Antisemitism | Deborah E. Lipstadt

Summary of: Antisemitism: Here and Now
By: Deborah E. Lipstadt


In her insightful book ‘Antisemitism: Here and Now’, Deborah E. Lipstadt examines the rise of dangerous antisemitism in today’s increasingly intolerant global society. Structuring her report as a series of letters based on queries Lipstadt received from a non-Jewish colleague and a Jewish student, she sheds light on the resilience of antisemitism, as well as its many manifestations and cultural implications. Through fictional correspondence and real-life experiences, Lipstadt explores how the normalization of hatred across various groups erodes multicultural, democratic, and inclusive societies. By reading this summary, you’ll delve into the reasons behind the persistence of antisemitism, its historical and modern expressions, and the urgent need to counteract this ongoing conspiracy theory.

Rise of Antisemitism

Lipstadt’s report highlights the dangerous surge of antisemitism in today’s world, with a focus on Europe. She employs a letter format to engage with two students regarding this phenomenon. Lipstadt argues that allowing false conspiracies, like Holocaust denial, to spread unchallenged only fuels more hatred and intolerance.

The Impact of Antisemitism

Lipstadt presents a thought-provoking book centered on the discussion around the development of antisemitism and its impact on society as seen through the letters exchanged by two characters “Abigail,” a Jewish college student, and “Joe,” a Christian college professor. Lipstadt’s expertise as a Jewish woman, a scholar, and a professor is channeled through her alter ego, Professor DEL, in responding to these thought-provoking letters. The book highlights how expressions of contempt for one group can lead to hatred being directed towards different groups, and emphasizes how antisemitism poses a threat to multicultural and democratic societies.

The Absurdity and Danger of Antisemitism

Abigail and Joe contemplate the persistence of antisemitism. Joe points out the normalization of homophobia, racism, antisemitism, and Islamophobia in the US. The nature of antisemitism as an absurd and potentially dangerous conspiracy theory makes it challenging to combat. Provable counterfactuals only reinforce the beliefs of conspiracy theorists, making it impossible to disprove illogical assertions. Despite this, we must insist that antisemitism is pointless and will never make sense.

The Roots of Antisemitism

Professor DEL’s account of her 1972 visit to Russia exposes the powerful lies surrounding the Communist government’s blaming of Soviet Jews for food and shoe shortages. The government promoted antisemitism and persecution of Jews, further fueled by a belief in a Jewish conspiracy. The book highlights the continuing existence of this age-old hatred, with post-9/11 events serving as another example of unfounded accusations against Jews. Instead of focusing on differences, this thought-provoking book emphasizes the importance of unity and recognizing humanity’s shared values to overcome bigotry.

The Danger of Polite Bigotry

Bigotry wrapped in politeness can lead to discrimination and hate. Antisemitism is often hidden in discussions related to the Israeli government and Palestinians in academic circles. While many have sincere policy disagreements with Israeli leadership, some use those criticisms to mask anti-Semitic views. The danger is apparent in how they criticize Israel while ignoring similar policies and actions in other countries. It’s important to recognize the danger of polite bigotry and call it out for what it is.

Blaming Jews

For thousands of years, Jews have faced blame and accusations for society’s issues, including the death of Jesus, economic downturns, political tensions, and military failures. These accusations have been debunked, but still continue to exist. From the bubonic plague in the 14th century to Nazis in Germany, and the eugenic theories of genetic inferiority, Jews have had to face widespread antisemitism. Despite being insupportable, these accusations still appeal to hate-filled bigots.

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