Robert S. Wistrich: A Hatred That Resists Exorcism

Source: NYT, 7-5-10

Is there anything left to be said about anti-Semitism? By now surely the outline is clear: how hatred of Jews grew out of early Christianity’s attempts to supplant Judaism; how the demonization of Jews in the Middle Ages turned violent; how the hatred was given its name by a 19th-century German journalist; and how it reached cataclysmic fulfillment in the Holocaust.

Special Collection and Rare Books/Mu Libraries, University of Missouri

“The Blood of a Palestinian Child, a Gift for Mother’s Day,” a 1994 cartoon in a Jordanian newspaper.

There are other landmarks: the expulsion of the Jews from England, Spain and Portugal; intermittent massacres in Muslim lands; the construction of European ghettos; the pogroms of Russia and Eastern Europe; the Dreyfus Affair; the Nazification of Europe; Stalin’s purges and show trials.

And then, of course, there are the triumphs that act as a kind of remonstrance: the Enlightenment success of Jews in secular European societies, the myriad opportunities in the United States, the birth of modern Hebrew and, after a half-century of settlement, land purchases and institution building, the creation of Israel, whose founding principles incorporated both democratic and Judaic ideals.

Why then during the last six months have new tomes been published devoted to the hatred of Jews? “A Lethal Obsession: Anti-Semitism From Antiquity to the Global Jihad” (Random House) weighs in at about 1,200 pages, a compendium of a career’s research by Robert S. Wistrich, professor of modern Jewish history at Hebrew University in Israel. And more than 800 pages are devoted just to British anti-Semitic history in “Trials of the Diaspora” (Oxford) by Anthony Julius, a learned British lawyer whose clients included Diana, Princess of Wales, and whose book on T.S. Eliot’s anti-Semitism was widely praised for its supple understanding…READ MORE

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