Defining Anti-Semitism 101

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For years, I have been fighting the notion that statements made against the actions of the State of Israel, were equal to anti-Semitic sentiments, explaining that it has been long and well-documented that the term “Semite” refers not only to the Jewish people (as the term “Jewish” does), but so to does this term refer to all those who speak a Semitic language, such as the peoples of Northern Africa, and those of the Near East. Belonging within the fold of “Semite” are both (& equally) Arabs and Jews. From this, it follows that to be anti-Semitic, one can be neither Arab nor Jewish.

Fast forward to 2004, and the new definition of anti-Semitism as propounded by the Merriam-Webster dictionary, which apart from equating anti-Zionists with anti-Semites, has officially, by printed definition, aligned those in “opposition to Israel” with the more dangerous and traditional anti-Semites, the likes of one Adolf.
This so-called “opposition to Israel” has neither border nor proper context. There are no pre-cursors and no follow-ups, no beginning and no ending. If you oppose ANYTHING about the state or the State of Israel, you are, according to Merriam-Webster, by definition an "anti-Semite".

Rest assured that you appear to be in excellent company, for your peers in this form of anti-Semitism are the Jewish men and women refusing to serve in the Israeli army, the United Nations, Amnesty International, the International Criminal Court, Doctors Without Borders, The Red Crescent, The Red Cross, Jews Against the Occupation, Not in Our Name, Gush-Shalom, Martin Buber, Noam Chomsky, Norman Finkelstein, Marc H. Ellis, Amira Hass, Che, Fidel, Subcomandante Marcos, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Pierre Trudeau, Canada, France, Britain, Spain, Italy, Australia, etc.

This definition assumes that it is only non-Jews who can be opponents of the actions of the State of Israel, and reinforces the notion that Jews who speak up against the actions of the State of Israel are anti-Semitic, and so “self hating.” There is a multitude of very loud, very real and very strong Jewish voices who are in direct “opposition to Israel” specifically because of their love and respect for all Semitic Peoples equally.

The zionization of anti-Semitism has soaked it in political agenda, attempting to paralyze a most necessary discourse about the criminal actions of the State of Israel. The dangers of this definition affect each and every one of us for it is glaringly faulty, inappropriate, rewrites history and legitimizes the use of the word as a weapon against international law, human rights, and dissenting opinion. If this definition goes unchallenged, it will further an already gross smear campaign against both Jewish and non-Jewish opponents to Israel’s illegal occupation of the Palestinian Territories, and their brutally oppressive policies against the Palestinian people that continue on a day by day, and minute by minute basis.

The complexity of the situation is so far-reaching that one can not homogenize all opponents to Israel. There are the fanatics who want to see the complete destruction of the State, there are the Jews who want to see a State that does not occupy and oppress, there are the Palestinians who want to live in peace with their Jewish neighbors as equals rather than subjects of an occupation, there are men and women championing human rights and demanding that Israel respect international law, the secular Jews who define nationality by citizenship rather than religion, the religious Jews shamed that Israel has used the Star of David to justify the murder of even one innocent individual, and there are the very terrifying Holocaust deniers and neo-Nazis.

By equating all of these groups to one another, Merriam-Webster renders the nuances and complexities of these positions meaningless and derogatory for all of us. Worse still is that this manipulation of anti-Semitism belittles the history of the Jewish people, denying the very real anti-Semitism that hid them in the gutters and the ghettos of Europe, and found them at the gates of Auschwitz.

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