Robert S. Wistrich: 'UK is European center of anti-Semitism'





Britain has become the epicenter for anti-Semitic trends in Europe as traditional, age-old anti-Semitism in a country whose literature and cultural tradition were "drenched" in anti-Semitism has developed into a contemporary mix of anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism, an Israeli historian said Monday.

The problem of anti-Semitism in Britain is exacerbated by a growing and increasingly radical Muslim population, the weak approach taken by a timid British Jewish leadership, and the detachment of the British from their Christian roots, said Hebrew University historian Prof. Robert S. Wistrich in a lecture on British anti-Semitism at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.

"Britain has become the center point for the meeting of anti-Semitic trends in Europe," Wistrich said.

In a wide-ranging two-hour address, the Cambridge University-educated historian, who has just completed a book on global anti-Semitism, traced the roots of British anti-Semitism to its history, culture and literature going back to medieval times.

"Anti-Semitism in Great Britain is at least a millennial phenomenon and has been around for 1000 years of recorded history," Wistrich said.

He noted that the expulsion of all Jews from Britain in 1290 by King Edward I following years of anti-Semitic violence was the first major expulsion of any Jewish community in Europe.

Jews were banned from Britain until 1656, when Oliver Cromwell, who had overthrown the monarchy, authorized their return.

Wistrich noted that a Jewish presence was not required in Britain to produce potent and resonating anti-Semitic stereotypes in classic English literature, including in works by Chaucer, Marlowe, Shakespeare, Dickens, Trollope, T. S. Elliot, and D. H. Lawrence, which he said continues to impact British society hundreds of years later today.

"The authors are conveying and transmitting to a future generation an embedded anti-Semitism whose influence is impossible to underestimate," Wistrich said....

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