An etymological and political take on anti-semitism by Joseph Massad. Sorry to copy and paste such large tracts but I really have nothing to comment here except to say that this is a fascinating article in Al-Ahram. (Thanks to Roland Rance)
"The term "Semite" was invented by European philologists in the 18th century to distinguish languages from one another by grouping them into "families" descended from one "mother" tongue to which they are all related....."
"The defensive claim made by some that Arabs cannot be "anti-Semitic" because they are "Semites" is equally erroneous and facile. First, I should state that I do not believe that anyone is a "Semite" any more than I believe anyone is an "Aryan", and I do not believe that Arabs or Jews should proudly declare that they are "Semites" because European racists classified them as such. But if the history of European Christian anti-Semitism is mostly a history targeting Jews as objects of discrimination and exclusion, the history of European Orientalism and colonialism is the one that targeted Arabs and Muslims, among many others. This does not mean that Arabs are not considered Semites by European racialist and philological classifications; they indeed are. Nor does this mean that much of the hatred of Arabs today is not derived from a prior anti- Semitism that targeted Jews. Indeed it is. The history of European Orientalism is one that is fully complicit with anti-Semitism from which it derives many of its representations of ancient and modern Arabs and of ancient Hebrews and modern Jews. As Edward Said demonstrated a quarter of a century ago in his classic Orientalism, "what has not been sufficiently stressed in histories of modern anti-Semitism has been the legitimation of such atavistic designations by Orientalism, and... the way this academic and intellectual legitimation has persisted right through the modern age in discussions of Islam, the Arabs, or the Near Orient." Said added: "The transference of popular anti-Semitic animus from a Jewish to an Arab target was made smoothly, since the figure was essentially the same." In the context of the 1973 War, Said commented that Arabs came to be represented in the West as having "clearly 'Semitic' features: sharply hooked noses, the evil moustachioed leer on their faces, were obvious reminders (to a largely non- Semitic population) that 'Semites' were at the bottom of all 'our' troubles."
"....Zionism, ... adopted wholesale anti-Semitic ideologies, would also call Jews "Semites" and would begin to consider Jews as Semites racially from the late 19th century to the present......"
"....a large and disproportionate number of the purveyors of anti- Arab racism in today's United States and Israel as well as in Western Europe are Jews. But there is also a disproportionate number of Jews among those who defend Arabs and Muslims against Euro- American and Israeli racism and anti-Semitism. The majority, however, of those who hate Arabs and Muslims in the West remain European and American Christians."
"While holocaust denial in the West is indeed one of the strongest manifestations of anti-Semitism, most Arabs who deny the holocaust deny it for political not racist reasons. This point is even conceded by the anti-Arab and anti-Muslim Orientalist Bernard Lewis. Their denial is based on the false Zionist claim that the holocaust justifies Zionist colonialism. The Zionist claim is as follows: Since Jews were the victims of the holocaust, then they have the right to colonise Palestine and establish a Jewish colonial-settler state there. Those Arabs who deny the holocaust accept the Zionist logic as correct. Since these deniers reject the right of Zionists to colonise Palestine, the only argument left to them is to deny that the holocaust ever took place, which, to their thinking, robs Zionism of its allegedly "moral" argument. But the fact that Jews were massacred does not give Zionists the right to steal someone else's homeland and to massacre the Palestinian people. The oppression of a people does not endow it with rights to oppress others. If those Arab deniers refuse to accept the criminal Zionist logic that justifies the murder and oppression of the Palestinians by appealing to the holocaust, then these deniers would no longer need to make such spurious arguments. All those in the Arab world who deny the Jewish holocaust are in my opinion Zionists."
"......While the nakba. and the holocaust are not equivalent in any sense, the logic of denying them is indeed the same....."
"....If anti-Semites posited Jews as the purveyors of corruption, as financier bankers who control the world, as violent communist subversives, and as poisoners of Christian wells, the Arab and the Muslim today are seen as in control of the oil market and therefore of the global financial market, the purveyors of hatred and corruption of civilised Christian and Jewish societies, as violent terrorists, and as possible mass murderers, not with some Semitic Jewish poison but with Semitic Arab nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons (which are nowhere to be found). Thus Michael Moore feels vindicated in telling us in his recent film, Fahrenheit 9/11, about the portion of the American economy controlled by Saudi money while neglecting to mention the much, much larger American share of the Saudi economy. Anti- Semitism is alive and well today worldwide and its major victims are Arabs and Muslims and no longer Jews. The fight should indeed be against all anti-Semitism no matter who the object of its oppression is, Arab or Jew."
Joseph Massad teaches modern Arab politics and intellectual history at Columbia University in New York. but not for much longer if the Zionists have their way.
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