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Signs of the Times for Tue, 28 Mar 2006

Signs Editorial:

Al Beck
March 2006
Al Beck is a Swiss architect with a distant Syrian heritage. The reflection he sent to me on the use of the word "anti-Semitism" is very original and deserves to be shared. Silvia Cattori.

As a result of my reading, many ideas have come to me on the subject of "anti-Semitism", one of which I submit here as it seems as fruitful as it is difficult to clearly put into place.

But first, do you know the article published by the World Zionist Organization on "Strategic Plans for Israel for the 80s" where it says:

Egypt, in its present domestic political picture, is already a corpse, all the more so if we take into account the growing Moslem-Christian rift. Breaking Egypt down territorially into distinct geographical regions is the political aim of Israel in the Nineteen Eighties on its Western front.

Egypt is divided and torn apart into many foci of authority. If Egypt falls apart, countries like Libya, Sudan or even the more distant states will not continue to exist in their present form and will join the downfall and dissolution of Egypt. The vision of a Christian Coptic State in Upper Egypt alongside a number of weak states with very localized power and without a centralized government as to date, is the key to a historical development which was only set back by the peace agreement but which seems inevitable in the long run.

The Western front, which on the surface appears more problematic, is in fact less complicated than the Eastern front, in which most of the events that make the headlines have been taking place recently. Lebanon's total dissolution into five provinces serves as a precendent for the entire Arab world including Egypt, Syria, Iraq and the Arabian peninsula and is already following that track. The dissolution of Syria and Iraq later on into ethnically or religiously unqiue areas such as in Lebanon, is Israel's primary target on the Eastern front in the long run, while the dissolution of the military power of those states serves as the primary short term target. Syria will fall apart, in accordance with its ethnic and religious structure, into several states such as in present day Lebanon, so that there will be a Shi'ite Alawi state along its coast, a Sunni state in the Aleppo area, another Sunni state in Damascus hostile to its northern neighbor, and the Druzes who will set up a state, maybe even in our Golan, and certainly in the Hauran and in northern Jordan. This state of affairs will be the guarantee for peace and security in the area in the long run, and that aim is already within our reach today.

Iraq, rich in oil on the one hand and internally torn on the other, is guaranteed as a candidate for Israel's targets. Its dissolution is even more important for us than that of Syria. Iraq is stronger than Syria. In the short run it is Iraqi power which constitutes the greatest threat to Israel. [Oded Yinon, A Strategy for Israel in the Nineteen Eighties, This essay originally appeared in Hebrew in KIVUNIM (Directions), A Journal for Judaism and Zionism; Issue No, 14--Winter, 5742, February 1982, Editor: Yoram Beck. Editorial Committee: Eli Eyal, Yoram Beck, Amnon Hadari, Yohanan Manor, Elieser Schweid. Published by the Department of Publicity/The World Zionist Organization, Jerusalem. Translated by Israel Shahak.]

And this declaration by Areil Sharon:

"We control America"."Every time we do something you tell me America will do this and will do that . . . I want to tell you something very clear: Don't worry about American pressure on Israel. We, the Jewish people, control America, and the Americans know it." [Israeli Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, October 3, 2001.]

Returning to the idea mentioned above, we are concerned with the accusation of "anti-Semitism" hurled at anyone as soon as it becomes necessary to silence any voice that puts into question the racist politics of the Israeli state. Or I should rather say, the anti-Semitic politics of the Israeli government.

Do you see where I would like to bring the debate?

Let me explain. I am shocked by the information on the "Semite", "anti-Semite" question that we read here and there. I am doubly shocked:

By the use of the term "anti-Semite" to silence, as we have seen numerous times, any attempt to criticize, even constructively, the Israeli state.

By the gross manipulation of the very meaning of this term under the pretext that anti-Jewish authors would have used the term Semite as a synomym for Jew in the way they create the adjective "anti-Semite"!

Following this logic that escapes me (from the linguistic point of view!), why does "Semite" not signify exclusively "Jew"?

When we define a term in a certain manner, is it not logical that if we add the prefix "anti" to it, it can mean nothing other than opposition to this same definition?

Definition from the Dictionary of the Academy française, 8th Edition (1932-35):

Anti: Prefix from the Greek that serves to form many composite words by introducing the sense of opposition. Thus we say Antiscorbutique (antiscurvy) when speaking of remedies for scurvy. We will find in the Dictionary only those composite words that are in regular use.

The same dictionary, several lines further on, gives:

ANTI-SEMITE: adj for two genders. That which has a relationship with anti-Semitism. Anti-Semitic propaganda.

It is also used as a noun. An anti-Semite. He who professes anti-Semitism.

ANTI-SEMITISM. n. m. Fight against the Jews.

However, in the defintion for Semite we read:

SEMITE. (Page 2:576)

SEMITE. n. of two genders. He or she who belongs to the race that we trace its origin to Sem. A Semite. As an adjective, the Semite type.

SEMITIC. Adj. of two genders. Having to do with Semites. The Semitic races. The Semitic languages are Hebrew, Arabic, Syrian, etc. Several Semitic languages, such as Chaldean, Phoenician, no longer exist.

The Trésor de la langue française tells us:

ANTI-, pre

I. The composed form signifies "that which is against the notion designated by the base"; an adjective formed from an adjective or an adjectivable word formed from a substantive.
II. A. The composite is an adjective formed from an adjective.
1. It signifies "that which is hostile to the system of ideas or opinions characterized by the base adjective", or, when it is a substantive, "the person hostile to…".

So "anti-Semite" must signify, based upon this definition, "hostile to Semites". A series of eloquent examples is given in the same listing:

Other than the words figuring in the nomenclature, cf. the frequent composites from the literary corpus of the TLF:

anti(-)autrichien, (anti autrichien, anti-autrichien) anti(-)bolchévique, (anti bolchévique, anti-bolchévique) antibonapartiste, anti-bourbonien, antiboulangiste, anti(-)bourgeois, (anti bourgeois, anti-bourgeois) anti(-)capitaliste, (anti capitaliste, anti-capitaliste) anti(-)catholique, (anti catholique, anti-catholique) anti-classique, anti(-)communiste, (anti communiste, anti-communiste) anti(-)dreyfusard, (anti dreyfusard, anti-dreyfusard) antidreyfusiste, antimarxiste, anti(-)mystique, (anti mystique, anti-mystique) antinapoléonien, anti-nazi, anti(-)romantique, (anti romantique, anti-romantique) anti-russe, anti(-)soviétique(anti soviétique, anti-soviétique) anti- + dér. en -isme : anti(-)capitalisme, (anti capitalisme, anti-capitalisme) anti(-)catholicisme, (anti catholicisme, anti-catholicisme) anti-communisme, antidreyfusisme, anti(-)germanisme, (anti germanisme, anti-germanisme) anti(-)jésuitisme,(anti jésuitisme, anti-jésuitisme)

The definition for "anti-Semite" is:

ANTI-SEMITE, adj. and subst. A. Use as adj. [Speaking of actions undertaken by men or the men who undertake them] Who demonstrates anti-Semitism, who is hostile to the Jewish race.

I won't insist on the notion of the "Jewish race" used in this defintion.

I could cite other definitions, but the propos is sufficiently clear, I think…

So, by what miracle, but what twisting of language and what formidable magic trick have we managed to exclude 272.4 million Arabs (2000 figures), Muslims and Christians, of their Semitic specificity in the word "anti-Semite" to the profit of 13 million souls composing the world's Jewish population (according to the annual report of the Israeli bureau of statistics of 24.09.203)?!!!

I don't understand why such deformations and basic errors are not the subject of open criticism on the part of intellectuals, writers, journalists; and yet the question is simple, but I think the stakes are high, at least that perhaps too naïve part of myself that demands justice of words.

I am not speaking of verbal confrontations or sterile debates where finally whoever dared take on this question would see the enlarging of the ranks of the damned labeled "anti-Semitic". I am speaking of a reappropriation of this word, of the restitution of its real meaning in regards to common sense and basic etymological rules!

But how to get there and what would be the point?

1. It would suffice to use this term judiciously, and the occasions aren't missing. The politics of Israel regarding the Palestinians is a racist and cruel politics of apartheid. It is anti-Palestinian and therefore anti-Semitic! That's what we should say! The state of Israel conducts anti-Semitic terrorist actions! The members of its government hold anti-Arab and therefore anti-Semitic opinions. Whenever journalists, authors or politicians give an anti-Arab discourse, voices must be raised to cry out "Sir, your speech is anti-Semitic!" "But I didn't say anything against the Jewish community!" "Yes, sir! Jews and Arabs are brothers and Semites! You criticise a Jew for what he is, you are an anti-Semite. You criticise an Arab for who he is, you are an anti-Semite! It is true that according to certain controversial studies, only the Seraphadic Jews – 15% of the Jewish community - are of Semitic origin, which means that "Jew" does not quite equal "Semite" and that, as a consequence, the actual definition that characterises an anti-Semite as someone hostile to Jews is doubly false!

In any case, to be an anti-Zionist is not to be anti-Semitic, anti-Arab or anti-Jew!

2. The interest in this is to put an end the abusive use of this infamous accusation thrown at anyone who dares to say anything about Israel or about the blind support its government receives from the exterior, in such a way as to "naturally redefine" those who criticize the politics of Israel as "anti-Zionist". When we can no longer use the word "anti-Semite" in an abusive way, we will need to find another adjective, one that is more appropriate: anti-Israeli? No, not if we wish to be objective and just! And labelling whoever dares criticise the politics of Israel as anti-Jewish would be perceived as a flagrant abuse!

Thus, and certainly after enduring many battles and aggressions of all kinds, we might actually correct this state of things that has assumed such monumental proportions and whose consequences condemn us to silence, to cultivating our own garden, so to speak, without caring about that of our neighbour, for fear of being labeled with the yellow star of anti-Semitism.

It may be naïve on my part, but I tell myself that if more and more influential people made the effort, following the example of Dieudonné, of reestablishing the balance of words, we might then be able to reestablish the beginning of justice and all of that on the basis of a little word, but a word so heavy with consequences. Imagine the chain reaction if this word could no longer be used to gag us as is presently the case.

Tell me, dear reader, what do you really think?

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