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Anti-Semitism Means What?
Posted: 11 October 2007 06:20 PM   [ Ignore ]
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I haven’t thought about this in a long while so I thought I would bring them up here. I remember an Arab friend responding to charges of anti-semitism by saying (I’m paraphrasing), “I’m a semite too! I am not prejudiced towards semites. I am opposed to the policies of a government and a racist movement.” My friend did not formulate his opposition based on their religious views or ethnicity but being an Arab criticizing Israel he receives the charge of being an anti-semite quite often. So I looked up the two definitions and was amazed.

Okay, I am sure many here are concious on the differences between anti-semitic and anti-jewry (if not, then yes, there IS a difference) just as much as you probably are aware that they are both different from anti-Israel (whatever that means).

What I am getting at is the odd discrepancy that is generally found in dictionaries in regards to anti-semitism. Now, considering definitions generally consist of mutiple definitions. I will also assume that most of us recognize that the first definition is generally the most common one.

For example: the word fall has literally dozens of applications but the first is the most common use.

Now if we take the first discription of semite we get this:

A member of any of various ancient and modern peoples originating in southwestern Asia, including the Akkadians, Canaanites, Phoenicians, Hebrews, and Arabs.

But if we do the same for anti-semite we get just one:

A person who discriminates against or is prejudiced or hostile toward Jews.

Do you feel the term is improperly defined since it omits non-Jews? If not, then why would it not be anti-semitic to discriminate against or be prejudiced or hostile to Arabs and others who are semitic but not Hebrew?

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Posted: 11 October 2007 06:57 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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The description you gave for “anti-semite” is correct. I agree that taken literally it’s misleading, but nobody takes it literally except people who want to play semantic games. Anti-semitic means prejudiced against Jews.

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Posted: 11 October 2007 07:30 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Damn, Doug did it again.  Beat me to the post and said what I would have said, but did so more precisely, more succinctly and more accurately than I could have. 

Occam

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Posted: 11 October 2007 08:13 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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truthaddict - 11 October 2007 06:20 PM

Do you feel the term is improperly defined since it omits non-Jews? If not, then why would it not be anti-semitic to discriminate against or be prejudiced or hostile to Arabs and others who are semitic but not Hebrew?

No No No [tomlehrer] Oh, the Protestants hate the Catholics And the Catholics hate the Protestants And the Hindus hate the Moslems And everybody hates the Jews[/tomlehrer]

Its about the god.

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Posted: 11 October 2007 08:48 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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I don’t hate the jews. =P

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Posted: 11 October 2007 09:14 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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non-anti-semite!

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Posted: 11 October 2007 09:41 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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dougsmith - 11 October 2007 06:57 PM

The description you gave for “anti-semite” is correct. I agree that taken literally it’s misleading, but nobody takes it literally except people who want to play semantic games. Anti-semitic means prejudiced against Jews.

I had a high school teacher who brought this fake issue up—it is exactly a Doug says—the person is trying to steer the debate by changing the common meaning of a word to make a point.  This happens all the time which is why “you are just playing semantics” is a cliche….

We had an interesting thread elsewhere on the term “anti-religion”

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Posted: 11 October 2007 10:38 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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For practical purposes, words mean what their users mean them to mean.  Agreement about terminology serves our ability to understand one another.  It really shouldn’t matter whether or not the dictionary term “anti-semetic” is properly or correctly defined as “anti-jewish” from a linguistic or word origin standpoint.  If we use the term “anti-semetic” and our audience gets that we mean “anti-jewish” than it has served its purpose.  Dictionaries often disagree about these sorts of things… Oxford vs. Websters, etc.  What matters in conversation is that involved persons understand the concept that is being illustrated by the term and agree about its usage.

On the other hand, convoluted language can also lead to convoluted thought and I think that this is another issue entirely.  The term “anti-religion,” for example, which does not even appear in Oxford or Websters.  Persons who embrace direct opposition to religion, such as the philosopher Colin McGinn, commonly use the term to refer to their stance,  Others have attempted to hijack the term by referring to all religious and non-religious persons who have done bad things to religious persons under the same umbrella.

There is most often a political side to these sorts of things.  Consider the term “pro-life.”  Is it really pro-life?

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Posted: 11 October 2007 11:10 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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I figured that I better beat anyone who has their eye out.  It appears that there is some sort of definition of anti-theism in Websters.

Antitheist
\An`ti*the"ist\, n. A disbeliever in the existence of God.

There is a Websters encyclopedia entry that is far more engaged at http://www.reference.com/browse/wiki/Antitheism
This entry actually distinguishes Christopher Hitchens as an “antitheist” from Marx and Lennon as “militant atheist.”  They are also termed here as “militant evolutionists [who] want to silence the idea of creation.”

I thought this one might best illustrate an opinion at the other extreme…
http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=antitheism

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Posted: 11 October 2007 11:26 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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Hitchens proclaims quite clearly in his book, God,Is Not Great, that he is and anti-theist, not an atheist. Of course since he also quite boldly proclaims Russel an atheist when Russell specifically and strongly stated he was an agnostic and why that difference was important, I don’t see why Hitchen’s own self labeling should be more greatly respected.

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Posted: 12 October 2007 08:08 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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I don’t mean to suggest that Christopher Hitchens’ labeling ought to be more or less respected than anyone else’s.  Just that there is a clear difference between what Hitchens is talking about when he calls himself an antitheist and what less sympathetic folk are talking about when they refer to Stalin or Lenin as antitheist.

Religious persons often regard anything and anyone that vocally opposes their religious ideas as being against them personally and, thus, falsely label the viewpoints of verbal types like Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris, McGinn as dangerously bigoted.  The only real danger is to bad religiou ideas.  The effect of these sorts of “antitheistic” ideas on the religious individual is actually quite humanitarian.

Many non-theistic persons also take this stance and I think that it is a remnant of Christian brainwashing.  More so, tremendously counterproductive to the interests humanism.

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Posted: 12 October 2007 09:26 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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Some of you guys are just outright silly. I’m loving it.

I just find it odd that many people are included under the term semite but only one gets listed under anti-semite. It is as if the term “African” applied to all who lived in the continent of Africa but “anti-African” only applied to those who live in Ghana. Or if “anti-christian” only applied to Catholics.

The issue - at least for me and apparently not so for others - is not what is currently “correct” or what is “common.” I think there is an important flaw there. Let’s do a thought experiment on homosexual marraige (by which I mean the legal union sanctioned by a state) to illustrate the flaw I am referring to.

To say that anti-semitism is prejudice strictly towards Jews would be to say that marriage is strictly between a man and a woman. The fact that the prevailing “correct” or “common” usage is between a man or woman/prejudice towards Jews is completely beside the point being made. The question of the discrepancy in the semite and anti-semite definitions is not whether we recognize the common use as technically correct, but rather: should it be? I lean towards no.

Again, try and use the African hypothetical as a thought experiment. Imagine if that was the “common” use or how it was “correctly” defined in dictionaries. Would there (not) be some form of prejudice against all other African nations other than Ghana or special status given to Ghana if the terms were defined as such?

I guess the irony I see is that we recognize a prejudice in the form of another prejudice.

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Posted: 12 October 2007 09:31 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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cgallaga - 11 October 2007 08:13 PM
truthaddict - 11 October 2007 06:20 PM

Do you feel the term is improperly defined since it omits non-Jews? If not, then why would it not be anti-semitic to discriminate against or be prejudiced or hostile to Arabs and others who are semitic but not Hebrew?

No No No [tomlehrer] Oh, the Protestants hate the Catholics And the Catholics hate the Protestants And the Hindus hate the Moslems And everybody hates the Jews[/tomlehrer]

Its about the god.

the other Semites - from a religious view - generally all believe in the Abrahamic god as well.

a semite is not a particular religion so it makes no sense for anti-semitism to be prejudice towards a specific religion. that would make more sense to be anti-Jew or anti-Islam, etc. And if its ethnically based it would make more sense to be anti-Hebrew or anti-Assyrian, etc.

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Posted: 12 October 2007 09:42 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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How many philosophers does it take to screw in a lightbulb?...

...It depends on what you mean by a lightbulb.  :tongue:

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Posted: 12 October 2007 10:19 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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truthaddict - 12 October 2007 09:26 AM

Some of you guys are just outright silly. I’m loving it.

erasmusinfinity - 12 October 2007 09:42 AM

How many philosophers does it take to screw in a lightbulb?...

...It depends on what you mean by a lightbulb.  :tongue:

Depends on what you mean by screw.

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Posted: 12 October 2007 10:26 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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truthaddict - 12 October 2007 09:31 AM

the other Semites -

Look Semitic is a reference to the type of language so if we follow your strange and wandering (not Jew) path then Anti-Semitic can only mean being against a type of language.

But of course English language and in particular English word definition is based in large part on common use. So the dictionary and the common parlance says anti-Semitic = anti Jew. Nuff said, silly one.

P.S. If you don’t like that the English language is based on common use definitions, then make your own language, or sell more dictionaries than Oxford or Webster.

P.S.S saying the big three are all the same (or even similar) because they are Abrahamic is like saying that Pan and Zeus worship are the same because they are Pagan.

[ Edited: 12 October 2007 10:28 AM by cgallaga ]
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