By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, November 4, 2008

The now commonplace liberal-left claim that United States foreign policy is run, to the detriment of the whole world, by a "neo-con cabal" consisting of Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz and certain other shadowy (Jewish) figures has at least fostered a renewed public consciousness of this fascinating word (cabal, not neo-con).

Cabal entered the English language in the late 16th century to mean a secret intrigue, plot or conspiracy. This coinage coincided with the rising awareness of Jewish mystical teachings, the Kabbalah, in non-Jewish circles. (The word Kabbalah derives from the word meaning "receive," denoting the private, oral nature of its transmission from teacher to student.)

The Renaissance scholar Johannes Reuchlin had attempted to mine kabbalistic sources for proofs of the truth of Christianity. Even if most people didn't understand the details of Kabbalah, they knew it was something esoteric and secret, hence the word cabal.

The heyday of the word came in the mid-late 17th century. A committee of five ministers under Charles II was widely known as the Cabal. Fortuitously, their names - Clifford, Arlington, Buckingham, Ashley and Lauderdale - began with the letters C-A-B-A-L!

The fortunes of the neo-con cabal appear on the wane after the US congressional elections, but cabal is surely one of those antisemitic words ripe for reclaiming. Jews are successful, and hence influential, though not in any particularly sinister way. Join the cabal.

Last updated: 4:37pm, November 4 2008