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Anti-semitism {was: Re: Di and Dodi - a year later}

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  • Lewis Reich
    In his 1986 book Semites and Anti-semites , Bernard Lewis (Cleveland E. Dodge Professor of Near Eastern Studies at Princeton) points out (p.117): The argument
    Message 1 of 11 , Aug 30 6:08 PM
      In his 1986 book "Semites and Anti-semites", Bernard Lewis (Cleveland E.
      Dodge Professor of Near Eastern Studies at Princeton) points out (p.117):

      The argument is sometimes put forward that the Arabs cannot be anti-
      Semitic because they themselves are Semites. Such a statement is self-
      evidently absurd, and the argument that supports it is doubly flawed.
      First, the term "Semite" has no meaning as applied to groups as
      heterogeneous as the Arabs or the Jews, and indeed it could be argued
      that the use of such terms is in itself a sign of racism and certainly of
      either ignorance or bad faith. Second, anti-Semitism has never anywhere
      been concerned with anyone but Jews, and it is therefore available to
      Arabs as to other people as an option should they choose it.


      On 30 Aug 98, at 20:58, Tom Simms wrote:

      > Lewis, let me repeat what I said on a private post to you, "...it was
      > a term describing a language group as far as I knew until I heard it
      > used to describe hatred of Jews..."

      I don't believe that the word "anti-semitic" has ever been used to describe a
      language group, nor do I believe that the term "semitic" has ever been used to
      describe hatred of Jews. See the

      > and also what I said earlier to
      > Steven, "Thanks Steve, I wish weal could get back to thinking of Semite
      > being a speaker of a family of languages." (Weal = we all)

      While it is true that the word "semite" is sometimes used loosely to refer to a
      speaker of one of the family of Semitic languages, the term "anti-semite" was
      coined and adopted by those who confused language groups with (non-
      existent) races, much as the Nazis confused the Aryan language group with an
      imaginary "aryan" race.

      > Let me add here, after reviewing all that you've written, that YOU put
      > the word "race" into the sentence.

      That is because, as all historians of the term, or of 19th century German
      intellectual history know, that is where the usage "antisemitism" originated.
      For example, Bernard Lewis, notes (p. 81):

      "the term anti-semitism was first used in 1879, and seems to have been
      invented by one Wilhelm Marr, a minor Jew-baiting journalist with no
      other claim to memory....
      Though the name anti-Semitism was new, the special hatred of the
      Jews which it designated was very old...But though the hatred of the Jew
      was old, the term anti-Semitism did indeed denote a significant change -
      not the initiation but rather the culmination of a major shift in the way
      this hatred was felt, perceived and expressed. In medieval tiimes
      hostilityto mthe Jews, whatever its underlying social or psychological
      motivations, was defined primarily in religious terms. From the fifteenthy
      century monward this was no longer true, and Jew hatred was redefined,
      becoming at first partly, and then, at least in theory, wholly racial."

      > You don't seem to realize there are
      > more Semitic speakers than Jews.

      What makes you think that I don't know that? That fact is totally beside the
      point. The term "antisemitism" was coined to denote racial opposition to
      Jews, not opposition to speakers of semitic languages.


      > Moreover, you seem to add the word
      > "race" to the term "Semitic" when it isn't even there. You just did the
      > same thing above to Steve. Be done with it!

      I did it because that is the history of the term, of which you admit total
      ignorance. If you are unswayed by the eminent Dr. Lewis, and would care to
      engage in some research, I suggest you first consult the nearest dictionary.
      The one closest to hand here defines "anti-Semitic" as

      1. having or showing prejudice against Jews. 2. discriminating against or
      persecuting Jews. 3. of or caused by such prejudice or hostility.

      No mention of Islam, no mention of speakers of Semitic languages.

      As your second step I suggest consulting a competent research study, such as
      Peter Pulzer's "The Rise of Political Anti-semitism in Germany and Austria".

      Lewis Reich
      LBR@...
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