Semitic Anti-Semitism - The Jewish Voice
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Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Semitic Anti-Semitism

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At the risk of preaching to the choir (or the “minyan,” we guess?), there is an issue that we at the Jewish Voice would like to clear the air about, and that is, exactly what constitutes anti-Semitism, and when, if ever, it “doesn’t count.”

Anti-Semitism is defined as “Hostility and prejudice directed against Jewish people; (also) the theory, action, or practice resulting from this.” (Thank you, Oxford English Dictionary.) Note that nowhere in the definition of the term is it stipulated that the source must be non-Jewish, or “non-Semitic.” While one may assume that most instances of anti-Semitism involve non-Jews, this needn’t necessarily be the case, just as a person expressing racist views about people of African descent wouldn’t be rendered any less of a bigot by being black. A self-hater of any race or religion might be confused, but they still hate.

Why do we bring this up now, you ask? Comedienne Roseanne Barr, in her ongoing attempts to stay “edgy” and culturally relevant, managed to make waves last week with a Tweet about “Jewish mind control.” Now, Roseanne has a history of making nonsensical remarks (such as “I’m running for president”), some of them anti-Jewish or anti-Israel. What really bothers us, however, is her defense against critics: “I’m a Jew, so refrain from calling me an anti-Semite.” Maybe if Roseanne would refrain from acting like (and probably, being) an anti-Semite, perhaps people would stop calling her one. Being Jewish can’t shield you from factually-based accusations of anti-Semitism, any more than a rich person could rob a bank, then get away with it by telling the Judge “I can’t possibly be a thief; I already have money!”

On a related note, Arab activists will sometimes deflect charges of anti-Jewish bigotry by explaining that, being “Semitic” themselves, they are incapable of anti-Semitism. As world-renowned historian and Mid-East scholar Bernard Lewis once put it (and I’m paraphrasing here): this is the logical equivalent of saying that a translation of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion printed in London is anti-Semitic, but one printed in Cairo is not because Hebrew and Arabic are cognate languages.

Incidentally, the word “anti-Semitism” was coined in the 1880s by German anti-Semite Wilhelm Marr, as a more scientific-sounding alternative to “Judenhass” (Jew-hatred). And if you think that substituting the former for the latter to impart an air of sophistication sounds ridiculous, consider this: How many times have you heard someone say “I’m not an anti-Semite, I’m just anti-Zionist.” And how many of those times do you think the person saying those words harbored absolutely no ill-will toward the Jewish community?

And just like that, the cycle of nonsense continues.

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