What’s the deal with Anti-Semites?
I’ve been arguing with Anti-Semites in the comments section of a YouTube video for most of this past week.
I don’t use the term lightly, because I think that cheapens the word, but I don’t know what else to call these people.
Why, you may ask?
A combination of curiosity, the thrill of it, getting sucked in and not knowing how to extract myself, and because I like to challenge my own beliefs in order to learn and get closer to truth.
It was a very emotionally and physically draining experience, with little reward. I’m not trying to get a pat on the back. I’m just frustrated and need to untangle the web of ideas in my head.
As a Jew, Anti-Semitism has always been known to me as an abstract phenomenon, but I didn’t pay too much attention to it. But after some experiences a few years ago, I was shaken up to the fact that it can’t be ignored. The way that I deal with problems is by thinking about them, so that’s what I’ve been doing.
No matter how much I learn about it, both the phenomenon of Anti-Semitism and the discussion revolving around it still baffle me. In this essay I wish to focus on the term itself; not the etymology, but simply how it is used colloquially, and how that often leads to problems. I’ve also included a link to an appendix with a summary of the statements about Jews that I encountered, for those of you who are similarly curious.
What most surprised me about the exchanges was how reluctant those being accused of Anti-Semitism were to being labeled as such. Not one of the people offering these ideas admitted to being an Anti-Semite. One even called himself a Philo-Semite.
When accused of being an Anti-Semite (or, ironically, often before being called an Anti-Semite, simply when someone would challenge their nonsense), here are some of the ways they would deny the allegation:
- Jews aren’t the only Semites, Arabs are also Semites, and Jews are oppressing them, so Jews are the real Anti-Semites now.
- I read Jewish mysticism, so I can’t be against Jews.
- Accusing people of Anti-Semitism is just a tactic Jews use to stifle valid criticism of Jews, especially of the Israeli govt. Not surprisingly, no one who said this was actually presenting legitimate criticism of Jews or specific actions of the Israeli government.
- I don’t have anything against Jews, but the present day Jews aren’t real Jews because they are impostors.
- I think that Jews have contributed a lot to society, so in total they are a positive force. But all the negative stuff is true too, and if you don’t think so you’re just biased and have ‘blinkers’ on. (This was the self-proclaimed “Philo-Semite”)
This leaves me with some questions:
- It seems like Anti-Semitism is a hatred apart. Is it only because I’m Jewish that I feel that way? The quality and quantity of conspiracy theories about Jews is beyond comprehension. Racists admit to hating blacks and say the reason is because blacks are “lazy,” “violent,” or “dumb”. Homophobes admit to hating gays and say the reason is because gays are “unnatural” and are “destroying family values”. Anti-Semites portray Jews as a nefarious force that constantly conspires and is the cause of all ills in the world, and yet they won’t even admit to having an animosity towards Jews!
- Why do so many people put so much time and energy into examining and discussing Jews? We are only 0.2% of the world’s population. There must be other people that are also worth investigating, to see if they are in fact the “dark force” pulling the strings? Wouldn’t those who are really behind the curtain be able to prevent millions of people from finding out their “secret”?
- Why can’t any of these people admit to their prejudice? Is the stigma against Anti-Semitism that strong that they can’t admit it (even when they think the whole concept is just invented by Jews to stifle criticism)? Do they think by changing the definition of Anti-Semitism as they please, they have avoided the problem?
- Is there anything that can be done besides ignore these people?
What I find being ignored in the present discussion of Anti-Semitism, that may lead to a partial resolution to these questions, is that there are many facets to Anti-Semitism. Using the same word to refer to radically different types of people is confusing. The way I see it, there are different stages to Anti-Semitism:
(a) Not knowing much about Jews but not caring about them either. A Jew joke is thrown around every now and then.
(b) Paying more attention to Jews, and having a false conception of them, or believing negative (or positive) stereotypes about them.
(c) Jews are believed to be a conspiring force with a lot of power, and they use this power to further their own group interests, which are often at odds with non-Jewish interests.
(d) Jews use their power to harm non-Jews, often with the goal of killing non-Jews, or destroying society in order to dominate the world.
(e) Jews must be attacked.
(f) Jews must be wiped out, either by murdering all Jews or destroying the Jewish identity.
Jews use the term Anti-Semite to refer to people in all of these stages, and I think that’s where the problem lies. We do this because each stage seamlessly flows to the next, and looking at Jewish history it seems it only takes a little bit of civil strife to move large amounts of people down the black hole of Jew hatred.
But a person at any stage only considers the person at the next stage an Anti-Semite. They’re just being “realistic” and “looking at the data without bias” , they “don’t have anything against Jews”.
Personally, I’m OK with stages (a) and (b). I’m not offended by jokes about Jews, and I don’t think everyone has to have an accurate perception of us. We’re a really complicated bunch. They’re just a little Jew-Ignorant.
Stages (c) and (d) are when things start getting murkier. These people have really ugly ideas, but so what? Some people aren’t too bright. Some people can’t face the hardships of life, and need a scapegoat. Why not allow them some solace in the form of Jew-hatred. Just stay out of their way, and hope they stay out of yours. They’re just Jew-Conspiracists; does anyone besides their fellow travelers take them seriously, anyway?
People in stages (e) and (f) are who everyone, without doubt, would agree are “Anti-Semites” and must be shut down and ostracized wherever they rear their ugly heads.
But don’t take my word for it, I’m biased after all. I’m in on the Zionist Conspiracy; all twenty of them.