A Lethal Obsession

lethal-obsession.jpgAnti-Semitism has a long and ugly history, which culminated in the Holocaust in the 1940s. But it occurs even in countries where few, if any, Jews live. Renowned historian Robert Wistrich traces its history from ancient times to its shocking resurgence today.

Listen to Lethal Obession

It's been called a lethal obsession - the long and ugly history of anti-Semitism.  And its roots go way back, into ancient history. There are many reasons for this hatred of the "Jewish Difference."  It has theological roots - the idea of a formless, judgmental God who passes down a universal moral law to a chosen people.  The idea of the chosen people itself was disturbing to many in the pagan world. Later, for early Christians, Jews were viewed as Christ killers and representatives of cosmic and satanic evil.  It did not help at all that Jews could be successful, even when they were marginalized - mixing fear with envy among their enemies.   In the Middle Ages, Jews were accused of horrible crimes - killing children, the so- called "blood libels."  They endured mass killings, pogroms and persecution.  Jews could also be accused of polluting and controlling the world, as in the Czarist forgery of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, which has survived to this day and been made into serial TV drama in for Muslim Middle Eastern audiences.

This lethal obsession survives today and spreads like a virus and shows no sign of going away.

Robert S. Wistrich, a history professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, is the head of the Vidal Sassoon International Study of Anti-Semitism.  He was interviewed by Ideas producer Richard Handler, who also writes the Ideas Guy column for CBC News on-line.

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