Anti-Judaism: The History of a Way of Thinking by David Nirenberg - review by Frederic Raphael

Frederic Raphael


Anti-Judaism: The History of a Way of Thinking


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‘The jew is underneath the lot,’ wrote the poet. Fundamental and excremental have something in common. The charge of anti-Semitism has been laid with voluminous regularity against the great thinkers and artists of the Western tradition. The Christian world has wrestled, ever since AD superseded BC, with the debt (seemingly indistinguishable from the curse) of the primacy of Judaism. Moses, it has been said, led a disparate rabble out of bondage in Egypt and graced it with community by the invention (or imposition) of monotheism. Those who prayed together stayed together, pretty much, during those years in the wilderness and, eventually, found a resting place, restless as it proved to be, in what it is convenient to call Palestine. After the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70, the Jews who avoided enslavement (only 180 in some belated accounts) were said to have dispersed from Judea and remained forever homeless.

In fact, Jews remained in Palestine, if not in Jerusalem itself, in large numbers: how otherwise would Bar Kochba have led a mass uprising against the Emperor Hadrian in AD 132? Much has been made of the dislike of Jews expressed by ancient writers, before the specific venom of the

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