Understanding the Spelling and Correct Definition of ‘Antisemitism’.

Somewhere, sometime in the not so distant past, both the spelling and definition of ‘antisemitism’ has been bastardised.  Now is the time to set the record straight, and this has become my mission in life, as anyone who follows me or my website knows!

I don’t know, but I tend to think the corruption of the spelling emanates from the United States of America and then adopted by Israel, followed by Google and Microsoft.  By understanding how the word came about, you will see how the two words spellings of ‘antisemitism’ and ‘anti-Semitism’ can be used as a good advocacy tool.

With some examples of the spelling in other languages, you will note they all use one word which is not hyphenated, and does not begin with a capital letter:

Albanian – antisemitizm   *  Bosnian – antisemitizam  *   Croatian – antisemitizam

Czech – antisemitisnus    *   Danish – antisemitisme   *    Dutch – antisemitisme

Finnish – antisemitismiin  *  French – antisémitisme   *   German – antisemitisme

Italian – antisemitismo   *   Romanian – antisemitism   *   Spanish – antisemitismo

Greek – αντισημιτισμό      *Hebrew – אנטישמיות

In March 2016, I wrote an article called antisemitism v anti-Semitism ,which was amended and re-posted when I happened upon a memo from the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance on the spelling of antisemitism from the IHRA Committee on Antisemitism and Holocaust Denial.

antisemitism
Wilhelm Marr. credit: Wikipedia

In 1879, German anti-Jewish journalist and political agitator Friedrich Wilhelm Adolph Marr, known as Wilhem Marr, published a pamphlet, Der Sieg des Judenthums über das Germanenthum. Vom nicht confessionellen Standpunkt aus betrachtet (The Victory of the Jewish Spirit over the Germanic Spirit. Observed from a non-religious perspective) in which the word Semitismus  was used interchangeably with the word Judentum to denote both “Jewry” and “Jewishness.”

This use of Semitismus was followed by a coining of antisemitismus which was used to indicate opposition to the Jews as a people and opposition to the Jewish spirit, which Marr interpreted as infiltrating German culture.

His intention was to replace the German word Judenhass (Jew-hatred) with a term that would make Jew-haters sound less vulgar. Marr thought that by replacing Judenhass, it would  make hatred of the Jews seem rational and sanctioned by scientific knowledge.

Wilhelm Marr hated Jews with all his heart and, apparently, also did not think that the German word Judenhass was strong enough!

In his next pamphlet, Der Weg zum Siege des Germanenthums über das Judenthum (The Way to Victory of the Germanic Spirit over the Jewish Spirit, 1880), he presented a development of his ideas further and likely was the first published use of the German word antisemitismus, “antisemitism.”

The pamphlet became very popular, and in the same year he founded the Antisemiten-Liga (League of Antisemites), which was the first German organisation committed specifically to combating the alleged threat to Germany and German culture posed by the Jews and their influence, and advocating their forced removal from the country.

The similar term antisemitisch  was first used in 1860, by Jewish scholar Moritz Steinschneider, a Bohemian bibliographer and Orientalist. He received his early instruction in Hebrew from his father, Jacob Steinschneider, who was not only an expert Talmudist, but was also well versed in secular science.

Out of this came antisemitism and antisemite. By hyphenating the word to anti-Semites gives the word a whole other meaning – to be against Semites. Spelling is easily changed on your devices.

The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance memo on the spelling of Antisemitism is as follows:

With this memo, the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) would like to address the spelling of the term antisemitism , often rendered as ‘anti-Semitism’ and Microsoft’s auto-correct feature.
IHRA’s concern is that the hyphenated spelling allows for the possibility of something called ‘Semitism,’ which not only legitimizes a form of pseudo-scientific racial classification that was thoroughly discredited by association with Nazi ideology, but also divides the term, stripping it from its meaning of opposition and hatred toward Jews.
The philological term ‘Semitic’ referred to a family of languages originating in the Middle East whose descendant languages today are spoken by millions of people mostly across Western Asia and North Africa.
Following this semantic logic, the conjunction of the prefix ‘anti’ with ‘Semitism’ indicates antisemitism as referring to all people who speak Semitic languages or to all those classified as ‘Semites.’
The term has, however, since its inception referred to prejudice against Jews alone.
In the mid-nineteenth century, the derived construct ‘Semite’ provided a category to classify humans based on racialist pseudo-science.
At the same time the neologism ‘antisemitism’, coined by German journalist Wilhelm Marr in 1879 to designate anti-Jewish campaigns, was spread through use by anti-Jewish political movements and the general public.
The modern term gained popularity in Germany and Europe incorporating traditional Christian anti-Judaism, political, social and economic anti-Jewish manifestations that arose during the Enlightenment in Europe, and a pseudo-scientific racial theory that culminated in Nazi ideology in the twentieth century.
Although the historically new word only came into common usage in the nineteenth century, the term antisemitism is today used to describe and analyse past and present forms of opposition or hatred towards Jews.
In German, French, Spanish and many other languages, the term was never hyphenated.
The unhyphenated spelling is favored by many scholars and institutions in order to dispel the idea that there is an entity ‘Semitism’ which ‘anti-Semitism’ opposes .
Antisemitism should be read as a unified term so that the meaning of the generic term for modern Jew-hatred is clear.
At a time of increased violence and rhetoric aimed towards Jews, it is urgent that there is clarity and no room for confusion or obfuscation when dealing with antisemitism.
Given that most communication today is electronic, and that Microsoft is a giant in that field, the Committee on Antisemitism and Holocaust Denial is concerned that Microsoft’s default spelling in English is ‘anti-Semitism.’ Thus the Committee strongly recommends changing the default spelling of antisemitism so that it does not autocorrect to the hyphenated version of the word.
The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) is an intergovernmental body whose purpose is to place political and social leaders’ support behind the need for Holocaust education, remembrance and research both nationally and internationally. IHRA’s Committee on Antisemitism and Holocaust Denial was created to address the upsurge in antisemitism and Holocaust denial and trivialization.
With this memo, IHRA expresses its concern over possible confusion of a clear understanding of the word ‘antisemitism.’

Honest Reporting says “It’s Time for the Media to Adopt Antisemitism Definition” and asks you to sign their petition HERE.

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This article was first published at Honest Reporting

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My thoughts on antisemitism.

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7 comments

  1. Brian Goldfarb

    I posted this long comment at Anne’s Opinions (who cross-posted this article – with permission). I hope it is equally appropriate here:

    Ok, people, inscribe the following above your desktops or inside the covers of your laptops or other mobile devices: August Bebel, 19th Century German Social Democrat (we lefties aren’t all bad!) noted that “antisemitism is the socialism of fools”.

    Use it whenever you are confronted by left-wing antisemitism (aka Corbynism in the UK). By this, Bebel meant us to note that left-wing antisemitism uses antisemitic tropes to pretend that the problems of the world are caused by the “ownership” of the world by Jews, frequently used in political shorthand as “the Rothschilds” (“Zionism”, in this context, is a side-issue and a distraction). The implication is that get rid of the Jews grasp on the world economy and the left can change it forever in their desired direction.

    It never seems to occur to them that:
    (a) Jews are, at most, 0.2% of the world population – we are about 16,000,000 in a world population fast approaching 7,700,000,000 (how can 0.2% control the other 99.8% is beyond my feeble imagining);
    (b) Henry Ford (raging antisemite), the Rockefeller’s, Andrew Carnegie, etc, to say nothing of their modern counterparts such as Morgan Stanley, or their European equivalents, such as Lord Nuffield (of the Austin-Morris motor company), or the German Benz, etc, etc, weren’t Jewish;
    (c) collectively punching above your weight is not the same as dominating those who weigh more than you;
    (d) accumulating wealth and knowledge as a despised minority and out-group gives one chances of either or both buying one way out of dangerous situations or making oneself indispensable to the oppressors – which is not the same as supposedly “controlling” them. Being cleverer than his monarch didn’t save Thomas Cromwell from the executioner’s block.

    This is to suggest that, unlike their far-right counterparts, left antisemites tend to be a bit (but only a bit) smarter than them. The far right are, in some ways, easier to confront. Even without having to resort to violence, especially if we can get them into a situation in which they CAN’T resort to violence.

  2. Otto Waldmann

    In a free for all spanner in the works, nothing seduces more readily the argument insatiable Jewish mind than the topic of antisemitism.
    From simple etymology to the readily available list of relevant events starting ANY time in history one wishes to delve into, antisemitism as a mere academic topic must have tortured us in times of peace and quiet far worse than it should.
    In a fair contest for prominence in this domineering world of social media, every Tobias, Deborah and Hershel has acquired the right to concoct his/her version and, G-d forbid anyone would have the chutzpah to disagree ( although the posting of opinions is meant precisely to elicit disagreements ).
    Mine is a very clear and concise one:
    Regardless of the time/”inventor” of the actual term, antisemitism has been for time memorial an integral part of the “civilised” world. The main reason that other solid ethnic-religious rejections have been and gone, as intent eradication of smaller enemy tribes has been a staple event in HUMAN history, is that Jews have had the temerity to survive in spite and – worse – in the middle of their known mass murderers, all specialised in having a go at the Yid.
    Cartagina – Puni – gone, Galls of France all but eradicated and/or assimilated, Ostrogots, Visigots, none to be seen as such, hundreds of people once mentioned in the annals of antiquities’ historians, all gone and dusted. Even TEN of our tribes G-d only knows ( and won’t tell us ) where are still wondering.
    Yet, we have engineered for millenia our persisted presence knowing full well that it was done facing…………..exactly the inevitable antisemitism.
    The only question unsolved is whether those intent of exterminating us had gone badly wrong somewhere, because that has been attempted countless times or we were much smarter and “ruined” their plans while giving other bastards the opportunity to try their own version of antisemitism cum eradication version/attempts.
    We may choose between the :Egyptian, Messopotamian, Philistinian, Hellenistic, Roman, Spanish, Russian/Ukrainian and last but not least the last one, too well known to be mentioned.
    As history must be treated with an eye to the temporal specifics, all those memorable attempts at our annihilation followed one solitary reason: anything different to us may not be tolerated.
    The antisemitic drives by a certain Church, a Royal House ( Spanish), a political party ( nazi) all being well known purveyors of Jewish obliteration, are mere “cosmetic” incidentals of une unique phenomenon seemingly still among us, fortunately, these days and after all this time, a lot more…….. manageable.
    Yes, just like with all other mamzerim, we shall take care of it as well.

    My last innocent comment: We did not ask for any of those antisemitic encounters, yet they came just like free breakfast with the room in the hotel of our choice…………

    I, for one, have been born with the antisemitism anti-body in my DNA and nurtured with the same day and night with immediate, tangible realities.

    Am, I kvetching/complaining, no way, but I did put this piece together right here for the readers’ awareness/delectation, just in case…………….

  3. Jews should not use the word “antisemite”…it’s inaccurate and was originated by a Jew hater who wanted to ‘scientifically’ rationalize his Jew hatred. “Jewbaiting @$$hole” works much better for me.

    • Otto Waldmann

      You are more right than you know…We call them lots of other “nice” stuff apart from the well deserved antisemites.

      • Brian Goldfarb

        Herbert, I must disagree. Wilhelm Marr, a thoroughly nasty Jew-hater, was looking for a new term with which to express his bile and which might just sound, ummm, less awful and even (pseudo-)scientific. After all, who, in polite society, would want to openly admit that they hated an inoffensive group of fellow citizens.

        Further, it could even pretend to be more pseudo-scientific, because when challenged, antisemites could pretend that Arabs, etc, are also semites, thus it can’t refer to Jews only. That the term “semitic” when used accurately by academics refers to a group of language from the Middle East that are linguistically linked (Hebrew, Arabic, Amharic…) is deliberately ignored by them.

        No, we must not let them off the hook: antisemitism was coined to mean hatred of Jews and the IHRA definition, increasingly widely adopted across the globe, specifically includes derogatory references to anti-Zionism under it.

        Like it or not, “antisemitism” is increasingly recognised for what it is: an irrational hatred for all things Jewish and a desire to restrict those things, up to and including getting rid of the Jews by whatever means necessary.

        No Pasaran!

    • Actually Herbert the term antisemitisch was first used in 1860, by Jewish scholar Moritz Steinschneider, a Bohemian bibliographer and Orientalist.

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