on 20 November 2002
A very stimulating and thought-provoking book.
Drawing from Jewish, Christian and Islamic sources this book really tackles the issues of the roots of 'Christian' anti-semitism, post-modern historical revisionism and Holocaust denial, post-Shoah theology (Jewish and Christian) and current Islamic anti-Israelism.
Wright's book throws up a lot of historical and theological detail that is largely overlooked by the easy knee-jerk pseudo-historical claims presented in the news media. Wright is a Christian but adopts a 'warts and all' approach to the agenda of early Church leaders in their de-Semitising of the person of Jesus and Wright's chapter on 'Is the New Testament anti-Semitic?' must serve as the basis for developing a good understanding of the nature of the debate. Also particularly illuminating is the chapter on the Mufti of Jerusalem during WW2 and his relationship with Adolf Hitler, which in turn throws light on the establishment of the modern state of Israel in the Middle East in 1948 and the ensuing difficulties.
It's a "scholarly" book without being over-academic and is accessible enough without 'dumbing down'. If you can handle a broadsheet newspaper then you'll not have difficulty with this book. Aimed mainly at those who have an interest in politics, history and religion it is also a good book for any believing Christian to refer to prior to Holocaust Remembrance Day as it will evoke a lot of issues that warrant, as its title indicates, the need to ask for forgiveness.
This scholarly, moving book seriously impressed me in both it's depth and scope.
I initially ordered this work with the understanding that it was essentially a study on the aspects of both passive and active anti-Semitism within some elements of the Church in relation to the Nazi Holocaust. Attitudes which, together with an alarming apathy, bore a considerable level of responsibility in relation to the persecution of the Jewish people at that time.
Although the book provides a commendable investigation of these actual subjects, this work is far, far more extensive than what I had imagined.
It is extremely well researched and presents a wealth of evidence. The book is passionately written with a sincere yearning for a genuine repentance amongst the Christian Church towards the Jewish people who are described as being the root of their faith. A deep yearning for a healing of nineteen hundred years of Jewish-Christian relations which includes a recognition by the Church of the concrete realities pertaining to the Holocaust, the State of Israel, the role of Israel among the nations and its true place relating to Scripture. Indeed, this study extends very much into Church history to discover the disturbing roots of anti-Jewish hatred and expands to even cover modern day anti-Semitism and the present situation in the Middle East. The subject of Holocaust denial is also discussed. We are additionally presented with a section dealing with the history of the British Mandate in Palestine and yet another which deals with the Jews under Islam. The latter addressing the Dhimmi status of non-Moslems and Sharia law.
The ancient blood libels and many other issues underlying the virulent, vehement and fervid hatred of the Jewish people which culminated in so much persecution and slaughter, are provided with appropriate attention. Also addressed here is the arraignment against the Jews of Deicide. A concept frequently found in the writings of the Early Church Fathers and which was passed down through the ages. Something described as the ultimate manifestation and exercise of wickedness where the Jews are depicted as the murderers of the vehicle of their own Salvation, Jesus Christ. Yet another parallel indictment against the Jews, which originated from the very same sources as that of Deicide is that of the Jews being in league with the devil. These principles of shameless, racial hatred are discussed at length.
In relation to the Holocaust, the book points out that it may indeed come as a shock to many to discover that the Holocaust, (carried out in the middle of Christian Europe), was largely carried out by baptised Christians. (Adolf Hitler himself being described as a member of the Catholic Church.) Elements of the Nazi killing machine even being cited as being welcomed in many areas and being supplemented and supported by a number of local church leaders and their congregants. Whilst this may shock some readers, this subject deserves our attention irrespective of the individuals opinions pertaining to these revelations.
The book goes to great pains to illustrate that the Jewish people have been the focus of universal animosity throughout history and their Diaspora, even when they have been a minority race, largely dis-empowered, without political or national aspirations and until recently without a homeland. The book describing how the Jewish people have even adopted the societal norms, language, dress, culture and even religion of those amongst whom they have been scattered. Yet, despite this, the hatred of their race still could not be quelled.
This study also reveals how a particularly subtle form of anti-Semitism has insinuated its way into recent, modern thought. A hatred, which includes all of its ancient loathing, but is now to be found under the new labels of anti-Zionism or anti-Israelism. The study elaborating on this with due reference to context of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and the declared goals in the Arab world to eradicate the Jewish presence. Yasser Arafats own determined stance on the phased plan to destroy Israel receiving mention on page 103. The work of the new historians and their revisionist history are also cited. A timely reminder being quoted here that those who forget the past are condemned to relive it.
The book describes three phases within the operation of anti-Semitism. The first being cited as covert and which is exemplified by social exclusion together with the use of derogatory terminology. The second being overt which is exemplified by public announcement giving rise to sanctions and violence. The third being exterminatory and exemplified by genocide and ethnocide. These issues are themselves examined at length with due reference and example. The relevance of these principles in relation to the present day Middle East conflict emanates through the text.
The text also declares that the term anti-Semitism in the modern era is something of an anachronism as clearly some of the leading practitioners of active anti-Semitism are the Arab nations, who are of course Semites themselves. The book further elaborating that a more appropriate description of the hatred of the Jews would be the German term JUDENHASS, which essentially means the hatred of the Jews and all that they represent.
This is a most welcome book relating to a number of issues which both Christian and Jew need to grapple with. Issues which should not and cannot be ignored. Highly recommended.
on 19 September 2015
As an academic specialised in modern Middle Eastern history and politics, I picked up this book with the hope it would give me a better insight into the role of the church in promoting and encouraging anti-semitism. As a matter of fact, it did cover a great deal of what I ‘cross referenced’ as facts. It also raised significant questions regarding the origins and development of anti-semitism that I believe are worth thorough examination.
The first part of the book looks at early Judaism and the persecutions of the Jews throughout ancient history all the way from Babylonian capture to early years of Christianity. The author more or less stacks historical information one after the other occasionally with few lines of afterthought or what i call a ‘glimpses’ of analysis. For those interested in delving into history without much fuss about the ‘between in the lines’ analysis of historiography, will find the first and second part of the book quite captivating.
Being a theologian, Fred Wright excels in tracking down the roots of anti-semitism in the New Testament and how these thoughts eventually developed into a secular practice following the European Enlightenment. The analysis of the events that led to the Holocaust was particularly interesting.
While Wright’s sincere empathy with the Jewish suffering throughout history scores a point for him as for being able to transfer this empathy to the reader, it is also his downfall.
There are times when I felt that his empathy was somehow confused. His understanding of Judaism, Jews, Zionism and history got amorphously convoluted. When you move unto the next part of the book, a person with a good knowledge of modern history could immediately spot the emotional desperation and lack of depth in dealing with certain historical events. Not for a moment in the second part of the book did I feel I was reading a scholarly piece of work.
While he makes good points, occasionally en pointe interpretations, Wright’s general take on Zionism and the Nazis (for example) is a mixture of justifiable stances against conspiracy theorists and Holocaust deniers on one hand, and over-stretching of idealisation on the nature of the Zionist enterprise on the other.
Up to this point, regardless of the amateurish scholarly work in the second part, I could still have given this book 4 or 5 stars. However, once you move on unto the next section of anti-Israelism things get ugly.
Wright’s makes a habit throughout the book of quoting Israeli and European so-called neo-historians and “apologists” to support his points of external gentile and internal Jewish self-inflicting anti-semitism. The trend, however, gets overstretched when he talks about the relationship between the Jews and the Arabs throughout the Islamic history and recently following the inception of the state of Israel.
He, like many authors, fell into the trap of using the term ‘Arabs and Jews’, especially when he tackled the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It’s amazing that some scholars out there are still incapable of drawing the line between a cultural-religious group and an ethnicity. Ironically, in the early pages of the book, Wright raises very valid points regarding the criteria that defines what a ‘Jew’ is.
The author’s deep empathy with the Jews has obviously turned him into a stern pro-Israel voice. He practically falls into the biggest trap of all when he, desperately idealising the right of Jews to be in Palestine, tries to belittle the Palestinian plight, namely the Nakba. He even goes ahead and call it a ‘fabricated revised history’. I’m not going to go through he historical facts of whether the 750,000 Palestinians were expelled from their homes or not (You can find the evidence wherever you turn your head). What I find amazing is the double-standard tackling of human tragedies. That is, the Jews still have the right to live in the shadow of the Shoah trauma and use it as background theme music for Israel’s policy, but the Palestinians…well, no…their suffering is nothing in comparison. And their entitlement to the Nakba trauma is nothing but ‘fabrication’. Astonishingly, this is the author who few pages ago waged a war on the Holocaust deniers!
The brilliant theologian and historian that appeared on the first half of the book fails - embarrassingly - as far as the modern Middle Eastern history is concerned. Cherrypicking of evidence was particularly interesting. I would challenge anybody to read the last part of the book and not think that Israel is and has always been the victim of the vicious Palestinians. There isn’t even a clear statement of the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian Territories. I could skip the historical farce Mr. Wright has presented and give him the benefit of the misinformation doubt, but for somebody with all this empathy and - dare to say- unique sense of humanity, he comes across as hypocritical when it comes to the suffering of other humans who are not Jewish.
I wonder what would Mr. Wright think of the 2014 Gaza War. Would he be still clinging to the victim status he continuously gives the state of Israel no matter what? Or, will Hamas be the second miniature persecutor of the Jewish people - in his opinion?
Sadly, I was enjoying the book until I began entering the last section with its rugged terrain of prejudice and utterly farcical historiography. And for a scholar of the Mr. Wright’s calibre, that’s scandalous! Hence the 2 stars.