The Dev­il That Nev­er Dies: The Rise and Threat of Glob­al Antisemitism

Daniel Jon­ah Goldhagen
  • Review
By – January 30, 2014

In this rich and provoca­tive book, Daniel Jon­ah Gold­ha­gen exam­ines the world­wide resur­gence of anti-Semi­tism in the twen­ty-first cen­tu­ry. Its reach is unpar­al­leled, both his­tor­i­cal­ly and today and hun­dreds of mil­lions of peo­ple have been exposed to it, espe­cial­ly in the inter­net and satel­lite tele­vi­sion age. It is prac­ti­cal­ly an arti­cle of faith in much of the Arab and Islam­ic worlds which sub­scribes to the foun­da­tion­al anti-Semit­ic par­a­digm that holds Jews to be essen­tial­ly dif­fer­ent from non-Jews and dan­ger­ous. But it also exists in sub­dued forms among Chris­tians. The range of peo­ple spread­ing and believ­ing in anti-Semi­tism is unusu­al­ly broad. From com­mon folk” to uni­ver­si­ty pro­fes­sors and polit­i­cal lead­ers, from peo­ple on the polit­i­cal right to those on the left, from the sec­u­lar to the devout believ­ers in God — all sec­tors of soci­ety have been moved by its asso­ci­at­ed pas­sions, includ­ing hatred and vio­lence. One of the most effec­tive and dis­turb­ing argu­ments Gold­ha­gen musters is that the resur­gence of anti-Semi­tism over the past decade or so is shock­ing because it does not seem to shock. The hor­rif­ic calum­nies lev­eled against Jews in the Mid­dle East, Europe, and Africa seem to be accept­ed with­out chal­lenge by the mass­es, opin­ion mak­ers and elites alike. This has a self-rein­forc­ing dynam­ic of per­suad­ing more and more peo­ple of anti-Semitism’s claims.

Gold­ha­gen makes a strong case for anti-Semitism’s unique and endur­ing char­ac­ter. It has the abil­i­ty to change and mutate over time, ren­der­ing it con­tin­u­ous with ear­li­er forms and yet sub­stan­tial­ly new. It is more dan­ger­ous than at any time since the Holo­caust, threat­en­ing polit­i­cal­ly and phys­i­cal­ly Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ties around the world, includ­ing Israel’s very exis­tence. He is par­tic­u­lar­ly cogent in his nuanced treat­ment of the issue of crit­i­cism of Israel and when it slides into anti-Semi­tism. He expos­es the his­tor­i­cal and intel­lec­tu­al weak­ness­es of com­par­isons of Israel to Nazi Ger­many and the hypocrisy of aca­d­e­mics and lead­ers who judge Israel by dif­fer­ent standards.

This is an impor­tant book pro­vid­ing a com­pre­hen­sive cat­a­logue of glob­al­ized anti-Semi­tism.” Unfor­tu­nate­ly, how­ev­er, the book is long on denounc­ing and short on eval­u­at­ing. His crit­i­cism of oth­er reli­gions, par­tic­u­lar­ly Islam, is exces­sive and bor­ders on the con­spir­a­to­r­i­al. The fact that much of his research comes from the web and pub­lic opin­ion sur­veys makes his book less appeal­ing than the more schol­ar­ly ap­proaches to anti-Semi­tism offered in recent works by David Niren­berg, Antho­ny Julius, Alvin Rosen­feld, and Robert Wistrich. The writ­ing is often dense and repet­i­tive and the tone is occa­sion­al­ly shrill and hector­ing, with some of his points bor­der­ing on hyper­bole — yet the mes­sage is com­pelling and impor­tant. Anti-Semi­tism is back and we need to be concerned.

Michael N. Dobkows­ki is a pro­fes­sor of reli­gious stud­ies at Hobart and William Smith Col­leges. He is co-edi­tor of Geno­cide and the Mod­ern Age and On the Edge of Scarci­ty (Syra­cuse Uni­ver­si­ty Press); author of The Tar­nished Dream: The Basis of Amer­i­can Anti-Semi­tism; and co-author of The Nuclear Predicament.

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