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Duly Noted: You Can Call Yourself a Semite and Still be Anti-Semitic

Duly Noted: You Can Call Yourself a Semite and Still be Anti-Semitic


Back on Oct. 20th, on my personal Facebook account, I posted a video where I provided the history of the word “antisemitism.” I’ve had this discussion with people in the past who bring an armchair linguist’s mindset to play “devil’s advocate” (as if the devil needed any more advocates) about the term. It took no time at all for a bad actor to reveal himself.

“That’s not what semite means, however, you want to limit the word,” said the now-former friend. “Anti-Semitism isn’t exclusive to the Jews. Never has been. Never will be. At least not for those of us who are educated enough to know what the words mean.”

Two important notes: I posted this without a single reference to Israel, or the conflict in Gaza. Two: I posted it because of the growing frequency I had witnessed in social media chatter of comments from Hamas supporters saying things like “I can’t be antisemitic! I AM a semite!”

For one, it’s entirely possible to engage in antisemitism if you’re Jewish, just like it’s possible to be xenophobic as an immigrant or engage in racism if you’re a person of color. We’ve no shortage of available examples in the world we can point to on that front. But that’s not the point.

In 1860 Austrian Jewish scholar Moritz Steinschneider coined the term “anti-Semitism” in response to the racist writings of French philosopher Ernest Renan. But it was Wilhelm Marr who set the caste by which the term was forged. Marr wrote an essay in 1862: “Der Weg zum Siege des Germanenthums uber das Judenthum” (“The Way to Victory of Germanicism over Judaism”). At that period in history, the popular terminology for hatred of Jews was simply “Judenhass,” German for “Jew-hatred.” As eugenics and racial theory were burgeoning, Marr opted for a new term that distanced the religious overtones that he felt current terminology focused on. He wanted something that reflected a racial difference between Jews — and Jews only — and the rest of white, German society, encompassing secular and non-secular Jews alike. He used “anti-Semitism” for this expressed purpose — a term he wore as a badge of honor proudly. Marr then founded the “League of Antisemites’’ in 1879 with the sole purpose of driving Jews out of Germany. This became the platform the Third Reich eventually adopted.

Words have meaning. One of the tried-and-true methods of white supremacists over the years is to begin by stripping agencies from their targets — downplaying their positions, co-opting their terminology, and gaslighting them to belittle their position. 

In the last several months, I’ve been nothing less than shocked at how the progressive left has abandoned its principles where Jews are concerned. Every rule we were taught to apply when engaging with a marginalized group has been trampled in a widespread effort to cast Jews as supposed white supremacists in a concerted effort to apply American racial dynamics to the conflict in Gaza where they do not apply. Every Jew who does not toe the “party line” calling for the complete destruction of the Jewish State has been cast into the role of “white supremacist genocider.” We are being shouted down, silenced, threatened, and even physically attacked around the nation. Our synagogues, schools, and cemeteries have been vandalized and swatted repeatedly (multiple times here in Colorado). We are under constant bombardment on social media.

And it’s critical to add: this is outside of the simple realm of “disagreeing with the actions of PM Benjamin Netanyahu and his Likud coalition in the Israeli Knesset.” Whatever pretense may have existed that “anti-Zionism isn’t antisemitism!” is erased when Jews in America are under siege for simply lighting a menorah, attending Shabbat services, attending school, or just wearing a kippah in public.

Kristallnacht was not an event perpetrated solely by Nazi SA. It was a gleeful attack on German Jews by their neighboring citizens throughout Germany, destroying hundreds of synagogues and cemeteries, and thousands of Jewish homes and businesses.

This is how pogroms start.  



French Davis
Meet Dave Flomberg | Writer, musician, creative director (aka French Davis). There is so much to say about Dave aka French that we think you should read these articles: https://yellowscene.com/2020/02/29/french-davis-a-master-of-many/ ••• https://shoutoutcolorado.com/meet-dave-flomberg-writer-musician-creative-director

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