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A Lethal Obsession: Anti-semitism from Antiquity to the Global Jihad Hardcover – January 5, 2010

4.1 out of 5 stars 22 customer reviews

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An indisputably serious problem with global ramifications deserves an equally serious and comprehensive treatment. Modern Jewish historian Wistrich has provided just that in his masterful dissection of the origins, the dissemination, and the consequences of anti-Semitism in all of its most blatant and most subtle manifestations. Though the size and the scope of this treatise may be initially daunting, intrepid readers will be rewarded by the clarity of the scholarly presentation. Arguing that anti-Semitism in our post–World War II world has returned with a vengeance and is, perhaps, more widespread and virulent than ever, he traces the ever-broadening roots of what he considers the “oldest and darkest of ideological obsessions.” No matter what political or ideological slants readers might bring to the table, this is a significant, wide-ranging discourse on the topic of anti-Semitism that cannot and should not be ignored. Wistrich has painstakingly done his homework and laid out his analysis, providing plenty of food for thought and discussion. --Margaret Flanagan


"A monumental and encyclopedic work—one of the most compelling studies of anti-Semitism past and present that I have read. It is likely to become the seminal work on the subject—a must for scholars of hate and anti-Semitism." —Irwin Cotler, MP: Former Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada; Professor of Law, McGill University

"A message of this remarkable work is that the Holocaust did not only discredit anti-Semitism. In a sinister way, the murder of six million Jews has also inspired fantasies of completing what the Third Reich had begun, and has led to widespread defamation of Israel by equating its policies with Nazism. The grim case that Robert Wistrich advances in A Lethal Obsession is overwhelming. In the awesome scale of its research, in its moral and literary force, and in its compelling political urgency, there is no book quite like it."—Stephen J. Whitfield, Professor of American Civilization, Brandeis University.

"This is a splendid work of history. A masterpiece."—Jonathan Israel, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton

"Robert Wistrich's work is a monument to scholarship, precision, and passion. It is likely to become the single most essential treatment of anti-Semitism for all those who seek to understand it and combat it." —Ron Rosenbaum, author of Explaining Hitler

"At the heart of Wistrich's book is a holistic and global approach that seeks to analyze and understand the evolution of a "culture of hatred" that has continued to dehumanize Jews until this very day. Intrigued by its uncanny ability to adapt, the author masterfully explores the various mutations of anti-Semitism where it connects with contemporary social and political crises. This book contains valuable new information and insights and is bound to become indispensable for the study of anti-Semitism world wide."—Jehuda Reinharz, Richard Koret Professor of Modern Jewish History and President, Brandeis University

"In this major work of historical synthesis, Robert Wistrich offers abundant evidence that genocidal anti-Semitism, and apologetics and indifference about is not only a matter of the history of Nazi Germany and the Holocaust. Rather it remains a key element of contemporary affairs. A Lethal Obsession, the result of years of scholarship, presents a profound and incisive interpretation of anti-Semitism both before and after 1945. Wistrich offers remarkable, and infuriating details of the persistence and permutation of this hallucinatory set of ideas within Europe as well as in the Middle East, North Africa and Iran, He writes with the interpretive grasp of a historian of the first rank as well as with the passion and urgency that is so essential in the face of the genocidal threats made against Israel and the Jews in recent years. It is both a major work of enduring scholarly value as well as a much needed reminder to political leaders and citizens of the profound danger posed by the advocates of the delusions that anti-Semitism has fostered in the past and continues to foster in the present."—Jeffrey Herf, author of The Jewish Enemy: Nazi Propaganda during World War II and the Holocaust and Nazi Propaganda for the Arab World and professor of Modern European History, University of Maryland, College Park

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 1200 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; 1St Edition edition (January 5, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400060974
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400060979
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 2.4 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #740,394 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Hardcover
Dr. Mehler's Short Review of this Important New Book
See the posting on ISAR: [...]

Wistrich Speaking About his Book at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington:

Robert S. Wistrich has come out with his twentieth volume, a thousand page tome, A Lethal Obsession: Anti-Semitism from Antiquity to the Global Jihad, (New York: Random House, 2010). The title is a little misleading, this is not a majestic survey of the history of anti-Semitism from antiquity to the present. The focus is on post-Nazi exterminatory anti-Semitism and the bulk of the book is focused on anti-Semitism in the Islamic world.

Wistrich's 30,000 word introduction is entitled, "The Return of Anti-Semitism," but it is clear from his history that Anti-Semitism never went away. Certainly, the shocking revelations of the Holocaust reverberated through many parts of the world, creating a good deal of sympathy for Jews which was translated into sympathetic movies and books about the Jews in the West. It also sustained political support for Zionism for a brief period. And, of course, after the Holocaust Jews were no longer being actively exterminated, but the ideology of exterminatory anti-Semitism that justified Auschwitz was still evolving and spreading to new cultural environments especially the post-war communist block and the Muslem world. Anti-Semitism never went away. It didn't even go into retreat. Wistrich argues that after World War II the baton was passed from the Right to the Left and from Christians to Muslems. This is a humanitarian anti-Semitism aimed at saving the Palestinian people from the hands of the last white-supremacist colonial state practicing apartheid.
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Format: Hardcover
Robert Wistrich's massive 1200 page tome is probably the most authoritative collection of facts about anti-Semitism that you can find. It contains thousands of meticulously documented quotes from newspapers, magazines, television and the popular press, from antiquity right up to 2009. All these sources make it crystal clear that anti-Semitism is still very much alive and riddles many of the world's civilized nations. It is a shameful part of our collective consciousness that we must strive to expunge. And this is irrespective of what your political views about Israel may be, since the instances of anti-Semitism that Wistrich documents go far beyond specific grievances against Israel.

But all this can be said in about 500 pages. I kind of lost interest after that point because Wistrich essentially keeps on repeating facts to convince us about how bad the situation is. This is unnecessary. For instance he spends a gratuitous amount of time documenting Iranian President Ahmadinejad's disgusting rhetoric and rants supporting Holocaust denial. We get it; Ahmadinejad is a deplorable individual who should be denounced in the strongest possible terms. But giving us a hundred instances of his despicable behavior where only twenty instances would have sufficed adds very little to our knowledge. Similarly, Wistrich seems to want to dig up every single source from the last twenty years to support his contention that anti-Semitism is well and alive in Europe and the Middle East and is casually practiced and propagated. But again, stating this fact with a hundred or so pages of examples would have been sufficient. Finally, Wistrich gives exhaustive accounts of anti-Semitism in pre-WW2 Nazi Germany, a subject on which hundreds if not thousands of authoritative volumes have already been penned.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The rule that requires each review here to specify a given number of stars, from one to five, may sometimes seems restrictive and arbitrary. But in this case I am grateful for it: it allows me to state, over and above anything else that I may to say, my great and unambiguous admiration for this work: five stars without question, more if it were possible to give more.

The author is of course known to all for about two dozen previous works of meticulous and detailed scholarship on modern history. I have read most of these books, and much of what I know about modern Jews I have learned from them. In the present book, the author steps back somewhat from detail and gives an overall evaluation, in the course of which he reviews just about everything that has been written about anti-Semitism in modern times. (The subtitle states that the book goes back to antiquity, but, well, that is not done in any detail.)

The author of course has a point of view, which others have discussed, and I don't have much to say about that, mainly because I find myself in agreement with just about any of the points that may be considered contentious. But no matter what your point of view may be on this or that, this book will be indispensable as a work of reference for anyone with an interest in the subject.

Obviously, no matter how important a work of scholarship may be, it cannot be perfect. If it is as good a books as this, its defects, if discussed publicly, will be part of its great merit by increasing knowledge and understanding.
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