In this unprecedented work two decades in the making, leading historian Robert S. Wistrich examines the long and ugly history of anti-Semitism, from the first recorded pogrom in 38 BCE to its shocking and widespread resurgence in the present day. As no other book has done before it, A Lethal Obsession reveals the causes behind this shameful and persistent form of hatred and offers a sobering look at how it may shake and reshape the world in years to come.
Here are the fascinating and long-forgotten roots of the “Jewish difference”–the violence that greeted the Jewish Diaspora in first-century Alexandria. Wistrich suggests that the idea of a formless God who passed down a universal moral law to a chosen few deeply disconcerted the pagan world. The early leaders of Christianity increased their strength by painting these “superior” Jews as a cosmic and satanic evil, and by the time of the Crusades, murdering a “Christ killer” had become an act of conscience.
Moving seamlessly through centuries of war and dissidence, A Lethal Obsession powerfully portrays the creation of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, the fateful anti-Semitic tract commissioned by Russia’s tsarist secret police at the end of the nineteenth century–and the prediction by Theodor Herzl, Austrian founder of political Zionism, of eventual disaster for the Jews in Europe.
The twentieth century fulfilled this dark prophecy, with the horrifying ascent of Hitler’s Third Reich. Yet, as Wistrich disturbingly suggests, the end of World War II failed to neutralize the “Judeophobic virus”: Pogroms and prejudice continued in Soviet-controlled territories and in the Arab-Muslim world that would fan flames for new decades of distrust, malice, and violence.
Here, in pointed and devastating detail, is our own world, one in which jihadi terrorists and the radical left blame Israel for all global ills. In his concluding chapters, Wistrich warns of a possible nuclear “Final Solution” at the hands of Iran, a land in which a formerly prosperous Jewish community has declined in both fortunes and freedoms.
Dazzling in scope and erudition, A Lethal Obsession is a riveting masterwork of investigative nonfiction, the definitive work on this unsettling yet essential subject. It is destined to become an indispensable source for any student of world affairs.
Robert S. Wistrich is professor of modern European history at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and head of its Vidal Sassoon International Center for the Study of Antisemitism. Previously, he held the Jewish Chronicle Chair of Jewish Studies at University College London and was visiting professor of history at Brandeis and Harvard universities. A regular contributor to the Times Literary Supplement, he is the author of many books, including Antisemitism: The Longest Hatred, and scripted the PBS television series of the same name.
Head to Head – Anti-Semitism and Islamophobia: Old fears, new threats?
Published on Apr 24, 2015
Mehdi Hasan challenges Robert S. Wistrich, one of the world’s leading scholars of anti-Semitism, on why he thinks criticism of Israeli policies is a modern manifestation of historical anti-Jewish hatred.