For thirty years the director of the Wiener Library in Londonthe leading institute for the study of anti-SemitismWalter Laqueur here offers both a comprehensive history of anti-Semitism as well as an illuminating look at the newest wave of this phenomenon.
Laqueur begins with an invaluable historical account of this pernicious problem, tracing the evolution from a predominantly religious anti-Semitismstretching back to the middle agesto a racial anti-Semitism that developed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The author then uses this historical account as backdrop to a brilliant analysis of the newest species of anti-Semitism, explaining its origins and rationale, how it manifests itself, in what ways and why it is different from anti-Semitism in past ages, and what forms it may take in the future. The book reveals that what was historically a preoccupation of Christian and right-wing movements has become in our time even more frequent among Muslims and left-wing groups. Moreover, Laqueur argues that we can't simply equate this new anti-Semitism with anti-Zionism and write it off as merely anti-Israel sentiments. If Israel alone is singled out for heated condemnation, is the root of this reaction simply anti-Zionism or is it anti-Semitism?
Here is both a summing up of the entire trajectory of anti-Semitismthe first comprehensive history of its kindand an exploration of the new wave of anti-Semitism.
"Walter Laqueur provides us with powerful new insights into an age-old problem. Distinguished scholarship and an authoritative moral voice are the hallmarks of this important book. Anyone wanting to understand the history and persistence of anti-Jewish hatred should read it."
Abraham H. Foxman, National Director, Anti-Defamation League
One of the difficulties in writing a short, comprehensive history of anti-Semitism is that the subject is too vast and the subfields too diverse to do justice to the overall complexity. Despite these pitfalls, Laqueur provides an interesting general analysis of the variations of anti-Semitism over the past 2000 years. While his discussion of its 19th- and 20th-century manifestations does not break any new historiographical ground, he does provide an important analysis of how Jewish perceptions of anti-Semitism shifted since the 19th century from some level of self-blame that is, Jews accepting some "responsibility" for hostility because of their own actions to a realization that anti-Semitism is at its basic level an irrational belief system. Laqueur's major strength is his critique of contemporary issues, especially the role of Israel in anti-Semitic thought, and the question of the relationship between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism. While he is not an apologist for all Israeli policy, Laqueur's most controversial interpretation is to assert that if Israel were as resource-rich as Russia (which has engaged in a brutal war against Muslims in Chechnya), or as economically powerful as China (with its attendant human rights abuses), it would not occupy its current position in contemporary discourse. Recommended for both public and academic libraries. Frederic Krome, Jacob Rader Marcus Ctr. of the American Jewish Archives Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.