeoisie and petty bourgeoisie, because at this time the banker was seen as an exploitative element (no-one went for a loan unless in misery, so the banker was seen as profitting from misfortune).

The last property of Disraeli's thinking that should be stressed is the idea of the Jewish race as a "caste" apart. Aristocratic society was based on the snobbery of birth and blood, and the Jewish intelligentsia claimed a similar role for itself. They knew that their very acceptance into high society was based on their Jewishness, but also on them being somehow "different" and more "acceptable" than other Jews. Disraeli confronted the snobbery of the aristocracy with a snobbery of Jewish identity, which a bored and degenerate bourgeoisie society lapped up. He claimed that race was the "key to history" which existed regardless of "language and religion". He was "the chosen one of the chosen people". The similarities to modern racialism need not be stressed, and although there was no hint of the dark political tragedy to come, the groundwork was all too clear.

I'm not saying Disraeli is responsible for anything. I'm saying his perceptions hold the key to many things.