Contested terrain

07May09

Two from Contested Terrain:

On the Wordplay Approach to Antisemitism

The wordplay approach to antisemitism argues that Arabs are ‘also semites’ and therefore the term ‘antisemitism’ should include them as well. This argument is often made with the intention of undermining serious discussion about antisemitism, but other times it is taken up by sincere people seeking to address antisemitism and anti-Arab racism simultaneously.

The following is a collection of comments I made on the topic. I was replying to the article “Anti-Semitism and the Assault on Gaza” on the website, The Commune. (The article and the discussion are available there in their entirety.)

‘The Communard’ wrote:

“[1] Technically, Palestinians are ‘Semitic’ too: but ‘anti-Semitism’ is commonly understood to mean hatred of Jewish people, and I use that conventional understanding here.”

This is strange. Technically, no one is ’semitic.’ It is a social construct invented in the era of biological race theory in which the concept of ‘race’ was bound to the idea of natural language communities. Palestinians are not ’semitic too,’ because there are no ’semitic peoples,’ not jews either.

Antisemitism is not ‘being against semitic peoples’ nor ‘against semitism.’ It is a worldview about historical development and power relations and Jews’ role therein. It is a modernization of anti-judaism, but also transcends it in many important ways. [MORE]

Anti-Racist antisemitism?

“In France, being an anti-Semite in the old way does not work,” [Bernard-Henri] Lévy said when I asked him about Dieudonné. “You will not raise a mass movement by saying the Jews killed Christ—nobody cares. Accuse them of having invented Christ, like Voltaire did in the eighteenth century, still nobody cares. As far as being a special race, nobody believes that anymore. But anti-racist anti-Semitism—saying that for the sake of the blacks, for the sake of the Arabs, we must make the Jews shut up—this works. If the Jews practiced ‘memorial pornography’—thus exaggerating their own suffering—they became responsible for why the world didn’t care enough about the history of slavery and the suffering of blacks. Dieudonné and his followers suppose that the capacity for empathy and the capacity for indignation is limited. But the brain doesn’t work like this—you can care about the Holocaust and slavery. The more you are concerned by one, the more you are likely to be concerned by the other.

“From “Laugh Riots.”

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2 Responses to “Contested terrain”


  1. 1 Jews – Pigs – Murderers « Anti-National Translation
  2. 2 Idiots, in France, San Francisco and Vienna | Anti-National Translation

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