Thursday, August 14, 2003

This is perhaps a good time to give my interpretation of the term "antisemitism". You'll notice I don't use a hyphen, like most major news organizations. Sometimes you will hear pro-Palestinian folks argue that Arabs cannot be antisemitic because they too are Semites. This specious argument has two major flaws. The first is that, for better or worse, antisemitism, like many words, is a word of dubious origin. It was used by an anti-Jewish German writer in the 19th century to describe his hatred of the "Jewish" culture which he felt was encroaching on German culture. Antisemitism has been used to describe hatred of Jews since then. It actually describes a little more than that; whereas the term anti-Jewish might be used to a particular law or policy, antisemitism suggests something more systemic, and might be used to describe a person's overall political and social outlook or a country's overall policy. Its use has absolutely nothing to do with Arabs or other peoples of the Middle East. The proof in the pudding is the second argument: Have you ever heard an Arab (or a Jew for that matter) describe himself or herself as Semite? No. Antisemites who are Semites seem to remember that they are Semitic only when accused of antisemitism. Hypenating the term "antisemitism" is, in my opinion, compounds which feeds this big lie, and thus I believe that antisemitism should be written as one word, a word which stands on its own.


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