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« Conservatism and the literary detective | Main | That IDS speech »

October 11, 2003



Theres is much one can say in repsonse, however, it is 01:10am and I have imbibed 6 bottles of German Wheat Beer, so I'll content myself with: "Pilger is a twat."




We all came from Africa. Therefore, these attacks on a fine, upstanding African like John Pilger are clearly driven by an ugly racism. Having said that, I agree with Brownie (though it's the Belgian variety here...)

Which is not meant to detract from the gravity of Oliver's post. If it wasn't for the fact that the freakshow crew (Pilger and the rest of the pseudo-liberals) carry enough influence to actually constitute a danger to the survival of Western civilisation, we could merrily belittle them without a care.


That's why I always reply with, "I apologize for misspeaking. I meant, of course, Judenhass. Now where was I?"

Squander Two

You're on the right track, Angua. I've been trying to ween myself off the word "antisemitism" and just use "Jew-hatred". Call a thing what it is.

It's interesting to observe the shock on people's faces. An ism -- any ism -- is really just an intellectual position, something one can have polite discussions about, but hatred is nasty stuff. Call someone a Jew-hater and you outrage them a thousand times more than you would by calling them an antisemite.


Yet again Oliver, a truly excellent post.


Its just another example of how the extreme left can waste all kinds of your time and confound and frustrate you to even discuss a simple conversation by going against any logical reasonable use of common sense.

"Wait, you try and assert that the sky is blue, and this once again demonstrates your misleading use of language. The sky is black and you are just misleading this audience by describing an optical illusion due to the refraction of sunlight"
"Yes, but you know what I mean?"
"I think accuracy is a very important thing, don't you? If you can be generous in your use of language here, what next will you be misinforming and misleading us about? One can only debate with people who are "true scholars" that demonstrate an intellectually factual and accurate use of language and descriptions"

How can infer that David Duke or even more infuriating would be, Jesse Helms, is a Racist and that he hates Africans?

A) His ancestors came from Africa, milleniums ago.
B) He has many friends who are Africans and have lived there there for hundreds of years. They happen to be white.


Franco Alemán

Thanks, Oliver. Again.

Andrew Zalotocky

Am I right in thinking that the concept of a "semitic people" only has any real meaning in linguistics, to refer to those who speak one of the "semitic" languages?

Whether that's right or wrong, can anyone clarify how the usage of "anti-semitic" to mean hostility to any "semitic people" originated? It sounds like a deliberate attempt to shift the meaning of the word, but who started it?

Charles Stewart

Andrew: No, "semtic" can also be used to talk about the middle/near east in general (eg. in archaeology), and I gather that the term originally means "sons of Shem" (Shem was Noah's eldest son). It's worth noting that many jews and arabs neither speak a semitic language nor live near the middle east.

While I think it's clear that Oliver identifies a dishonest rhetorical strategy, I don't think he's got his analysis right: I don't think it is wrong to talk about antisemitism applied to non-jews, and in particular, the obvious way to arrive at anti-semitism is via anti-semitic: Oliver's claim that anti-semitism presupposes the existence of semitism seems to be false. A last point: isn't it the case that the Nazi race theories, while they were particularly vile about the jews, condemned all semitic peoples as "mongrel races"?


The far left has a visceral hatred of jews. It is impossible to miss the hostility to the old caricature, the jewish moneylender - capitalist as well as Zionist. The left cannot possibly admit to such irrational prejudices, so the most fantastic distortions are required to justify supporting military dictators, religious fanatics and gangsters in their efforts to destroy Israel. John Pilger is of course the master distortionist.


Oliver is right, Charles is wrong.
The term 'antisemitism' was invented by the German Marr and is directed exclusively against Jews.
If Charles has any doubts, why not look up the definition in a dictionary? might help at first.

And again no: the Nazi racism did not condemn all 'semitic' 'races'. The Grandmufti of Jerusalem, leader of the Palestine National Movement found asylum in Nazi-Germany in the 1940's. He was member of the SS and founded a muslim SS-division. He took care that the eliminatory antisemitism went on existing after the defeat of Nazi-Germany. And by the way, this Grandmufti is Arafat's predecessor.

The day before the Kristallnacht, 8th November 1938, Hitler attacked Churchill in a speech: 'I should however consider it proper if these gentlemen [of the British Parliament] with their enormous knowledge and the unfailing wisdom which is their own would concentrate for the moment on Palestine, shall we say. They could shower blessings there. For what is going on there smells damned strongly of force and very little democracy'. (Martin Gilbert, Winston S. Churchill, Companion Volume V Part III, p. 1262)

The danger of giving words new meanings can also be found in that speech. For instance: 'Moreover, I am not the Head of a State like a dictator or a monarch, but I am the German people's Leader.' and he goes on:
'Mr Churchill and these gentlemen are deputies of the English people and I am a deputy of the German people. The difference is only that Mr Churchill received but a fraction of British votes and I represent the whole German people.'

This kind of argument was once called propaganda. Unfortunately today people are not used to it anymore, they don't recognize it as such. I only found out about it, since looking up dictionaries and primary sources. The day, the definition of antisemitism is changed, I will leave the country.

Oliver: thanks for your site. It is interesting, I made some very similar observations in Germany. I did some research on a Churchill-quote and surprise - the people once identified being from the extreme left now distribute their propaganda via The Guardian and similar papers in Germany.

David Gillies

It's interesting you note the awful record of the DDR in promoting Judenhass. The East German Olympic squad was complicit in the 1972 Munich massacre - it appears almost certain that they aided the terrorists by scouting the Israelis' quarters, and Stasi agents helped foil the first (albeit bungling) raid by the West German police by transmitting surveillance to the terrorists. And of course the Eastern bloc as a whole helped further the course of anti-Israel terrorism by funding terror groups such as the PFLPGC.


Anyway, Mr. Pilger's view is quite common among Guardian readers, or at least the people who inhabit their message boards.

Charles Stewart

Katrin: Many points...
1. Indeed I was mistakened, though not for the reason you give, but for misunderstanding a point in Oliver's article -- in making the point about anti-semitism not being opposed to semitism he was pointing out the absurdity of Marr's neologism, not insisting on how the word should be understood.
2. On dictionaries: I didn't dispute Oliver's account of the word origin, but it is a fact of language that words expand and contract their meanings, and that dictionaries reflect this change only slowly. I've seen several usages of anti-semitism used to condemn actual or imagined anti-arab prejudice outside of the kind of dishonest rhetorical game Pilger is playing. It's true that a drift in the meaning of the term antisemitism does make Pilger's dishonest argument easier, but it doesn't render it valid. I think this is the wrong fight.
3. I was talking about Nazi race theory rather than Nazi practice, based upon a BBC documentary I saw on it several years ago. Whilst what you say about Nazi relationships to Palestine is interesting, and supports what Oliver has said before about neonazi sympathy for Palestine, it doesn't contradict what I suggested.



sorry if I misunderstood you.

As to the Nazi race theory, there is not much use in taking it literally. It is too arbitrary and contradictory, serving merely as a means of propaganda. According to it, Hitler and Goebbels themselves would have been representatives of 'mongrel races'. They named their 'herrenrasse' Aryans, whilst the historical Aryans from India had very few in common with the tall, blond, blue-eyed ideal.

The most absurd part of the race theory is the creation of a jewish race. By its own definition, jewishness cannot have any racial features. It is by nature open to all races. And that is exactly what Hitler and Co hated and what Churchill admired about the Jews: 'This wandering tribe... [had] grasped and proclaimed an idea of which all the genius of Greece and all the power of Rome were incapable', the idea of 'a universal God, a God of nations.' (Norman Rose, Churchill and Zionism)

If race theory would have been the leading motive in Nazi-Germany, all the 'aryan' Jews would have survived. Indeed, some very few were saved by some individual Nazis. But the machinery worked differently - race features didn't matter - it was the hatred against Jews that drove them. Jews as the representatives of an idea - and everyone who had been infected by this idea, even if it was generations ago, had to be killed. That is why the jewish 'race' has been created by the Nazis and why people who were not Jews by their own or by jewish definition were persecuted. There was no jewish blood, but there might have been a Grandfather who was in favour of God and consequently the world belonging to all people.

Now why do I describe all this? Because it has allways been and still is the crucial point about antisemitism. I would not replace by 'Judenhass', which suggests that it is targeted against the Jews. Of course I do not deny that in practical consequence, it is directed against Jews primarily, but the reason lies beneath it. In search of a possible explanation you would logically examine the Jews, and end up in a cul de sac. Whereas the antisemit at the same time would have declared jewish whoever represents the idea identified by him as jewish. It is common practice in Germany that a journalist defending the Bush-administration receives letters telling him, his name indicates Jewish ancestors. What does the antisemt mean by it? Or do you remember the story about Madeline Albright having jewish ancestors? Although her confession is Christianity, she has since become another symbol for the mighty and dangerous Jewish idea.

The jewish believe is not founded on hierarchy, it does not know any national or racial or heredical ordering schemes. Thus Antisemits perceive it as a symbol for chaos, disorder and the danger of someone taking lead on them purely by cleverness. In exchange, they make the jewish idea responsible for any disaster - Aids, the African struggles, the 9-11 attacks, capitalism and communism at the same time. Whatever mischief happens, the Jews are behind it. Moellemann cultivated this tradition. In the 70's he suspected the Mossad of forcing a Palestinian imprisoned in Germany to kill his compatriots. In the 80's he claimed the Mossad was mounting a media smear campaign against him.

I think it is important to understand this nature of antisemitism in order to understand, how it can be instrumentalized. In nearly every Arab country, children receive their brain-washing about Jews at school. As long as Jews are responsible for any mischief, the Arab leaders can hold on to the worse inhuman measures. The only hopeful exception known to me is the Jordanian royal family, but not the Jordanian parliament.

Ok, enough lectured ;-)


As I recall the Aryans were from Iran, not India.

Pedantry aside, there is a worrying conflation between "anti Israeli government" and "anti-Jewishness" in some of the above comments. As I'm sure many of you will agree, it is certainly not racist to be against a government of any kind, no matter what historical terrors have inflicted the populace (Defendants at the 1937 Moscow trials were labelled as anti-Soviet - be careful of the company you keep).

Therefore I disagree with any 'moral imperative' to support Israel because Jews were almost annihilated during the last century. You could call me brutal, but it needs to be remembered that Zionism is an ideology and that, like any other ideology, it had many discontents - both before and after the Nazi Holocaust - many of whom were, indeed are, Jewish. There was no 'imperative', moral or otherwise for them, why should there be for me? What do we mean by supporting the existence of Israel anyhow? It simply is; and will continue to be so whether I support it or not. It is, de facto, a state and one doesn't simply wipe a state off the map because of fast-ageing arguments about historical land rights.

Small but relevant fact: many of the pro-genitors of today's 'far-left' were Jewish. The fact that being 'far-left' is interpreted as anti-Jewish is a strange irony of history. Israel's founders would nowadays be regarded as relics of the communist era. Until the early 1960s Israel was much more sympathetic to the Soviet Union than to America.

The fact that the far-left today is often anti-Jewish is perhaps a handmaiden to anti-Americanism, which is virulent right across the board these days, due to the fact that America is Israel's financial guarantor and that most people of any intelligence are simply incapable of seeing truth and adopt whichever knee-jerk position makes them feel best about themselves. To be against one of them is usually a good indicator of being against the other. THe fact that both positions are taken up thoughtlessly by many far-left true believers is very sad indeed.

Without wishing to sound wishy-washy, why on earth can't people just get along?


It seems that we both are right:
"It is one of the ironies of history that Aryan, a word nowadays referring to the blond-haired, blue-eyed physical ideal of Nazi Germany, originally referred to a people who looked vastly different. Its history starts with the ancient Indo-Iranians, Indo-European peoples who inhabited parts of what are now Iran, Afghanistan, and India. Their tribal self-designation was a word reconstructed as *arya– or *rya–. The first of these is the form found in Iranian, as ultimately in the name of Iran itself (from Middle Persian rn (ahr), “(Land) of the Iranians,” from the genitive plural of r, “Iranian”). "


An Arab-American professor, a sematicist originally from Lebanon, once explained to me that "Semitic" is purely a linguistic term and does not refer to any ethnic group.

D ave F

Pilger's "argument' about the term anti-semitism is one usually encountered only among stupid people.
Essentially it has nothing to do with what is meant, and focuses on the notion that you have used the wrong term, therefore your accusation is meaningless. All that matters is what the term anti-semitism, whatever its philogical accuracy, has come to be understood to mean in normal usage.

For example, if I accuse someone of making anti-gay remarks, I am not refuted by the "argument" that I am saying that person is reviling anyone who is happy . (Indeed the term homophobe does not, in the strict sense, mean what we all understand it to mean.)

This latest lunatic sally demonstrates a couple of things about Pilger: 1. He has bought into the alliance of extreme left and Islamic militancy; 2 He has no ability to argue or reason from logic.

What is is his educational background? I would guess high school level from this.


I'm not sure what educational background has got to do with it. I know plenty of professors with views just as dangerous as Pilger's - just as I can vouch that letters after one's name do not necessarily denote intelligence or knowledge.

I can't say for sure, but have a vague idea that "semitic" is like "caucasian" - a category not grounded in truth, or even of much use in empirical description. For example it is now very clear scientifically that there is more racial difference between fellow members of the same race than between races - a most interesting point. Saying that Jews and Arabs are racially the same could be likened to saying Celts and Slavs are racially the same. It's meaningless, as well as being utterly useless except to dogmatists and preachy corpses like Pilger.

As a development of that it is a truly bad justification of anti-jewish comment to claim that, being semitic, one is incapable of giving offence. Flip that coin and we can see the crucial importance of getting the definition and usage of anti-jewish/anti-semitic/antisemitic exactly right. Though Pilger, by and large, fits the bill many people that are referred to as anti-semitic, especially on Sullivan's blog and on some of the newspaper chatrooms, aren't really anything of the kind. Tom Paulin would be a clear-cut case of an anti-semitic person. Noam Chomsky, no doubt to the chagrin of some on this blog, would not - not because he's jewish (see above) but because he has never written or said anything that could be objectively called anti-jewish (anti-american is for another day).

As to something else of the above posts, "anti-semitism" as construct can be hid behind as well as thrust about. To say that it is a kind of linguistic crime to accuse the jews of racism against a similar race ignores the much more important point of whether the accusation is justified - as opposed to whether the right words have been used. I have referred in a previous post (on Said)to the thoughts of a certain former Israeli Chief of Staff who compared the Palestinians to cockroaches. He said this in public and the view has been much quoted. Pilger would call it anti-semitism - I would call it racism - but so what? It matters not a bit what Pilger calls it, what matters is the fact of what was said. The point is this - don't allow Pilger's outflowings to distract you from the meaning, or you'll play right into his hands.

Pilger's more recent works have been comprehensively analysed and disposed of through empirical analysis and evidence, not semantic duelling.

Apologies: another issue - the use and mis-use of the term anti-semitism cannot be used as an excuse for bogus cultural-appropriation arguments. An example:

"What's wrong with it is that it reduces the suffering of the Jewish people - most obviously the attempt in the last century to kill every Jew in Europe, but a Judaeophobia that has lasted literally millennia - by means of semantic trickery.."

This is not what Pilger is doing I'm afraid. If I use the word "holocaust" to describe what happened to the Armenians in 1915, or the Congolese under the Belgians, or the Tutsis in Rwanda etc. I would be a little narked, to say the least, if someone accused me of reducing the suffering of the Jewish people. Words have meanings independent of their associations. Associations do matter of course, but true meaning matters more. So, in reply to Oliver's original proposal of replacing anti-semitism with antisemitism I'd like to propose that what he refers to as the Holocaust henceforth be referred to as the Nazi Holocaust, for the same reasons.

Dave F

I'm sure no one would accuse you of reducing the suffering of the Jewish people by referring to the Rwanda genocide as a Tutsi holocaust. It is only when the term is used to describe what is happening to, say, chickens (as indeed it has been) or other grotesquely inappropriate events, that Jewish people get narked.

Former Belgian

(a) The irony about Wilhelm Marr is that he appears to have had a Jewish father
(b) Pilger et al. are merely practicing what Orwell called "turnspeak". Antisemite was originally coined as a Salonfaehig substitute for "Judenhass", and has always meant that, until the Jew-haters started using it against Jews by applying linguistic sophistry detached from practical usage. By the same logic, I can start calling all foreigners "ellendelingen" (Dutch for "good-for-nothings"), on the grounds that the word literally means "those from other lands" in medieval Dutch.
(c) One can oppose specific Israeli government policies (or a specific Israeli government tout court) without being an antisemite (judeophobe). If one systematically singles out Israel for special scrutiny while ignoring much worse abuses, or if one denies the Jewish people the right to self-determination in their own land, I believe one practices political antisemitism (so-called "anti-Zionism").
(d) Some (e.g. Alan Dershowitz, I believe) have coined the term "judeophobe" that lacks all ambiguity.
(e) "homophobe" originally referred to an actual psychiatric condition (an obsession with homosexuality resulting from repressed fears that one may be homosexual oneself). Overuse by militant homosexuals has largely detached the word from any stable meaning it may once have had, just like "fascist" or "racist"
(f) Many Jews refer to the Nazi Holocaust as the Shoah (Hebrew for "catastrophe"), a term that has gained some acceptance in continental European languages. Ironically, some Jews object to the word Holocaust on the grounds that it literally means "wholly burnt offering" (like in the Temple of old) and might be taken to imply that (G-d forbid) one-third of world Jewry served as some sort of fire offering to atone for whatever sins. (There are actually some G-dforsaken old paganism peddlersNew Age gurus who claim this disgusting "theory".)
I personally would use the term "genocide" (if aimed at a particular ethnic/cultural group) or "democide" (mass murder of genocidal proportions without specific ethnic/cultuiral target), and Shoah if I specifically meant the Nazi holocaust.

Former Belgian

PS: an example of "democide" would be what Pol Pot's regime practiced, which was aimed at the educated class of Cambodia without (as far as I can see) specifically targeting a specific ethnic group. Stalin's "Great Purges" would be another. The "Great Collectivization" is a borderline case between democide and genocide, as in practice Ukrainians and White Russians were disproportionally represented among the victims (the Ukraine being Russia's bread basket).


I fail to see how "denying the jewish people their right of self-determination in their own land" is anti-semitic. It is perfectly possible to be against the self-determination of a people but not the people themselves. There have been many jews, some of them famous, who are and always have been against the formation of the State of Israel. Some for strategic reasons, others for doctrinal, some for political. THey are not anti-semitic, and neither would I be if I agreed with them. As I've said previously, Israel is a state now so it serves no purpose to dispute its historical right to existence, unless you're the leader of Hamas. Its rights 'in history' are certainly disputable, as a historical debate, but that could not, by any objective analysis, be anti-semitic. Let me give a recent scenario - many Uzbeks didn't want to be independent at all in '91. That's not talked about much these days, but they and their near neighbours rather wanted to stay as part of Russia. Uzbekistan is now independent, part unwillingly, part willingly. Does that make some Uzbeks are anti-Uzbek? Or anti-Russian?

I can see the general thrust of comments about singling Israel out, but we need some reality checks here. People care about what touches them, do they not? I understand there is a struggle between the Western Sahara rebels and the Spanish government, for example. Shamefully, I don't know enough about it and most days I don't think about it. However I do know about and regularly read about the Middle East. Why shouldn't I be critical of Israel but not of Morocco? If we take the premise that singling out a country for criticism is wrong then we'd be here for aeons working out some kind of friggin league table of badness.

"You can't say that."
"Why not?"
"Because you haven't criticised Burkina Faso or French Guyana, who are the benchmarking bad guys."

Isn't it a little absurd? Also, in my mind there is a sense that a country that subscribes to the "Western democratic model", or whatever you choose to call it, should live by those rules day in and day out as much as is possible. People in other countries look on in disgust when they see an ostensibly democratic and westernised country behaving barbarously. That's why Britain lost quite a few friends during the Troubles - targeted killings and the like don't play too well on the Mystic River. Likewise Israel is expected to behave in a certain way - and I admit some of these expectations are unrealistic - but often transgresses its own laws.

Is media bias evidence of racism? Websites like would say so, and then openly tout a partisan version of the history of the Middle East on one of their links. What are we to do? Accusations and counter-accusations fly around all the time.

We need a definition of anti-semitism/judeophobia/anti-jewishness that does not involve states or national groupings, or we will inevtiably conflate the two - a very dangerous idea indeed.

Kerry Harris


Thaks you for your is a breath of fresh air..

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