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

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A Lethal Obsession

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

By Robert S. Wistrich
Random House, 2010
ISBN: 978-1-4000-6097-9

Reviewed by Boris Segel - April 12, 2010

Famed historian, professor, and writer, Dr. Robert S. Wistrich chronicles the animated and persistent history of anti-semitism, from 38 B.C.E. (the date of the first known pogrom against Jews that occurred in Alexandria, Egypt) to the present day in his monumental new book, A Lethal Obsession: Anti-Semitism from Antiquity to the Global Jihad. In addition, he also examines the unique phenomenon of anti-semitism without Jews and how globalization has helped to foster a rise in the number of anti-Semitic incidents and how it is often masked under the rubric of anti-Americanism, anti-Zionism, or outright attacks on the State of Israel.

While vast in scope, A Lethal Obsession is focused more upon modern, post-Holocaust anti-semitism and in particular, anti-semitism in the Islamic world. Throughout, Wistrich follows a systematic approach in his study of anti-semitism, and along the way he examines its causes, interpretations, misconceptions, manifestations, and the consequences. Each chapter in this book focuses on a specific issue, such as postcommunist anti-semitism, the globalization of anti-semitism, bigotry at the United Nations, Holocaust denial, Ahmadinejad and the threat he, and Iran, poses to the world.

Coming in at nearly 1,200 pages, A Lethal Obsession is a significant and timely book that must be read by scholars, politicians, activists, and all people concerned about the rise of modern anti-semitism, radical Islam and the threat posed by Islamic terrorists, and the growing threat posed to Jewish communities around the world as old hatreds are resurrected. While the size and nature of the book may seem daunting to general readers and scholars alike, readers will find that Wistrich's writing is both concise, clear, and eminently readable and at times, the narrative becomes downright gripping.

After reading this book you'll have a better understanding on topics such as the causes of and common misconceptions about the Arab-Israeli conflict, as well as the role that the media plays in our understanding about anti-semitism, its spread, and the growth of anti-Israeli attitudes as a manifestation of anti-semitism. Perhaps most important, you'll gain an understanding of why anti-semitism is such a resilient form of hatred and how it differs from other forms of racial and social prejudices.

A Lethal Obsession is an important addition to the body of literature on anti-semitism, and can be used in University level classes as both a course textbook and as a supplemental reading text in courses ranging from Jewish history to genocide studies. For those interested in pursuing this subject in greater detail, Wistrich has included extensive endnotes that will serve as a sort of randomized bibliography from which ample fodder can be found for further study.

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