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3.2 out of 5 stars
Antisemitism: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions)
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
I like the 'A Very Short Introduction' series. Some of the titles in the series give a very refreshing view that makes you consider the subject anew.

The whole subject of Holocaust [i.e. systematic slaughter of Europe's jews during the 2nd World War] denial interests me. I find it vaguely disconcerting to read opinions of people who use various weasel words and specious logic to try to convince others that what they see on TV or read in recognised history books is just a massive cover up. When I ask myself why people do this, I come up with 3 main reasons; 1. They are admirers of Hitler and want to exonerate him from such a massive and heinous crime against humanity, 2. They just like being perverse and holding unconventional views or 3. They genuinely don't like jews and regard them as promoting their 'alleged' victimhood as some kind of tool against the rest of society. In other words, Holocaust Denial is in reality a form of antisemitism.

With these thoughts in mind, I thought I would look at the subject of antisemitism in its wider historical, philosophical and social context. This book is as its title suggests a very short introduction. For this reason it was a very quick whistle stop story taking interesting ideas of irrationalism and modernism, church and state repression, various bits of exile. A large number of unfamiliar names get mentioned without any proper explanation who these people were or how significant their contributions were, and surprisingly, found the book a bit of slog to read considering its brevity. I found that it was a bit unsatistying in the end.

The one thing that seems clear is that there are many different and often exclusive and contradictory reasons for people being antisemitic. Another thing that came out is that the jews could not really win. They could maintain their separate and distinct culture and become a target for others or they could assimilate and then be regarded as an insidious force to be rooted out.

I would have liked things to be a bit more fleshed out. For instance, I would liked to have more descriptions of the though processes of prominent antisemites like Richard Wagner, Martin Luther and Henry Ford as well as Adolf Hitler. I would like to have had a more descriptive coverage of the contents of 'Protocols of the Elders of Zion', which seems to have been a highly influential publication for antisemites throughout the World. Furthermore, it would also have been nice if the writer had tried to give a few logical rebuttals - he does tend to sit on the fence.

I am glad I have read the book but feel that there must be better books covering this terrible subject.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
This book was required reading for the Holocaust module of my degree, and this is painstakingly obvious; Beller has written a short but detailed history of the antisemitism from the early medieval period to the twentieth century. It is basic, yes, but a good starting point for understanding the development and continuation of antisemitism. However, his writing does not flow especially well, and he is prone to making simplistic or conflicting statements. I would recomend this to someone intrested in this field of study (and is just getting into it, perhaps) but to be aware of what could possibly be described as faults in Beller's analysis.
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on 20 December 2014
I've given this three stars because among the misinformation there are some good bits of information. We are supposed to believe the Jews have been picked on over thousands of years and in many different cultures for no real reason other than irrational fear.

Those who are serious about understanding the real cause of Antisemitism should read this: Rivers of Blood: Why Enoch Powell Was Right!
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on 7 December 2011
This work is a valuable contribution because it highlights the mundane sociological and psychological (what the author calls "instrumental rationality") motivations for anti-Semitism in the late 19th and first half 20th century Central and Eastern Europe.
Nevertheless, it has several major shortcomings:

1. The first problem is with the author's definition of anti-Semitism.
He provides four different definitions:
a. "a hatred of Jews that stretched across millennia and continents".
b. "a psychologically pathological version of an ethnocentric and religiocentric anti-Judaism".
c. "a relatively modern political ideology that arose in Central Europe in the late 19th century".
d. "a combination of all these".
Even though the author says the book treats mainly of political anti-Semitism he definitely operates with the fourth definition. Therefore it continues to give credit to the controversial (to put it politely) Freudo-Marxist thesis of the "irrationality" (anti-Semitism as a mental disorder) of modern (non-religious) anti-Semitism. Furthermore, the author puts in the same category those who merely criticised or did not sympathise with the Jews (Voltaire, Schopenhauer, Wagner) with the exterminationist anti-Semites (Hitler). A finer concept is badly needed!

I suggest a better definition: anti-Semitism is xenophobia directed towards Jews. The ultra-nationalist xenophobe intellectuals and politicians of Central and Eastern Europe manifested xenophobia not only towards Jews but also towards other ethnic minorities: Romanians towards Hungarians, Poles towards Germans, Germans towards ... Poles, etc. That will put political anti-Semitism in the rightful context of the European age of nationalism.

A consequence of the emphasis put on political anti-Semitism it that the exposition concentrates on German speaking countries and on Ashkenazi Jews.

2. The book offers also a narrative of Jewish persecutions in Europe since the Middle Ages culminating with the Holocaust ("a Whig history in reverse"). The unstated assumption behind the author's narrative is that "discursive anti-Semitism" was the (main) cause for pogroms and the Holocaust. That is a strange methodology to use by a social scientist because it naively takes peoples' stated motivations at face value. Yet at the end of the book the author concedes that "anti-Semitism in the form of resentment at Jewish success and power [...] will persist as long as there are Jews, just as would be the case for any other identifiable ethnic or religious group."

3. In the discussion of the Middle Age Church anti-Judaism, the author holds the common but insulting and stupid view that the anti-Judaism of the Christian Church stemmed from the accusation that Jews were the "Christ's killers". In reality, the anti-Judaism of the Church had deep theological reasons and also fairly mundane sociological explanations. Furthermore, the author concedes that "Jews were the sole minority faith tolerated within the confines of Western Christendom."

4. When the author deals with the modern era, he contrasts the Enlightenment (The Age of Reason) with Romanticism that he calls the "culture of irrationalism".
While labelling the Romantic Era the "culture of irrationalism" could be pertinent, the author calls" irrational" (with its semantic of unsound, crazy, absurd, etc.) and Crypto-Christian the considerations relative to Judaism and/or Jews of Kant, Fichte, Schopenhauer, Wagner, etc. Nothing then can prevent barbarisms like "the irrationality of the irrationalist antisemitsim".
I find that implication annoying. If we respect those writers' views on other subjects, why shouldn't we respect their views on Judaism/Jews too? Personally, I find Fichte judgment on Jews disturbingly prescient.

5. In the same context, the author considers that the asserted association of Jews with the rationalism of the Enlightenment was a cause for the anti-Semitism professed by people of a conservative persuasion. I consider this another example of the "ironies" of the narative alluded by the author.
If Jews had embraced rationalism sincerely, they would have abandoned their ethnic and religious identity and assimilated into the host nations. They have not done it until this day! Another alternative explanation for the anti-Semitism of the conservative people is that they perceived the Jewish sympathy for the progressive ideas as a pharisaic attitude.

Furthermore, the author uses the spurious distinction between the "good" French "civic" nationalism and the "bad" Central and Eastern European "ethno"-nationalism. That distinction is a discredited one and is popular mainly with Jewish scholars. Because Jewish identity is based exclusively on religious and not linguistic identity, what Jews ask from a state is religious toleration/secularism and not cultural self-determination as other European ethnic minorities do. The notoriously xenophobic but secular French state fits therefore the bill.

Another controversial conceptual distinction employed is that between a so-called Anglo-Saxon form of modernity that is pluralistic and liberal and a German or Continental form that is more collectivistic and less liberal. That distinction is problematic again when the author himself concedes that there is no strong evidence for it and when the better treatment of the Jews in Anglo-Saxon countries could be attributed to neo-protestant theological philo-Semitism.

6. The author is an adherent of the left wing cliché that racial determinism theories have been discredited. In reality, not only that those theories have not been discredited among scientists but have actually a day by day stronger and stronger empirical base. In fact, scientists at present are trying to discover the genes that make Ashkenazi Jews over-intelligent. Is this not another "irony"?

7. While the author concedes that Jews were over-represented in both the communist subversion that threatened the security of European societies and in the imperialistic and criminal Bolshevik regime of Russia he minimises the role knowledge of the atrocities (The Red Holocaust)committed by Jewish Bolshevik politicians and insurrectionists played in the development of anti-Jewish sentiment in the interwar period.

The book concludes with the author's solution to the survival of worldwide Jewry: the universal adoption of pluralist liberalism with the exception of Israel, which should be allowed to retain the "bad" version of nationalism, "ethno-nationalism". In other words, to have one's cake and eat it. A final "irony".

To conclude, overall the book let me the impression that the author is less concerned with the "truth" than with the politics of (left wing) Diaspora Jews.
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on 22 November 2011
Anti-semitism has always been a bizarre concept for me (hating a whole race/culture is not only immoral but intellectually bankrupt).This book succinctly outlines the history of such prejudice and is an "intellectual" read without being too dense.
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on 14 March 2014
very helpful if you've left your seminar reading to last minute and need to blag your way through one on anti antisemitism. However also very useful to read if your not blagging and a proper read is recommended as it is not an easy subject!!
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 19 June 2010
This excellent book asks what constitutes anti-semitism, and focuses on the development of political anti-semitism in Europe from the 1880s to the Second World War. It unpicks the various strands in a balanced and informed way and in the context of a valuable longer-term historical perspective. The final chapter discussing antisemitism and racism since the war in the USA, Europe and other places such as Japan is particularly thoughtful.
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on 28 July 2014
great summary though explanation are somertimes needed and a basic information on antisemitism is a must. Every high school student should study this book
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 6 August 2014
I recently considered purchasing this book, but in the end didn't. Now that I have read this shocking post ( I am very pleased I followed my instincts.
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4 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on 19 March 2010
This poor excuse for history is extremely superficial and limited in scope.
The entire book is badly researched and sheds no new light on the history of phenomenon of anti-Semitism.
But what is most appalling is the author's trotting out of the leftist lies always disseminated in academic circles that "the equation between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism is deeply flawed. Anti-Zionism is not necessarily equatable with anti-Semitism".
Of course at any left wing university , you need to trot out this line to pass any courses on the topic of the Middle East or Anti-Semitism and racism.
Beller does not explore any further than trotting out the party line of the international left on this topic.
In fact what anti-Zionism is is hostility to the State of Israel and the Israeli people. The definition of racism includes hatred of a country. Anti-Zionism is the denial of the rights to self-determination for Jews(and by extension, regarding the realities of the conflict, all other human rights).
Anti-Zionists deny the human rights of the Levantine Jews-thus they refuse to accept for Jews in the Middle East what they demand for other peoples
What is the anti-Zionist saying to the Jew? Once you were told you cannot live in Europe, now we say you cannot live in Palestine!
Israeli liberal author Amos Oz relates how, as a youth in Europe, the walls were covered in graffiti saying "Jews, go to Palestine. So they went and today the walls of Europe scream 'Jews Out of Palestine!'
What is the alternative to Zionism?
Is it the expulsion of 5 million Jews from their country or is it the sinister 'One State solution' they euphemistically dub the 'South Africa solution ' but is in reality the Rwanda or Sudan/Final Solution.
a 'unitary' Arab dominated 'Palestine' to replace Israel, in which Jews would be a helpless minority at the mercy and whim of HAMAS , as the Jews in Europe and the Arab countries (from which 800 000 Jews where expelled in 1948.) were at the mercy of their persecutors. If their demand became a reality, Jews would wait, huddled in their ghettos, to be massacred by the Arabs.
These leftists (Jewish or otherwise) who call for Israel's replacement by a 'unitary Palestine' know full well that this would lead to a second Holocaust of Israel's five million Jews.

How well did the 'unitary state ' work in Lebanon where hundreds of thousands of Christian Lebanese were massacred by the PLO and Syrians and went from being a majority in 1975 to a minority today? How well did the Animists and Christian Nilotic Blacks in Darfur and Southern Sudan fare in Sudan where millions have been massacred, or the Kurds in Iraq where 800 000 were butchered by Saddam Hussein?We all know how minorities fare in Arab countries and what makes anyone think the Jews in your suggested 'unitary Palestine' would fare any better, given the amount of hate in Palestinian society for Israel's Jews. On the latter I do not need to elaborate.

Judea Pearl is a professor of computer science at UCLA and father of Daniel Pearl, a journalist who was kidnapped and murdered in Pakistan while investigating the case of a convicted shoe bomber.
Pearl has pointed out that "As a form of racism, anti-Zionism is worse than anti-Semitism. It targets the most vulnerable part of the Jewish people, namely, the people of Israel, who rely on the sovereignty of their state for physical safety, national identity and personal dignity. To put it more bluntly, anti-Zionism condemns 5 million human beings, mostly refugees or children of refugees, to eternal statelessness, traumatized by historical images of persecution and genocide.

Anti-Zionism also attacks the pivotal component of our identity, the glue that bonds us together -- our nationhood, our history. And while people of conscience reject anti-Semitism, anti-Zionist rhetoric has become a mark of academic sophistication and social acceptance in Europe and in some U.S. campuses".

Why out of a massive landmass under Arab control , and a number of Arab states (today they number 22) it is regarded as such an injustice that a number of Arabs should be a minority in a Jewish State, where they enjoy full civil and political rights.
Jewish statelessness had led to the slaughter of 6 million Jews during the Holocaust.

Beller defends leftwing anti-Zionists by writing that they cannot possibly be anti-Semitic because they support the equal rights of individual Jews in their own domestic polities . Thus the Dutch leftwing anti-Zionist or the British leftwing anti-Zionist does not oppose the equal rights of Jews within the Netherlands or the United Kingdom respectively. (Of course he omits to mention that their aggressive pressure from the radical left for Jews to cut all ties with Israel and therefore renounce their way to identify with their own people as they see fit, is immediately depriving Jews of human rights as would pressure for Muslims in Europe to cut all ties and all solidarity with Muslims in their countries of origin)
He then go's on further to say that these leftwing anti-Zionists are being consistent to their belief in the human rights of Jews in the formers own countries of domicile, by supporting the extension of these rights to the Palestinians- to the Palestinians but not to the Israeli or Levantine Jews!
But this is not the point. The anti-Zionist does not support the human rights of the largest Jewish community in the world today-that of the Jews of Israel i.e the Levantine Jews, and therefore his denial of the rights of a very large portion of the world's Jews can and should indeed be equated with anti-Semitism.

The anti-Zionist cries out for the rights of the Palestinians but disregards the human rights of the Israelis/Levantine Jews.
Beller covertly condones the aggression by Muslims towards Jews today, while admitting that the majority of attacks on Jews in Europe come from Muslims and not far right Europeans, by stating that this aggression would not have taken place if not for the State of Israel and Zionism.
The fact he again omits to mention is that ALL Anti-Semitism throughout history has claimed a reason for it's prejudice and aggression against the Jewish people. Many Eastern Europeans helped the Nazis, because they ostensibly associated Jews with Bolshevism, as a large number of their Bolshevik oppressors had been Jews (or rather of Jewish birth) during the Russian civil war and the 1920s and 30s. Therefore could one say that if it was not for Bolshevism/Communism there would have been no help from East Europeans of the Nazis in annihilating Eastern European Jewry? This is the same reasoning as Beller excusing Islamic anti-Semtism as being a response to Zionism (Zionism is an affirmation of the rights of the Jewish people and in no way excuses or legitimizes anti-Semitism of any kind in fact).
Furthermore Beller claims that because Zionism has not ended anti-Semitism, it means that Zionism and Herzl's vision were a failure. This is rubbish. The primary aim of Zionism was and is not to end world anti-Semitism (Anti-Semitism will always be with us in the world). The aim of Zionism was and is to give the Jews a homeland where they can determine their own destiny and not be at the mercy of anti-Semites and hostile forces. This is more valid then ever today and the reason why all decent people have to fight to preserve Israel as a Jewish homeland.
The bottom line being sidestepped by the likes of Beller is that Jews in Israel, in the Levant, are also entitled to human rights.
I would recommend instead books such as The Changing Face of Anti-Semitism: From Ancient Times to the Present Day,Why the Jews?: The Reason for Anti-Semitism,The Return of Anti-semitism,Antisemitism Today: How It Is the Same, How It Is Different and How to Fight It,The New Anti-semitism: The Current Crisis and What We Must Do About it and Jihad and Jew-hatred: Islamism, Nazism and the Roots of 9/11
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