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Trials of the Diaspora: A History of Anti-Semitism in England
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42 of 49 people found the following review helpful
This work is a detailed and difficult account of how pervasive anti- Semitism has been in English life and literature. It moves from medieval times to the present, and has a powerful indictment of present- day anti- Semitism among the chattering classes in England. As a long- time student and lover of English Literature I was most impressed by the work on anti- Semitism in English literary life. Julius here follows the work of a great scholar the late Harold Fisch who pioneered in this area. In a recent review of Julius' work perhaps the most powerful present- day reader of the work of Shakespeare , Harold Bloom, expresses his deep sense of trouble at knowing that the greatest writer of all, nonetheless produced Shylock. There is no doubt that Julius is correct in seeing that whether it is the blood- libel in the Nun Prioress' Tale of Chaucer, or Fagin in Dickens 'Oliver Twist' the most powerful images of Jews in English Literature are negative ones. One of course can speak of George Eliot's Daniel Deronda, and Joyce's Leopold Bloom as counterweights but the dull Deronda and the everyman Bloom (Created after all by an Irishman) are not real counterweights. And it is not simply Shakespeare in his time but also Marlowe, and of course in our own time T.S. Eliot's Bleistein with his cigar.
The role of academics and journalists, and also of trade- unions in the latest form of British anti- Semitism , is made painfully clear in this work. Israel is accused of all the crimes which its enemies are guilty of. In perhaps the most ridiculous case of moral inversion in modern times the predominant weight of opinion in the British Media ( most egregiously perhaps the BBC and the Guardian)finds that Israel is guilty , whatever it does, and especially of course when it defends itself.
This work is not easy to read. But it overwhelms in its meticulousness of detail and in its accuracy.
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20 of 47 people found the following review helpful
on May 23, 2010
Anthony Julius has drawn a misleadingly one-sided picture of the Jewish experience in England, at least in relation to recent history. His view is at odds with that of the British Chief Rabbi, who said in an interview with the BBC in 2006 that "Jews in Britain have found this country one of the most tolerant places on the face of the earth." Nor is it consistent with the polls conducted by the Anti-Defamation League on attitudes to Jews in a number of European countries. In 2002 an EU report stated that the ADL found that "Compared to most of the other EU countries agreement with anti-Semitic statements in the United Kingdom was clearly lower." Again, in 2009 the ADL reported that "Britain consistently registered the lowest levels of anti-Jewish sentiment."

The book fails to record the extraordinarily large part that Jews (less than 0.5 percent of the population) have played in modern British society. This includes, at least since the time of the Conservative government of 1979, numerous Jews who have held cabinet posts in successive British Governments, including Chancellor of the Exchequer and Foreign Secretary - not to mention that a Jew was leader of the Conservative Party at one time during the period of the Blair Labour Government.

Perhaps an explanation for Julius's writing such a one-sided account may be found in a couple of comments he makes in the Introduction. He writes in the context of anti-Semitism that "There are certain things that will always remain unsaid between Jews and non-Jews", which to my mind implies a prejudicial attitude to non-Jews. He also claims that "For Anglo-Jewry in general, [anti-Semitism] is the background noise against which we make our lives. Almost always barely audible, one must strain to detect it..." Julius has indeed strained very hard in his attempt to demonstrate that anti-Semitism is a significant feature of present-day life in England.
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20 of 37 people found the following review helpful
CENSORSHIP ALERT: This review was first published May 18, 2010 and then removed by Amazon. It was re-published after negotiation with Amazon concerning censorship, on Jan. 30, 2011. The review was again removed the summer of 2012. I am resubmitting it on Aug. 3, 2012. When a review is removed all of the votes it received (pro or contra) are lost, as well as any debate in the comments section. Why has the review been repeatedly removed and then restored? Ask Amazon.

There are plenty of unintentionally funny bits in Harold Bloom's fulsome review in the New York Times (May 7, 2010) of Anthony Julius's tedious book, Trials of the Diaspora: A History of Antisemitism in England. The theme of Mr. Julius is that "the Jews are always on trial" and after whining thus, in the familiar full-blown paranoiac pattern, Julius and Bloom proceed to conduct their own Beth din (rabbinic court) inquisition: "Julius casts this huge book as a series of trials, not of the Jews but of the English." (Bloom).

No one may judge the Judaic people, but Julius and Bloom presume to judge the English people. This makes perfect Talmudic sense! Israeli leader Shimon Peres said something similar after the Israeli massacre of Palestinians in Jenin in 2002, when there was a call for a U.N. war crimes investigaton. "No one judges Israel!" Peres shrieked. But counterfeit "Israel" will put western civilization on trial, or at least three of its most eminent writers, Chaucer, Shakespeare and Charles Dickens, along with the English nation as a whole. According to Bloom:
"Trials of the Diaspora takes its title from its final epigraph, Philip Roth's pungent observation in his still undervalued novel Operation Shylock: `In the modern world, the Jew has perpetually been on trial; still today the Jew is on trial, in the person of the Israeli -- and this modern trial of the Jew, this trial which never ends, begins with the trial of Shylock.'...The best chapter in Trials of the Diaspora concerns the cavalcade of anti-Semitism in English literature, with its monuments in Chaucer's Prioress's Tale, Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice and Charles Dickens's Oliver Twist...

"As an old-fashioned bardolator, I am hurt when I contemplate the real harm Shakespeare has done to the Jews for some four centuries now. No representation of a Jew in literature ever will surpass Shylock in power, negative eloquence and persuasiveness....Shakespeare, still competing with the ghost of Christopher Marlowe, implicitly contrasts Shylock with Barabas, the Jew of Malta in Marlowe's tragic farce...It is Shakespeare's continuing triumph over Marlowe that such an exchange will not work. Shylock is darker and deeper forever. For Julius, The Merchant of Venice is both an anti-Semitic play and a representation of (attack on) anti-Semitism. I dispute the latter: the humanizing of Shylock only increases his monstrosity."

If you attend Yale University and seek to plumb the depths of the literature of the West, Prof. Bloom will be your guide --the Prof. Bloom who loves Shakespeare but despises The Merchant of Venice. We can learn an instructive lesson from what Bloom hates about the play. He writes, "No representation of a Jew in literature ever will surpass Shylock in power, negative eloquence and persuasiveness...." Then he relates to us the secret of Shakespeare's power: "... the humanizing of Shylock."

Shakespeare does not make Shylock a stock character of utter revulsion. Shylock is not presented as wholly evil or completely unsympathetic. The Christians in The Merchant of Venice are not completely blameless. The Bard acknowledges Shylock's humanity and presents him as a challenge to the flawed Christians.

Shylock's final arguments are persuasive and almost carry the day, until Portia's speech, wherein she contrasts the Judaic call for "justice" (i.e. vengeance, the "pound of flesh"), with Christ's call for mercy, after which a chasm materializes that Harold Bloom, Anthony Julius and all the Zionist professors and lawyers in the world cannot traverse.

Shakespeare attacked Shylock's ideals; lesser artists would have attacked Shylock himself. They hate the sinner. Shakespeare only hated the sin. Every drama, oration, book, movie or volume of history or theology that denies the humanity of Judaic persons and refuses to love them (Luke 6:27), cannot achieve what Shakespeare achieved: "...the humanizing of Shylock only increases his monstrosity." Call it the Shakespeare Factor, this approach toward enemies, so radically different from the rabbinic mentality which paints enemies, as Bloom and Julius do, in hateful shades of pure evil, is what is missing from many writings that oppose Judaism.

Bloom: "Dickens created the second most memorable Jew in his superb Fagin. There is no third figure to compete with Shylock and Fagin....How does one estimate the lasting harm done by Shakespeare's and Dickens's egregious Jews?...nothing mitigates the destructiveness of the portraits of Shylock and Fagin. The greatness of Shakespeare and of Dickens renders their anti-Semitic masterpieces more troublesome than the litany of lesser but frequently estimable traducers..."

Charles Dickens based Fagin on a real-life receiver of stolen goods, the notorious Ikey Solomons. In a statement after the book's publication, Dickens wrote, "Fagin in Oliver Twist is a Jew because it unfortunately was true of the time to which that story refers that that class of criminal almost invariably was a Jew." Shylock and Fagin are truth-types, not stereotypes, something the Juliuses and Blooms of the world can't accept. The efficacy of Dickens' portrayal of Fagin rests on the Shakespeare Factor: Dickens portrayed Fagin as fully human, animated and lively. The scene of Fagin in prison awaiting execution is suffused with pathos. He is evil, but Dickens puts forth gentiles who are at least as evil (Bill Sikes) or more so (Monks).

Lawyer Julius and Prof. Bloom have a bone to pick with Chaucer (for his testimony about ritual murder in "The Prioress Tale,"), and with Shakespeare and Dickens, and they are not reluctant to demean them out of deference for the offense their attacks may give to western civilization by sullying the memory of its literary giants. This is the one-way prerogative of the Talmudic mentality: they feel entitled to bash in the faces of our heroes, but when we topple their cherished icons, we are guilty of filthy, stinking bigotry. There is no reciprocity or quid pro quo with imperious personalities like these. They assess our humanity and burnish or damn our reputation predicated upon the degree to which we are willing to succumb to their sense of entitlement.

Bloom engages in some stereotyping of his own: "Julius links anti-Semitism to sadism. He might have done even more with this, since sado-masochism is something of an English vice, and is so much a school-experience of the upper social class."

An English vice. To say that usury or fencing stolen goods are Judaic vices is rabid Shakespearean and Dickensian antisemitism, yet Bloom feels entitled to stigmatize the English as sadomasochist, as people who derive pleasure from extreme cruelty. As one of the Holy People, Bloom can libel the English nation with impunity, while the profound insights of Chaucer, Shakespeare and Dickens constitute an "immemorial stench" (Bloom), out of a "sewer" (Julius).

In his chapter on "The Mentality of Modern English Anti-Semitism," Mr. Julius presents what Prof. Bloom terms, "the puzzle of what appears to be an incessant prejudice, never to be dispelled."

The concept of gentiles harboring never-to-be-dispelled prejudice toward Judaics is a troglodyte dogma taught to bochurim (yeshiva boys). They are indoctrinated from an early age to believe that any opposition to the religion of Judaism is irrational (based on no legitimate grievance) and ineradicable, the assumption being that all opposition to Judaism reflects a hereditary gentile predisposition toward hatred of the Holy People. This traditional rabbinic brainwash is expressed as follows: "Halacha hi beyoduah she'Eisav soneh l'Yaakov" ("It is a given law: it is known that Esau hates Jacob;" cf. Judaism Discovered, pp. 463-466).

It will come as a shock to the acolytes of Julius and Bloom that despite their morally superior liberal pretensions, they are steeped in 2,000 years of Talmudic anti-gentile darkness.
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15 of 53 people found the following review helpful
on May 18, 2010
The only reason I don't give "Trials of the Diaspora" one star is because I recognize the considerable effort that Anthony Julius put into writing this mighty tome. That being said, I disliked this book intensely. It's less historical analysis and more an extraordinarily self-indulgent whine and rant. And the level of paranoia! Delmore Schwartz is famous for having observed that even paranoiacs have enemies. So do Jews -- no shortage of them. But Julius' invitation to Jews to revel, with a sort of smug masochism, in victim status is nothing short of repellent. Some of Julius' examples of anti-Semitism are historically accurate and valid. But many others are at best exaggerated; at worst, groundless. His charge, for example, of anti-Semitism leveled against such greats as G.K. Chesterton and Hilaire Belloc is an outrageous calumny.

Jews should be aware of their history. That's not akin, however, to expecting to find (and, most perversely, being disappointed in not finding) a Heinrich Himmler wannabe beneath every bed, a nascent Irma Grese hiding behind every hedgerow, and God knows what watery Nazi fiend waiting to jump out from behind the shower curtains! If someone is a true Jew-hater, he should be called on it by Jews and indeed by all men of good will. But the free-floating, ubiquitous, and unwarranted charge of anti-Semitism (whether historical or current) is an outrage and a bore.
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42 of 62 people found the following review helpful
on April 18, 2010
I received my copy of "Trials of the Diaspora" several days ago. The author ,of course, is a top attorney in London. Parts of the book are somewhat like a legal brief. It is very comprehensive and, obviously not a book that can be read in one day. Yet in almost 600 pages, Julius doesn't address what could be considered the worse example of British anti-semitism in it's history. It involved the attempt to rescue the only large remaining population of Jews still alive and not yet in the clutches of the Nazi extermination machine. In late 1944,early 1945,the Nazis contacted the Allies offering to allow the still very large Hungarian Jewish population to be freed in exchange for trucks and money. The US was interested in exploring this "deal". It was the British who sabotaged it. Anyone who isn't a Jew hater could clearly see giving some trucks and money to the Nazis ,when they were clearly already defeated except for "mopping up" would not have prolonged the war. But the British including someone at the top of the foreign office , clearly preferred to see another almost 1 million Jews dead. There was even a comment made by I believe, Anthony Eden or his assistant ,I'm paraphrasing : Who wants 1 million Jews loose in Europe?. How could Julius leave this out?
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