Sunday, February 7, 2010

A Lethal Obsession

A Lethal Obsession: Robert S. Wistrich's New History of

Robert S. Wistrich has come out with his twentieth volume, a one-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 Muslim 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 Muslims. This is a humanitarian anti-Semitism aimed at saving the Palestinian people from the hands of the last white-supremacist colonial state practicing apartheid.

The argument that Israeli aggression and occupation is to blame for this situation is itself an anti-Semitic argument. This does not mean that anyone who criticizes Israel is an anti-Semite, but the core claim of modern anti-Semites from David Duke to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is that the Holocaust is a hoax perpetrated by the Jews to justify their aggression in the Middle East. At the same time that they deny the Holocaust reality, they claim that Zionism is the moral equivalent of Nazism and that the Zionist state is engaged in genocide against the Palestinian people. When these people call for an end to the "Zionist entity" they are really calling for the extermination of the Jews. And for the first time since World War II, anti-Semitism is part of a major state's [Iran] core ideology. This is the modern face of exterminatory anti-Semitism and Wistrich believes it is pervasive throughout the Muslim world. His goal is to expose the intensity of the "culture of hatred" that permeates "books, magazines, newspapers, sermons, videocassettes, the Internet, television, and radio in the Middle East on a scale unprecedented since the heyday of Nazi Germany." The demonic images of Jews circulating in much of the Islamic world today "constitute a new warrant for genocide." They combine the blood libel of medieval Christian Europe with Nazi conspiracy theories about the Jewish drive for world domination and dehumanizing Islamic quotations about Jews as the "sons of apes and donkeys."

Wistrich presents us with a history of the evolution of a murderous ideology. This is not the history of progress towards a more tolerant world. The three major culprits in the spread of this ideology are Hitlerism, Stalinism and Islamism. In all three cases anti-Jewish demonology has been manipulated in the cause of conspiracy theories which have at their heart the oldest and darkest of ideological obsessions: hatred of the Jews. Anti-Semitism is the hatred that keeps on giving. Wistrich believes the past seven decades have been a golden age for exterminatory anti-Semitism and at no time in the past have the core beliefs of this ideology been as widely disseminated and as widely accepted. He calls the world-wide campaign against Zionism, "a warrant for Genocide." And he believes we are entering a very dangerous period. Specifically, he believes the next two years are going to be among the most dangerous since World War II.

Wistrich four minute clip from the Wilson Center Q&A on YouTube:
The Daily Show clip on Hamas children's cartoons: