In memoriam: Professor Robert S. Wistrich

Robert S. Wistrich, professor of Jewish history at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, head of the Sassoon International Center for the Study of Antisemitism, and perhaps the world’s foremost scholar of antisemitism, died of a heart attack yesterday in Rome.

He was 70.

Wistrich was born in the Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic in 1945, raised in Britain and educated in the US. He settled in Israel in 1982. 

Professor Wistrich published dozens of books throughout his long career about the history of Jew hatred, including From Ambivalence to Betrayal: The Left, the Jews and Israel, and his magnum opus, A Lethal Obsession: Antisemitism — From Antiquity to the Global Jihad,” published in 2010.

Though he was an accomplished academic, Wistrich also possessed the unique ability within academia to communicate effectively to non-academics, and was able to speak clearly and plainly even when contextualizing the often complex dynamics of historical and contemporary antisemitism.

This writer was honored to share a panel with Professor Wistrich at a CAMERA event in Jerusalem earlier in the year, where he addressed the relationship between media coverage of Israel and rising antisemitism.

Here’s a video of his talk: 


Earlier this month, Wistrich spoke at the Global Forum for Combatting Antisemitism in Jerusalem, where he addressed the increasing threat posed by Islamist antisemitism to Europe’s Jews, a topic, he often lamented, which is routinely downplayed by both the American and European media.

During his speech, he emphasized that Islamism represents the spearhead of the resurgent antisemitism – hatred of Jews qua Jews disguised as ‘mere’ hatred of Israel. He explained that the problem is not Islam as such, but the malevolent ideology of Islamism which misuses, abuses and hijacks one of the great universal faiths to legitimize extreme racism and violent Jihad.

Wistrich was a giant in his field, and a brave, sober and intellectually serious voice on anti-Jewish racism – a scourge he referred to as “the world’s longest hatred.

He will be sorely missed.  

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