For as long as I can remember, we have heard and read a lot about antisemitism and how the Jews have suffered from it. There is no question about how much Jews have been persecuted in every country on the globe, the U.S. included. But my question is how Jewish persecution came to be known as antisemitism and in particular whether or not opposition to current Israeli policies toward Palestinians can be called anti-Semitic
It’s always insightful to begin with definitions, so let’s begin with the definition of anti-Semite. As defined in the on-line version of the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, an anti-Semite is a person who has a hostile, prejudiced attitude toward Jews. I have to challenge that definition because it is inconsistent with related definitions in the same dictionary. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines Semite as a member of any of a number of peoples of ancient southwestern Asia including the Akkadians, Phoenicians, Hebrews, and Arabs or a descendant of these peoples, which now includes Israelis, Egyptians, Syrians, Iraqis, Palestinians and others. The prefix anti in the same dictionary means hostile or opposed to. Logically putting this prefix in front of Semite yields one who is hostile or opposed to any Jew, Arab, Egyptian, Syrian, Iraqi, Palestinian or other descendant of the Semitic speaking peoples of ancient southwestern Asia. I’m not sure just how anti-Semitic became exclusively anti-Jew, but using any kind of logic, it is clearly wrong1. So, being my obstinate self, I will insist on using the logical definition rather than the official definition.
More recently, we have heard and read much about many people around the world being opposed to the colonial and apartheid policies of the Israeli government and how those who are opposed to such policies are being labeled anti-Semitic. Now I have to admit that I am strongly opposed to the U.S. supported colonial, apartheid policies of the Israeli government, but I am by no means an anti-Semite as I am not hostile or prejudiced against Jews, but simply opposed to the policies of Israeli officials. Also, I strongly support the Palestinians in their struggle against Israeli oppression. So if I support Palestinians who are Semites, how can I be anti-Semitic? Furthermore, many Jews, both American and Israeli, also oppose those policies, so how can they be anti-Semitic?
The bottom line is that opposition to Israeli oppression of Palestinians is anything but anti-Semitic. In fact, it should be recognized that Israeli oppression of Palestinians is itself anti-Semitic as it is hostile toward a particular group of Semitic peoples. In actuality, it is the hostile act of one group of Semitic people against another group of Semitic people. People should recognize that labeling opposition to Israeli policies toward Palestinians as anti-Semitic is strictly a political ploy to deflect attention away from Israeli oppression of Palestinians.
1 This distortion of the logical meaning of antisemitism is reminiscent of Newspeak, the official language of Oceania, a controlled language in which words and grammar were modified to restrict thought and communication of ideas that might conflict with IngSoc ideology.