A Lethal Obses­sion: Anti-Semi­tism from Antiq­ui­ty to the Glob­al Jihad

  • Review
By – August 25, 2011
Wistrich, pro­fes­sor of mod­ern Euro­pean and Jew­ish his­to­ry at the Hebrew Uni­ver­si­ty of Jerusalem, has writ­ten an almost ency­clo­pe­dic his­to­ry of anti-Semi­tism, from its roots in antiq­ui­ty to its cur­rent man­i­fes­ta­tions both in Europe and the Mid­dle East. Most of his book is about how Mus­lim fun­da­men­tal­ists have merged tra­di­tion­al Chris­t­ian Judeo­pho­bia, Nazi racist ide­ol­o­gy, and the Pro­to­cols of the Elders of Zion with select­ed anti-Jew­ish vers­es from the Koran to spread hatred of Israel in par­tic­u­lar, and Jews in gen­er­al, with calls for the destruc­tion of both. Wistrich notes, for exam­ple, that among the Aya­tol­lah Khomeini’s cler­i­cal suc­ces­sors, Jews have come to rep­re­sent (as they did in the medieval leg­end of the Antichrist) the dia­bol­i­cal forces of cor­rup­tion that must be van­quished in order to estab­lish God’s king­dom on earth. Since Jews are per­ceived as being engaged in a glob­al con­spir­a­cy to rule the world, this makes them a major tar­get for anni­hi­la­tion. This the­ol­o­gy” of the final reck­on­ing with the Jews, states Wistrich, is a major moti­vat­ing force behind Pres­i­dent Ahmadinejad’s apoc­a­lyp­tic pol­i­tics 

In Pak­istan, anti-Semi­tism man­i­fests itself in the form of claims that the ter­ror­ist attacks in Mum­bai last year were staged by India and Zion­ists. This belief in Zion­ist or Jew­ish per­fidy also shows itself in a wide­ly held belief, not only in Pak­istan but through­out the Mid­dle East, that the Mossad was behind the 9- 11 attacks. Still oth­er Jihadists depict the Holo­caust as divine pun­ish­ment,” and advo­cate the exter­mi­na­tion of the Jews.

Focus­ing on the spread of Islam in Europe, Wistrich faults Euro­pean sup­port­ers of mul­ti­cul­tur­al­ism for acqui­esc­ing to the kind of sep­a­rate devel­op­ment” demand­ed by rad­i­cal Mus­lim lead­ers, as the influx of immi­grants from Mid­dle East coun­tries threat­ens to turn Europe into Eura­bia.” For Wistrich, ter­ror­ist exul­ta­tion over vio­lence and death is inti­mate­ly con­nect­ed to the anni­hi­la­tion­ist” char­ac­ter of Jiha­di anti-Semi­tism. Recent events in Great Britain, states Wistrich, have shown that ter­ror­ism and anti-Semi­tism can thrive more eas­i­ly in self-seg­re­gat­ed Mus­lim enclaves, where­in the cul­ture of hatred” con­tin­ues to dehu­man­ize Jews. In this weighty and indis­pens­able book (980 pages of text alone) Wistrich leaves the read­er with the unset­tling con­clu­sion that the defeat of Nazi Ger­many did not dis­cred­it the ide­ol­o­gy that made the Holo­caust pos­si­ble. Rather, the same hatred that led to the mur­der of six mil­lion Jews is, unfor­tu­nate­ly, alive and thriv­ing not only in Iran, but through­out the Mid­dle East, and in many parts of Europe.

Jack Fis­chel is pro­fes­sor emer­i­tus of his­to­ry at Millersville Uni­ver­si­ty, Millersville, PA and author of The Holo­caust (Green­wood Press) and His­tor­i­cal Dic­tio­nary of the Holo­caust (Row­man and Littlefield).

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