Anti-Semitism is more pervasive, dangerous and deadly than ever before, writes the author of Hitler’s Willing Executioners (1996).
Former Harvard professor Goldhagen (Worse Than War: Genocide, Eliminationism, and the Ongoing Assault on Humanity, 2009), who has also written about the role of the Roman Catholic Church in the Holocaust (A Moral Reckoning, 2002), comes out swinging in this frontal assault on anti-Semitism and its practitioners and does not pause for breath until the final page, where he offers a feeble defense against the formidable juggernaut he describes: “People of good conscience unite….” Although his arguments and evidence are at times repetitive, they are never redundant. The author begins with the origins of anti-Semitism, then examines its singularity (it is unlike any other prejudice at large today), its omnipresence in contemporary culture (Mel Gibson makes a cameo) and even lists a number of literary all-stars who have embraced and/or furthered its foul agenda (Chaucer, Voltaire and Eliot among them). Goldhagen then describes what he calls the “antisemitic paradigm,” offering a list of defining characteristics. He traces the history of anti-Semitism in Christian history (from the Crusades to the enduring beliefs about “Christ-killing” and the blood libel), then argues that the sympathy accorded the Jews following the Holocaust has been abating in recent years. Other major topics include the relationship between anti-Israel positions and anti-Semitism (they are inextricably linked, he says), the political and religious motives of anti-Semitism in Arab and Muslim states, and the spread of anti-Semitism to the United Nations and to NGOs. Among his most alarming sections are those devoted to the viral spread of anti-Semitism via the Internet, social and news media. Most of the illustrations he reproduces (political cartoons, quotations from politicians) are horrifying to contemplate. Repeatedly he wonders: How can so few people generate such pervasive hostility?
A frightening photograph of a mutable demon so many fail to recognize and continue to embrace.