Jewish history

The roots of anti-Semitism in Europe

The medieval trope that Jews are inherently bloodthirsty has echoed down the ages. Forms of the blood libel have been disseminated ever since the myth emerged in England in the 12th century with claims that Christian children were being ritually murdered by Jews in re-enactments of the crucifixion of Jesus. In the aftermath of 7 October, Labour’s Rochdale by-election candidate Azhar Ali accused Israel of lowering its defences so that it could justify the shedding of innocent Palestinian blood. Gigi Hadid, the American model, shared a video which alleged that Israel is harvesting the organs of Palestinians. The International Criminal Court’s pursuit of arrest warrants for the Israeli Prime Minister

Masters of the opium trade: the fabulous wealth of the Sassoons

Just before I started to read this book I had been immersed in the letters written by Jewish merchants based in Cairo from the tenth to the 12th centuries describing the trade they conducted across the Indian Ocean all the way to the Malabar coast. These letters are written in a difficult cursive Hebrew script and in a Judaeo-Arabic dialect, so one needs greater expertise than I possess to read them in the original. It was therefore with what was almost a sense of dejà vu that I encountered Joseph Sassoon’s fascinating account of the rise and fall of the Sassoon family, from the beginning of the 19th century to