Friday, February 2, 2007

The Anguish of the Jews: Twenty-Three Centuries of Antisemitism by Edward H. Flannery

Being an avid history reader I've always been interested in understanding how and why certain tedencies in anti-semitism had come about. For example, the blood libel, which has plagued the Jews into the twentieth century, or the idea that the Jews started the Black Plague, or simply why during the Crusades Jews were targeted. This book will explain that and so much more. It begins with how the Jews were treated under the Egyptians and later on moves into the Roman Empire, etc. Although anti-semitism wasn't coined until the 18th century the roots of 'Jewish hatred' started more or less a few centuries after the death of Christ.

The reader will notice that the reasons for hatred against Jews change and are sometimes hypocritical and convuluted with the ideology they are representing. At first Christians hate Jews for not wanting to convert and absolve them if they do, eventually being Jewish is no longer about your religion but rather of the blood you were born with, something Hitler and the Nazis take to a new level with the 'final solution.' I think the author is somewhat incorrect in thinking there that the New Testament is not exactly 'anti-semitic', I personally think it is and it set some of the standards for later hatred against Jews and the Jewish religion.

The Spanish Inquisition was an interesting period to read about, as were the Crusades during which thousands of Jews were massacred as the crusaders marched on to the Holy city to free it of 'infeidels.' Overall an excellent introduction into why and how anti-semitism began, spread, and took on a life of its own. Many will be surprised by the wholesale eviction of Jews from countries every few decades, only when money was needed were they allowed back only to be heavily taxed, ridiculed, abused, and evicted again until another King, Kaiser, Tsar, or Pope allowed them back. A truly sad history but one that must not be forgotten and understood if we want to keep up with the world today.

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