Marvin Perry and Frederick Schweitzer have written an important treatment of the origins and development of antisemitism from antiquity to the present. The authors begin with the account of the death and trial of Jesus in the gospels which portray the
Jews as "Christ Killers," creating a myth that has been nourished in the Christian church throughout the centuries. The second chapter covers the outrageous and absurd accusation that the Jews practice murder of Christian children as a religious ritual. Such allegations, common in the Middle Ages, began to appear again in the 17th century in eastern Europe. This blood libel is still flourishing, especially in Arab countries,
The third major subject is the demonization of the Jews: Christians equated the Jews with Satan or the Antichrist during the Middle Ages, and the Jews were blamed for the Black Death. Luther laid the foundations for German antisemitism, although the authors point out that "anti-Judaism during the middle Ages and the Reformation was essentially theological, not racial." A racial anti-Judaism arose in Spain, where it was argued that the Jews were wicked not only because of religion but also because they had bad blood. In the 19th century, extreme nationalism and Volkish thought (which saw the Jew as a racial inferior) set the scene for modern, racial antisemitism. Another
strand of calumny centers around the notorious forgery, the Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion, which lays out a conspiracy on the part of leading Jews to take over the world. The authors show that the Protocols was widely accepted in Germany and was an important ingredient, along with Volkish nationalism, in the Germans' acceptance of the Nazi doctrine of racial antisemitism. More recently, the Protocols have found
widespread approbation in the Muslim world.
Chapter four concerns the economic view of the Jew as Shylock. Again, the authors trace this phenomenon from the Middle Ages into modern times. A very interesting section deals with Karl Marx's antisemitism in his essay "On the Jewish Question," and
Werner Sombart's writings in support of Marx's views. A particularly sad conclusion to the chapter details Henry Ford's use of the Protocols of Zion which led Hitler to declare that Ford was his inspiration.
The final chapter deals with the denial of the Holocaust by neo-Nazis. After addressing the views of individual deniers of the Holocaust, the authors refute the myth itself. The final topic is the growing antisemitism in the black community. The authors argue that, although Jews were heavily represented in the civil rights movement, there has been a deepening alienation between African Americans and Jews. Louis Farrakhan, as head of the Nation of Islam, has taken advantage of this alienation and exacerbated it.
This study, based on the latest scholarship, is carefully conceived and well-written. Its spirit is ecumenical and irenic. Its subtitle, "Myth and Hate from Antiquity to the
Present," neatly sums up its contents. Its timeliness is underscored by the recent statements of the prime minister of Malaysia at a meeting of the Organization of the Islamic Conference. Echoing the conspiracy theory of the Protocols of Zion, he asserted that the Jews rule the world by proxy and that they invented socialism and communism.