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Those Who Forget the Past: The Question of Anti-Semitism Paperback – May 11, 2004

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The growing concern about a global revival of anti-Semitism has been reflected in a number of new books, from Abraham H. Foxman's Never Again? to Phyllis Chesler's The New Anti-Semitism and Gabriel Schoenfeld's The Return of Anti-Semitism. All discuss the shift in geopolitical attitudes and events toward Jews and Israel since September 11; each also reflects its author's own political perspective. Rosenbaum's outstanding compilation of nearly 50 sharp essays has the advantage of not only displaying a wide range of views but juxtaposing pieces in debate with one another. Harvard president Lawrence Summers's critique of academic anti-Israeli sentiment, for instance, is answered by postmodern philosopher Judith Butler's pointing out the chilling effect of calling criticism of Israel "anti-Semitic." Rosenbaum (Explaining Hitler) focuses his collection on specific debates: three essays discuss the murder of American journalist Daniel Pearl, and another three discuss the controversy surrounding the alleged massacre by Israelis of Palestinians at Jenin. The selections are balancedâ€"anti-Semitism and freedom of speech on college campuses, for instance, are discussed by Jeffrey Toobin, Todd Gitlin and Laurie Zoloth. Rosenbaum is also attuned to new aspects of old issues: "The Greatest Story Ever Sold" presents Frank Rich's thoughts on the controversy surrounding Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ, while in "Who Did Kill Christ?" Nat Hentoff describes Christian rightists' ongoing promotion of the charge of deicide against the Jews. It's rare to find a book that includes essays by both Gabriel Schoenfeld and Edward Said, Ruth R. Wisse and Bernard Lewis. This is an estimable collection and may find a place with course adopters as well as common readers.
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From Booklist

Repeated attacks on Jews and Jewish institutions in France, the constant drumbeat of slanders against Jews in the Arab media, and even the unveiling of swastikas at anti-Israel demonstrations on American college campuses all document a recent resurgence of anti-Semitism. But this anthology is hardly redundant. Rosenbaum, who examined efforts to "explain" evil in Explaining Hitler (1998), has compiled a cross section of outstanding, thought-provoking, and deeply disturbing articles and essays on the revival (or resurfacing) of the "longest hatred." Jeffrey Goldberg looks behind the moderate facade to uncover the depth of Jew hatred in Mubarak's Egypt. Bernard Lewis analyzes the links between European and Arabic anti-Semitism. Tariq Ramadan offers a hopeful piece that pleads for tolerance, respect, and interreligious dialogue. Cynthia Ozick provides devastating examples of how the "big lie" technique is used to demonize Israel (of course, under the guise of sympathy for the Palestinian people). This is an important and vital contribution to efforts to comprehend what is new and what is the same in this ancient virus of ignorance and hatred. Jay Freeman
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 720 pages
  • Publisher: Random House Trade Paperbacks; 1St Edition edition (May 11, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0812972031
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812972030
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 1.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #743,814 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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36 of 40 people found the following review helpful By R. W. Rasband VINE VOICE on June 8, 2004
Format: Paperback
After the horrific shock of 9/11 and the slaughter of the reporter Daniel Pearl (to whom this book is dedicated) many in the West woke up to the fact of widespread, slavering Jew-hatred in the Arab world and hostility and prejudice in a Europe that thought it could finally shrug off the guilt of the Holocaust because of so-called "Zionist atrocities." The great reporter and historian Ron Rosenbaum wrote a newspaper column suggesting, following up on Philip Roth's fine 1993 novel "Operation Shylock" that a "second Holocaust" was possible if not probable. (That is, the annihilation of Israel by modern weapons of mass destruction.) His column stirred up quite a fuss, which in turn led to this massive, brilliant collection of essays edited by Rosenbaum. The question of renewed anti-Semitism is examined from an exhaustive array of perspectives: historical, literary, political. Rosenbaum includes his original essay along with a stunningly thorough introduction. Cynthia Ozick provides an afterword, "The Modern Hep!Hep!Hep!", which prophetically summarizes the hateful course of crimes against Jews through the centuries.
Some of my other favorite contributions: David Mamet's feisty look at the "blunt trauma" of his nostalgic love of Israel. Philip Greenspun's darkly sardonic examination of the real dynamics of terrorism. Simon Schama's unflinching, revolting tour of hatred on the Internet. Laurie Zoloth's hair-raising eyewitness account of the famous anti-Semitic near riot at San Fransisco State. Todd Gitlin and Melanie Philips on how anti-Semitism has largely moved from the political right to the left. Marie Brenner's first-hand report on the growing, despicable conditions in France.
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17 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Inna Tysoe VINE VOICE on July 11, 2004
Format: Paperback
It is rare, I suppose to recommend a book by noting who contributed to it, but then again it is rare to find the late Edward Said and Cynthia Ozick condemning the same thing and with equal passion. And yet they like intellectuals from all over the world have come together, in this book, to gaze with heart-breaking pain at the age-old specter of anti-Semitism. Their "solutions" are many; their ideological commitments are numerous but they have one thing in common: they refuse to look away from this hideous spectacle though looking at it causes them intense pain.
It is with pain that Melanie Phillips writes, "Want to make yourself, really, really unpopular if you're a Jew? Try saying that the world is witnessing a terrifying firestorm of hatred directed at Israel and the Jewish people in which the Europeans are deeply implicated"; it is with pain that Edward Said writes that "There is now a creeping, nasty wave of anti-Semitism insinuating itself into our political thought and rhetoric...When I mentioned the Holocaust in an article I wrote here last November I received more vilification than I thought possible.." The pain these authors feel is evident; so evident that the reader will need to take breaks from this book. Frequent breaks. For the pictures it paints-from the European, American, Arab, or Israeli perspectives are not pretty ones. They are ugly as only racism can be ugly.
But the authors of this book do not flinch from this ugliness; they stare it in the face. They expose it for what it is. They do not hide it behind euphemisms and double standards; they assure it that (as Harold Evans puts it) "There are things which are bad, and false, and ugly, and no amount of specious casuistry will make them good or true or beautiful.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Jill Malter on October 28, 2004
Format: Paperback
This book deals with hatred of Israel and many of the reactions to it. It consists of about 50 separate essays. One of the inspirations for the book was Philip Roth's novel, "Operation Shylock," and the relevant excerpt from this book is included as one of the essays. That essay explains the threat of Israel becoming a sort of extermination camp for Jews, with nuclear weapons rather than Zyklon B being the relevant weapon.

The book, which begins with an excellent introduction by Ron Rosenbaum, is a superb collection of ideas and thoughts. One of the essays that impressed me the most was by Tom Gross, describing the ghastly reporting by the British media of the events in Jenin in April, 2002. Until I read this article, I just couldn't believe that the folks at the Guardian would abandon all journalistic standards just to hurt a few Jews by spouting some absurd lies about Israel. After all, no matter what they thought about Jews or Israel, these people were professionals who I thought were unlikely to wish to destroy the good reputation the Guardian had so carefully built up. Such destruction would cost them money! But this article showed me that they had indeed turned the Guardian into something far less valuable than it had been in the past (perhaps thinking that such an approach would appear more sensational and improve their sales).

I also especially enjoyed the articles by Paul Berman, Robert Wistrich, Gabriel Schoenfeld, Ruth Wisse, Melanie Phillips, Joshua Muravchik, Martin Peretz, Cynthia Ozick, Fiamma Nirenstein, and Bernard Lewis. And of course, I had to read the essay by Daniel Gordis that started "Dear Jill." No, it wasn't to me, it was to Jill Jacobs. But it was a scary look into the politics of a graduating rabbinical student.
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