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Antisemitism: Myth and Hate from Antiquity to the Present

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Myth and Hate from Antiquity to the Present

By Marvin Perry and Frederick M. Schweitzer
Palgrave Macmillan
Hampshire, England and New York: (2002)
ISBN: 0-312-16561-7

Reviewed by Anna Dogole - August 18, 2003

Antisemitism is a difficult subject to study. Even when the emotional issues are eliminated, the field is awash with controversies, myths, and religious biases. To write an unbiased, factual history of antisemitism is not an easy task. However, as Marvin Perry and Frederick M. Schweitzer have proven in their book, Antisemitism: Myth and Hate from Antiquity to the Present, it is a task that can be accomplished.

Antisemitism: Myth and Hate from Antiquity to the Present presents an in-depth survey of the history of antisemitism. Within the pages of this authoritative book, the authors document the development of antisemitism and why it still persists. In the process they explore the various misconceptions that arose surrounding Jews and Judaism, including a detailed analysis of contemporary antisemitic mythology and stereotypes.

This work spans from antiquity to the present day; covering antisemitic rhetoric ranging from the charge that the Jews killed Christ to the claim of the existence of an international Jewish conspiracy. An entire chapter is devoted to Islamic antisemitism, which has resurrected many of the myths about Jews that once circulated throughout Christian Europe. They also explore the ongoing creation of myths, such as the myth spreading through the Muslim world that the Jews were behind the destruction of the World Trade Center.

Throughout the text, the authors take pains to illustrate how and why these myths are created, how the various myths have been used as an excuse to kill and harasses Jews, and the mind set and pathology of the individuals and groups that choose to 'believe' the various myths. In addition, they explore how these myths provided the framework within the Nazi's attempted to exterminate every Jew in Europe - and why so many people cooperated in this horrific endeavor.

Besides exploring, and refuting, the various myths that have developed, the authors also provide brief sketches of some contemporary antisemites and modern myth makers, such as Henry Ford, Karl Marx, and Louis Farrakhan. They also look at the Neo-Nazi mythology and the number of Holocaust deniers that have surfaced.

Throughout, the authors not only illustrate the deleterious mythology that has developed, but more importantly, why it developed in the first place. They try to answer the question, "What is it about the Jews that gives rise to such unmitigated hatred?" Or, to rephrase the question, "What is about some people that makes them feel the need to use the Jews as a scapegoat?"

This book will serve as invaluable guide through the tortuous maze of myths and lies propagated by antisemites throughout the ages. Written by two outstanding historians, the text is concise and clear. This book should be read by all students of Jewish history, as well as anyone interested in understanding the development, growth, scope, and consequences of antisemitism in the past - and today.

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