Are Palestinians The Victims Of Anti-Semitism?

By Curt Day

07/06/06 "
Opinion Editorial" -- -Accusing someone of anti-Semitism is a precarious action to consider. For the charge itself, is both overused and underused.

Anti-Semitism is an overused claim when the intention is to deflect thoughtful criticism of Zionism and Israeli policies. When the questioning of inequitable policies is so discredited, then the honorable memory of those who suffered in the past is tarnished.

At the same time we should consider whether accusations of anti-Semitism have been AWOL. Definitions might help us determine that.

The definition of anti-Semitism must be based on the definition of the words "Semite" and "Semitic." There are 3 dictionary definitions for Semite one of which includes those living in Southwest Asia. This would include Arabs. However, Wilhelm Marr, coined the term anti-Semitism to target Jews--the second definition of the word. The third definition consists of the descendents of Shem which would refer to more than just the Jews. [1] Also, Semitic refers to a set of languages or people who speak one of the languages. [2] Again, this would include Arabs.

Despite the vagueness of the term, it carries an emotional definition that is both useful and problematic. This definition is helpful in reminding us of the horrific past we should prevent from ever happening again. At the same time, this definition is problematic because it is used to sound the alarm against only one instance of bigotry. We should ask if Semites include Arabs, is our restricted use of the term "anti-Semitism" racist?

This brings us to the U.S. House of Representatives and Representative Anthony Weiner. His amendment banned aid to the Palestinian Authority and he said about the Palestinian UN delegation: "They should start packing their little Palestinian terrorist bags." [3] How would we assess Mr. Weiner if Israeli diplomats had been his target?

In addition, we should consider John Pilger's observations regarding the legislation, passed by the House of Representatives, banning all aid to NGOs helping Palestinians. He reports that the people who will suffer both horribly and the most are the children [4]. In the light of their hardships, why not call the action of our House of Representatives "anti-Semitic." For what would legislation that would ban aid to Israel be rightfully named?

If we can call our policies that target Arabs "anti-Semitic," how should we describe Israel's Prime Minister Ehud Olhmert's vicious assault on Gaza? Under his orders, Israel has destroyed the power plant that provided electricity for half of Gaza(for 750,000 people). The absence of electricity brings the lack of water and sewage treatment. Those who will suffer and risk the most are the young, the old, and the weak.

What sparked this attack? It was the kidnapping of a soldier that kindled Israel’s harsh response. Prime Minister Olhmert promised the people of Gaza even more ruthless reprisals if the kidnapped soldier is harmed. In addition, he called the kidnapping of and attack on soldiers, terrorism. The problem is that attacking soldiers is not terrorism. Attacking civilians in order to achieve a political ends is. In the month of June, Israel killed over 40 civilians in Gaza prior to the kidnapping. Many of the dead were women and children. These killings were in response to Qassam rocket attacks which are responsible for 8 deaths in the last 5 years. [5] Also, Israel detains (euphemism for kidnap?) many Palestinian civilians without due process [6]. Is Prime Minister Olhmert fighting terrorism by practicing it? Are the Prime Minister's double standards an indication of hatred and bigotry?

We find ourselves caught in a tug of war. On the one hand, there is both a noble desire to honor the memory of past Jewish victims of anti-Semitism and the essential aspiration to fight all present and future hatred of the Jews. One way by which we do both is to restrict our use of the term anti-Semitism.

At the same time, we must realize that our exclusive use of this expression allows other abhorrent bigotries to fly in under the radar so that we become oblivious and even cold to the sufferings of others. Thus, consistency is pulling us the other way. Consistency is pushing us to call any bigotry against Semites anti-Semitism. Our response to this consistency will reveal our commitment to equality.

Certainly there are some Israelis who hate the Palestinians just as there are some Palestinians who hate Jews. The hatred of both groups is bigotry and ensures that both groups will suffer from anti-Semitism. In addition, perhaps those who have ignored suffering when the victims are Palestinians are anti-Semites too.

[3] DemocracyNow Headlines for May 25, 2006

Curt Day is a religious flaming fundamentalist and a political extreme moderate. He can be reached at

2002 - 2004 Frontiers of Freedom

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