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Antisemitism: The Longest Hatred Paperback – March 15, 1994
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From Kirkus Reviews
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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Top customer reviews
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?
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'.