Laqueur's survey of the long history of anti-Semitism is particularly valuable for insights into contemporary leftist and Muslim manifestations in Europe and the Middle East. Although the traditional pillars of anti-Semitism in Europe, notably the church and the extreme Right, have weakened since World War II, new sources have emerged in a sizeable Muslim immigration and an activist Left that embraces an uncritical "Third Worldism."
Much that has been characterized by European media as anti-Zionism, Laqueur demonstrates, is in fact anti-Semitism. Exposing a dangerous double standard, he observes that although Israeli-Palestinian clashes have accounted for only about .03 percent of deaths in internal conflicts over the world since 1945, denunciations of Israel by international organizations have exceeded those of all other countries combined. Europeans have staged no significant protests over the persecution of Baha'i in Iran, India's Untouchables, or Egypt's Copts—nor, he might have added, over the Sephardic Jews driven from Arab lands.
Laqueur identifies several roots of modern Arab anti-Semitism, including the decline of Arab confidence, the influence of European Christian missionaries, the rise of the yishuv (the pre-1948 Jewish community in Palestine), and the increasing importance of Islamist teachings. He points to the widespread use by leaders and movements of quotes from the Qur'an and Hadith (sayings and actions of the Prophet Muhammad) to promote openly anti-Jewish—rather than simply anti-Zionist—invective and to dehumanize Jews.
In some areas, however, The Changing Face of Anti-Semitism is deficient. Particularly jarring is Laqueur's unrealistic assertions about Israel's options in the wake of the Six-Day war. Minimizing Israel's military vulnerability, Laqueur criticizes it for failing to initiate the return of territories and the division of Jerusalem. Similarly, his discussion of the Beilis case, the twentieth century's most prominent blood libel trial, is misleading, minimizing the level of Russian anti-Semitism on the eve of World War I. He fails to indicate that the jury was divided, came close to a guilty verdict, and ruled that a Jew had in fact committed a ritual murder. Drawing heavily on one outdated secondary work, Laqueur also seriously understates the amount of anti-Semitism in American history. In discussing Christianity, Laqueur ignores important elements of racial anti-Semitism, which began with the gospels. He also neglects the role of crises of doubt about church teachings in intensifying anti-Semitism among the Christian masses.
Although The Changing Face of Anti-Semitism has some serious shortcomings as a history of anti-Semitism, its analysis of many elements of contemporary anti-Semitism is of considerable value.