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Antisemitism: The Longest Hatred Paperback – March 15, 1994

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The companion volume to a three-part TV series shown this spring on PBS. Wistrich (Modern European History/Hebrew Univ. of Jerusalem; Hitler's Apocalypse, 1986, etc.) provides a history of anti-Semitism from pre-Christian times through the Holocaust and goes on to survey contemporary anti-Semitism in the US, Europe, and the Middle East. In his relatively brief text, Wistrich can give his subject only a once-over-lightly. The result is practically an almanac of names, dates, and places, though it makes a useful introduction to deeper reading and reveals lines of continuity--for example, between Catholic and Reformation demonizing of Jews as Christ- killers and the Nazis' depersonalizing campaign. But there are gaps and mistaken emphases. The British response to the Holocaust gets half a sentence. The German left of today is called anti-Semitic for voicing criticism of Israeli West Bank behavior milder than that of some Israeli observers themselves. The illustrations--anti- Jewish propaganda from the Middle Ages to the present--while necessary, are so offensive that they make one cringe. In fact, this is a dispiriting book in both subject matter and treatment. In subject matter, because Wistrich--whether necessarily or not- -emphasizes the role of intellectuals in fomenting murderous hatred of Jews: St. Augustine, St. Jerome, St. Thomas Aquinas even, and on to Voltaire, Renan, Marx (only Nietzsche comes out well); and where anti-Semitism is in abeyance, it's often because other minorities are also targets of race hatred. As for treatment, though, Wistrich concentrates on how, not why. He gives us lots of facts and summary historical analyses, but he doesn't begin to try to explain why hatred of Jews has persisted for millennia, or--the book's biggest failure--why, after all the pogroms, massacres, and expulsions he lists, Jews survive and even flourish as individuals and in communities. A few heroes, a little good news to leaven the bad, would have made this a more edifying work. (B&w illustrations--24 pages--not seen.) -- Copyright ©1992, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 341 pages
  • Publisher: Schocken (March 15, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805210148
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805210149
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 6.2 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,166,550 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Severin Olson on October 13, 2005
Format: Paperback
Wistrich is certainly correct in calling Antisemitism the longest hatred. Almost every culture, from ancient times to the present, has been infected with this philosophy. His book covers its history from Biblical times to the late 20th Century. The first two thirds look at Europan and western attitudes, and how they contributed to the holocaust and have changed since World War II. The final third examines the Islamic world and the present conflict over Israel. This last section is in many ways the most interesting, as it covers material many in the West may be less familiar with.

The greatest weakness here is that while the author gives us many facts, he offers very little in the way of explanation. We learn almost nothing about why antisemitism has been so prevelant or so intense, or why, like a natural disaster, it flares up in cycles every so often. No one expects Wistrich to have the final answer here, but he should have made at least some attempt to discover the reasons for the 'longest hatred'.
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11 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Peter Uys HALL OF FAME on March 24, 2008
Format: Paperback
Published in 1991, this book predicted the resurgence of the ancient hatred; it was unfortunately correct. In the introduction Wistrich discusses the problematic term Antisemitism then briefly explores its continuity and development down the ages. He does not believe that history provides definitive answers to the Why? of the phenomenon but emphasizes the importance of understanding the How? of it. The most enduring conspiracy theory of all times, it's a shape shifter and nothing seems able to stop it.

Part One examines its pagan roots, its lethal and influential infection of Christianity at an early date and the course it took in Western Europe until the early 1990s. This section includes the medieval legacy when the phenomenon took a particularly ugly turn, Martin Luther, the Holocaust and post-war attitudes in Germany and Austria where it evidently never died. Previously neither the Reformation nor the Enlightenment put an end to it. It instead just mutated along lines acceptable to the Zeitgeist. After World War II the pattern of European guilt-denial has led to increasing anti-Zionism in a process of displacement and projection. Hatred of the Jewish people is being transferred to the Jewish State.

Part Two looks at the history in Britain, France, Hungary, Rumania, Czech, Poland and Russia. Of interest here is how the thing persists even in the absence of Jewish people like in Poland in the late 1980s, and how the US strain has mercifully always been less virulent than the European. I am afraid that things have deteriorated since the publication of this book. The long history of popular and state antisemitism in Russia has been revived, with the country's open support of rogue states and terrorist groups like Hamas, Hezbollah, Syria and Iran.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By David Neunuebel on April 18, 2015
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Had a good start but went a bit downhill from there. The second chapter, a thorough indictment of Christianity and Christians (historic and present) was sad. While clearly there has been historic anti-semitism within Christianity the author seems to want to wash all Christianity away, even "the rightesous" ones who saved Jews in the 1940s. The author has a lot of his Christianity wrong and further paints all Christians and all of Christianity as anti-semitic. Again, quite sad.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
By now I have literally read more than a hundred books on this subject - I am 83. - but nobody is able to clearly state the answer to "why the Jews?" The god of the Hebrew Bible is obviously NOT a guide for moral conduct. Other people have interesting and exclusive eating habits.
By now I have read more than a hundred books on this subject and the Holocaust. But no author has convincingly answered the question: "Why
the Jews?" The Hebrew deity is obviously not a suitable guide for moral behavior. The Hebrew god is also not the first expression of monotheism. Other people felt superior and chosen. Other people had restrictions on food. Others are separatists ... so what gives? The Jews are not the only - or even the first monotheists. And why did Islam accept some of the most gruesome aspects of the Hebrew Bible? If the dream of Islam to eradicate Israel and all Jews is fulfilled then will the world be a better Place? And after the Jews comes the eradication of the Christians, etc. until 'Allah (THE god) is obeyed all over the world. And why is it possible for some to say that Islam is a religion of peace? It is obviously not. The word "Islam" means "submission" to the will of 'Allah and the giving up of your own will. And who says what the will of 'Allah is?
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As in all books by prof. Rober Wistrich z"l this book goes directly to the root of the problem. The clarity of his thought is deeply missed.
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4 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Shalom Freedman HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWER on February 3, 2005
Format: Hardcover
This is a very learned and convincing study of the history of Anti- Semitism. It is especially illuminating in its understanding of the new anti- Semitism which has come to the Islamic world. The bulk of the book however is devoted to European anti-Semitism and its disastrous culmination in Nazism. Wistrich is a very thorough and broad- ranging scholar and he writes with brilliance about one of the most recurrent evils in the life of mankind.
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