Friday, October 31, 2008

A Clarification

Jeffrey Goldberg at the Atlantic takes Joe Klein to task for a particular semantic shell-game that is an old pet peeve of mine: the argument that Arabs cannot be anti-Semitic, because they are themselves Semites. Then again, this is probably the first time I've heard this argument made by anyone who wasn't a rabid Jew-hater. It does tell you something about the strange epistemology involved, that many will sincerely argue that this semantic distinction proving they are not Anti-Semitic justifies their aspiration to push all the Jews into the sea:
As I said, the only people who insult Jews by denying the meaning of the term are, in my experience, anti-Semitic. Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, the founder of Hamas, told me in an interview once that his organization could not be anti-Semitic, because Arabs were the true Semites, while Jews were simply European impostors. This interview occurred at a time when Yassin's suicide bombers were systematically seeking out large groups of Jews in order to murder them for the crime of being Jewish. By Joe's dangerous new standard, the World War II-era Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al Husseini, who was a Nazi fellow traveler and a frank advocate of total Jewish extermination, could not be called an anti-Semite because he was Arab. So, really, who's being fatuous?
At the same time, Klein does have a point, which Goldberg supports, that a given person's support for the cause of Palestine is not proof of anti-Semitism. Even calling for the destruction of the state of Israel does not per se have anything to do with one's feelings about Jewry in general. It's just that, in the real world, there are certain correlations.

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