Forum post by Andre Oboler, 09 Aug 2006 09:09 pm updated and extended for the archive 08 Oct 2006
The myth that Arabs are semites too, so they can't be antisemitic After making racist remarks a poster uses the excuse "I can't be antisemitic, I'm Arab and therefore a semite". This is utter bunk. It's a rationalisation of Racism and nothing more. Think about it. "I can't be racist, I'm black!" It just doesn't work. And to extend the analogy, in this case the person saying "I'm black" is a white male wearing a black T-shirt... they're using language in a way that is NOT what the word means and is intended to argue on an emotional ground based on an invalid preconception. Put simply, it is nothing more than attempt to abuse the terminology in order to get away with racism... and to make it harder for people to explain the obvious i.e. that this person is being racist.
This topic is being expanded upon as the question has come up twice in recent days on the forums:
An antisemite trying to use it:
A polite question about it:
This line of argument is wrong on two counts, either on its own is enough to invalidate the argument. Put together it shows that people making these arguments (and knowing the facts) are intentionally trying to make racism acceptable. That's not to say that everyone who uses this line is a racist, but the argument itself is propoganda aimed to facilitate racism. Those who are not aware of what they are doing are not racists, mearly ignorant fools.
Some make the claim that Antisemitism applies to Arabs too, so to accuse an Arab of antisemitism is itself antisemitic this logic runs. In the cross over between the Arab world where antisemitism is today an accepted norm and the west where at least overt antisemitism is still shunned there are numerous "tricks" to present antisemitism as acceptable. One of these is to claim the Jews are not a race, so to be anti-Jewish is not to be racist. Another claims the Jews are descendants of Khazars and while they may be a race they are not related to the Jews of old. The third which is discussed here claims that the Jews may or may not be "semites" but the Arabs certainly are, and as such the Arabs can't be antisemitic. It follows that the Jews are just crying wolf and should be ignored, or may even deserve what's being said about them (the antisemitic remarks that would spark such a conversation).
Lets look at this question of "semitism" in more depth. We start by examining the meaning of antisemitism...
Anti-Semitism (alternatively spelled antisemitism) is hostility toward or prejudice against Jews as a religious, ethnic, or racial group, which can range from individual hatred to institutionalized, violent persecution. The highly explicit ideology of Adolf Hitler's Nazism was the most extreme example of this phenomenon, leading to a genocide of the European Jewry.
And lets also look at the Etymology and history of the word...
German political agitator Wilhelm Marr coined the related German word Antisemitismus in his book "The Way to Victory of Germanicism over Judaism" in 1879. Marr used the phrase to mean Jew-hatred or Judenhass, and he used the new word antisemitism to make hatred of the Jews seem rational and sanctioned by scientific knowledge.
Prof Yehuda Bauer, historian and scholar of the Holocaust and antisemitism and a senior adviser to the Swedish Government on the International Forum on Genocide Prevention explains how even the word Antisemitism (and specially when spelt Anti-Semitism) is a misnomer
Yehuda Bauer wrote:
The term "antisemitism" is, as many of us realize, the wrong term for what we try to describe and analyze. It was coined, paradoxically, by an antisemite, Wilhelm Marr, in 1879, because he needed a new word for Jew-hatred. The old one, Judenhass, was identified as a Christian, basically theological, appellation, and Marr was anti Christian, because Christianity was, and in this he was quite correct, a Jewish invention. The new term sounded scientific, did not mention Jews, but everyone knew who and what was meant; it described a newly developed phenomenon, of a nationalistic and racial biological approach. Antisemitism, especially in its hyphenated spelling, is inane nonsense, because there is no Semitism that you can be anti to. There are semitic languages, and you can hardly be against semitic languages.
See also Bauer on the UN and Antisemitism, Israel's place in the world community
Even anti-Zionist Arab-Israeli leaders have spoken out against with attack on the term antisemitism and the idea that Jews deserve protection from racism.
Azmi Bishara, an Arab Israeli Member of the Knesset (Parliment) wrote:
Basically, the concept of "anti-Semitism" occurred in a specific context hostile to Jews. It is meaningless to ignore the idiom's context and say that racism against Arabs is a form of anti-Semitism because they are Semitic people.
Having explained the motivation in discrediting the very concept of antisemitism, and having explained how antisemitism is not persecution of speakers of Semitic languages (such as Arabs) there is one more angle on this question to be explored... hypothetically what if the commentor WAS someone who could themselves be persecuted by antisemitism, what if for example they were a Jew rather than an Arab? Can a Jew make antisemitic remarks? Or more generally, can a member of a minority group be racist?
A minority group can not be racist - the false assumption
Lets take a different case, a black man goes up to a Chinese man and calls him a chink. The offended Chinese man report it to the police. The police question the black man who replies "How can I be racist, I'm black!"
For those not up with racist terms:
 Urban Dictionary
The U.N. discovers the cause of anti-Semitism: Jews By ANNE BAYEFSKY, Opinion Journal, November 18, 2004
Working definition of Antisemitism EU definition, agreed 2004
Aren't Arabs Semites too? Analysis of the propoganda that Arabs are semites too and hence can't be antisemitic
What's New In Anti-Semitism? By Azmi Bishara (Arab-Israeli MK), Dar Al-Hayat, November 20, 2003
Bauer on UN antisemitism From lecture notes on Antisemitism
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