The need for a better word for anti-Semitism
Have you noticed that not a single anti-Semite ever admits to being an anti-Semite? There is a perfectly good reason for this. The word “anti-Semitism,” like the word “racism,” means morally bad, and naturally no one admits to being morally bad. To the contrary, the anti-Semites think that they are justified in their opposition to the Jews and their belief that the Jews are the main source of ills in our society and even their belief that the Jews are the conscious mortal enemies of our society; therefore the anti-Semites don’t think that hostility to Jews and conspiracy theories about Jews are morally bad. They think that they are morally good, because they think that they are true. Therefore they disdainfully reject the term anti-Semitism and regard it as false concept. Since the critics of the anti-Semites keep calling them anti-Semites, and since the anti-Semites despise both the charge and the people who make it, the debate keeps revolving uselessly around the contested word anti-Semitism instead of dealing with the substance of what anti-Semitism really is. There is, therefore, a need for a term that conveys the objective meaning of the word anti-Semitism without the built-in moral judgment, a term that both the anti-Semites and their critics will agree is a correct description of the phenomenon under discussion.
The briefest descriptive and non-judgmental equivalent of the word anti-Semitism that I can think of is: the belief that the Jews are the enemy. That phrase conveys the essence of what the people at blogs such as Majority Rights and Alternative Right are about. I think most of them would acknowledge that the phrase accurately describes them. Yes, there is a problem in that the phrase consists of several words and is too long for ordinary and repeated use. Perhaps “anti-Jewishness” or “anti-Jew” could be used as shorthand. Notice that “anti-Jew” conveys the same meaning as “anti-Semite,” without the loaded quality of hyper moral judgment that is attached to the latter.
I think that if the critics of the anti-Semites began at least occasionally describing them as people who regard the Jews as their enemy, or, alternatively, as anti-Jews, rather than as anti-Semites, the discussion could move beyond the unproductive exchange of invective and better reveal both the actual substance of anti-Semitism and the truth or untruth of its claims. Opponents of anti-Semitism should not be fearful of this. When an anti-Semite, such as Tanstaafl, proudly and truthfully states that he sees the Jews as his enemies, the true nature of his beliefs and character stands out more clearly than ever.
My aim here is not to be nice to the anti-Jews. My aim is to take away their ability to obscure and deny what they are, by taking away their opportunity to keep endlessly whining that their critics are “name-calling” them. “Stop name-calling us,” the anti-Jews cry, “and deal with the facts, the facts of Jewish evil that we are trying to bring forth.” So let’s deal with the facts, including the facts of what the anti-Jews actually believe. Facts are better than name-calling.
As I’m sure you know, the term “anti-Semitism” was coined by the German Wilhelm Marr to replace the older German term “Judenhasse.” This word literally translates to “Jew-hate.”Carolyn P. writes:
I always use the term “Judophobic,” mainly because Semites are both Jewish and Arabic.LA replies:
But anti-Semitism has never been taken to refer to Arabs. It only means Jews. So that’s really not a problem. At the same time, you’re right that the word is not precise.N. writes:
I dislike the use of the term “phobic” in common discourse, because a phobia is an unreasoned fear that can be diagnosed by medical doctors. Someone with an unreasoned fear of, for example, open spaces can be diagnosed as agoraphobic. Another person with an unreasoning fear of enclosed spaces can be diagnosed as claustrophobic.James P. writes:
The anti-Semites are not going to accept any label that others pin on them, so I don’t see the point of burning a lot of calories trying to invent such a name. I think “Jew-haters” works pretty well if we need an alternative to “anti-Semites”. I am also dubious about engaging them in argument anyway, since there is no evidence one could produce that would convince them of the error of their claim that Jews are the Eternal Enemy.LA replies:
Moi, advocating direct engagement with the anti-Semites? How could you think that? However, when our side says things about them, they reply. So there is an indirect debate. As I said, if our side began referring to them in objective, descriptive language as “people who regard the Jews as their enemies,” they would lose the ability to keep complaining about how we are unfairly labeling them. They would have to AGREE with our characterization of them. I think that that would advance clarity on the subject.Tovi A. writes:
My preferred replacement term for anti-Semitism is “counter-Semitism” (as in “counter-revolutionary”). I don’t remember where I saw it being used for the first time, maybe on Mangan’s blog.LA replies:
Excellent, excellent.August 23
D. from Seattle writes:
Instead of “People who regard the Jews as their enemy,” why not simply “Enemies of the Jews?” I realize this changes the perspective from a somewhat passive role, “I believe X is the enemy (to me), therefore I am on a receiving end of X’s enmity,” to an active role, “Since X is an enemy to me, I am an enemy to X,” but I don’t think anyone would object to that, and it makes for a much shorter and precise phrase.LA replies:
But what about my term: “Anti-Jews”? Isn’t that the shortest and most precise of all? We can call anti-Semites “anti-Jews,” and anti-Semitism “anti-Jewism.”
Posted by Lawrence Auster at August 20, 2010 10:28 AM | Send