Political Request By the ADC To Redefine Anti-Semitism And
|May 19, 2004
|Summary: Should organizations request
dictionary changes for political reasons?
|Boycott Watch was sent notification of a letter
from the Arab-American Anti Discrimination Committee to Miriam Webster's
Dictionary requesting a redefinition of the word anti-Semitism along with a
request to analyze the ADC letter from a non-biased perspective. Boycott Watch
accepted the challenge.
After conducting extensive research, Boycott
Watch wrote a letter to John Morse, the President and Publisher of
Merriam-Webster, Inc., outlining three critical areas of concern, and showing
how the ADC request is based on political expediency and not fact.
following is the Boycott Watch response:
----- Original Boycott
Watch letter -----
May 19, 2004
John Morse, President and
47 Federal Street
P.O. Box 281
Springfield, MA 01102
I am the Executive
Director of Boycott Watch, a non-profit and non-political organization that
verifies and publishes the facts behind boycott calls, so that consumers can
evaluate both sides of boycott issue and then determine their own course of
conduct based on the facts. In our capacity as consumer watchdog, we often
receive requests from our readers to investigate various issues, and that is
why I am writing to you today. One of our readers sent us information about a
letter from the Arab-American Anti Discrimination Committee (the "ADC"),
requesting that you redefine the word "anti-Semitism" in its dictionary. Our
reader asked Boycott Watch to analyze the validity of the ADC's request, and
respond from a non-biased perspective. Boycott Watch agreed to look into this
matter, and reviewed the ADC request on 3 levels -- linguistically,
sociologically, and politically -- all of which are significant.
Linguistic concerns are of primary importance to every dictionary, and
thus that is where we begin. The second edition of The Oxford English
Dictionary defines a "Semite" as "A person belonging to the race of mankind
which includes most of the peoples mentioned in Gen. X as descended from Shem
son of Noah, as the Hebrews, Arabs, Assyrians, and Aramæans." The Oxford
Dictionary, however, specifically defines "anti-Semite" as "Theory, action, or
practice directed against the Jews. Hence anti-Semite, one who is hostile or
opposed to the Jews; anti-Semitic." There is thus a distinct difference in the
application of the words "Semite" and "anti-Semite." "Semites" may include
Arabs, but "anti-Semitism" is specifically and only directed toward Jews.
The Oxford Dictionary also indicates the first known usage of the word
"anti-Semite" as being German in origin. The Oxford Dictionary etymology is
further supported by the research of noted authors Dennis Prager and Joseph
Telushkin. In their book, "Why The Jews - The reason for Anti-Semitism," the
authors describe the word "anti-Semitism" as being German in origin and how it
came into use. Prager and Telushkin state that the word "anti-Semitism" has
always specifically referred to Jews and only Jews. From a linguistic
standpoint, therefore, it is easily established that the word "anti-Semitism"
is in direct reference to Jews and only Jews.
Dennis Prager is
best-selling author, nationally syndicated columnist and radio talk show host,
as well as a highly respected lecturer. Joseph Telushkin is a rabbi, scholar
and acclaimed writer. Individually, each author has the credentials to address
this issue, and together, they assembled an authoritative text about
anti-Semitism. Their book details why people are anti-Semitic, historical
manifestations of anti-Semitism, and that Zionism is an integral part of
Judaism and can not be separated from it.
From a sociologic view,
Prager and Telushkin dedicated a chapter in their book detailing that
anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism in practice and that groups, especially the Arab
world, draw a distinction between the two for the purpose of disguising their
anti-Semitism. Prager and Telushkin wrote, "There is only one possible reason
people isolate Israel of all the countries in the world to deny its right to
existence. That is because Israel is the only Jewish state. Anti-Zionism is
Merriam-Webster's current definition of
"anti-Semitism" includes "opposition to Zionism" and "sympathy for the
opponents of Israel." This is a logical definition since those who are opposed
to Zionism, which is an integral part of Judaism, are therefore also against
Jews, thus anti-Semitic.
The interrelationship of anti-Zionism and
anti-Semitism is not lost among leaders in the Arab world. A recent example of
this was evident when Prince Bandar Bin Sultan, the Saudi Arabian ambassador to
the US, refused to mention Israel by name during an interview. On Meet the
Press (4-25-04), Bandar referred to Israel just as 'the Zionists,' which is
common in the Arab world. Israel is the only country in the world which is
referred to in the abstract by those who are opposed to its existence. This
stands in direct contradiction to the practices of other countries around the
world. Although the US, for example, does not recognize the legitimacy of North
Korea or Cuba, it still refers to those countries by name. As Prager and
Telushkin point out, Zionism is an integral part of Judaism. The result,
therefore, of Arab leaders such as Prince Bandar not mentioning Israel by name
is significant because that those who wish to remove all Zionists from the
region will inherently remove all Jews at the same time, thus a de facto
recognition of the inherent coexistence of Zionism within Judaism, but the ADC
would have you believe otherwise.
The notion that anti-Zionism is a
form of anti-Semitism is not a recent development. Dr. Seymour Martin Lipset,
currently the Hazel Professor of Public Policy of George Mason University and a
professor at the Hoover Institution of Stanford University, also weighed in on
this topic. The noted sociologist and political analyst wrote the article "The
Socialism of Fools: The Left, the Jews and Israel" which was published in the
December, 1969 (page 24) edition of Encounter magazine, and was reprinted in
other publications. The article states: "Shortly before he was assassinated,
Martin Luther King, Jr., was in Boston on a fund-raising mission, and I had the
good fortune to attend a dinner which was given for him in Cambridge...One of
the young men present happened to make some remark against the Zionists. Dr.
King snapped at him and said, "Don't talk like that! When people criticize
Zionists, they mean Jews. You're talking anti-Semitism!"
Thus, Rev. Dr.
Martin Luther King Jr. acknowledged the interrelationship between Zionism and
Judaism, and that anti-Zionism is a mask that anti-Semites try to hide behind
to avoid anti-social labels. It is difficult to argue with the wisdom of Rev.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the greatest civil rights leader of our era,
especially when referring to hate and civil rights. This great country has
learned much from Dr. King and his lessons are taught every day in this country
and around the world. To start picking and choosing which civil rights and
anti-hate lessons of Dr. King we should follow would pose a danger to freedom
in this country and around the world.
The ADC's entry into this matter
is based on political, not linguistic or even sociological concerns. The ADC is
a political organization that has a vested interest in molding the definition
of anti-Semitism. A redefinition would benefit the ADC in its aim to affect the
shape of the proposed Palestinian state, which the ADC supports. The ADC is
apparently concerned that if it fits within the definition of "anti-Semitic,"
that label would lessen the value of the ADC's political arguments.
further expose the political nature of the ADC's request, this analysis would
be remiss without examining the statements and backgrounds of those requesting
the redefinition. ADC Communications Director Hussein Ibish has been under fire
for his comments defending Hamas, a terrorist group that has been responsible
for blowing up busses in Israel and murdering innocent Israelis and Americans,
including women and children. Hamas murders indiscriminately, and Ibish has
praised those actions.
On June 5, 2000, Ibish appeared on CNBC's Rivera
Live program where Rivera asked, "How do you stand about Hezbollah and Hamas?
Do you condemn them?" ADC spokesman Hussein Ibish replied: "No. I think that
Hezbollah fought a very good war against the Israelis, a guerrilla war..." The
"guerrilla war" Ibish referred to included mortar attacks from Lebanon on
civilian communities in northern Israel. On May 26, 2000, Ibish was quoted in
the Los Angeles Times as saying, "Everywhere Hezbollah fighters, derided by the
Israeli and U.S. governments as 'terrorists,' conducted themselves in an
exemplary manner... [They are] a disciplined and responsible liberation force."
Ibish has thus established himself as not only a partisan in the Middle-East
conflict, but also as publicly defending and praising Hamas and Hezbollah,
which are both recognized by the US Government as terrorist organizations.
Praising Hamas hardly distinguishes oneself from being an anti-Semite
since a goal of Hamas is to kill Jews, yet Ibish wants you to make that
distinction. Ibish claims to be looking out for the best interests of both
Israelis and Palestinians, but he is actually an anti-Semite under the first
definition, "hostility toward Jews as a religious or racial minority group,
often accompanied by social, political or economic discrimination" - Defending
Hamas' murder of Jews clearly displays hostility toward Jews. As such, Ibish is
an anti-Semite trying to change the definition of himself because he does not
like it. This alone should invalidate the ADC's request.
in the ADC's request is ADC President Mary Rose Oakar, a former Cleveland area
Congresswoman who was forced to retire from Congress amidst the Dan
Rostenkowski Congressional bank and post office scandal. Oakar left Congress
and did not run for re-election after the discovery of a ghost employee on her
tax-dollar-funded Congressional office payroll. She claims she knew nothing
about this ghost employee, yet she had to personally approve the payroll.
Oakar's decision not to run for re-election resulted in her not having to
answer questions about improprieties from her constituency or the media.
In conclusion, the ADC's request that Merriam-Webster change the
definition of "anti-Semitism" is not based on linguistic or sociological
concerns, but rather political expediency. The primary beneficiaries of the
requested changes are strictly the ADC and those who share its political aims.
The proposed changes do not enhance or facilitate linguistic usage of any words
in any language whatsoever, and actually are in direct conflict with other
dictionaries. Granting the change would, however, reflect an impossible
separation of Zionism from Judaism, and would effectively establish
Merriam-Webster, Inc. as a partisan in the Middle-East conflict.
Although this is not meant as a comparison, it is important to note
that the word "Jew" was most recently redefined in the dictionary when Hitler
came to power. He almost immediately redefined Jews as non-human, a primary
step leading to the Holocaust. This is alarming evidence of the dangers of
redefinitions associated with Jews. The ADC's request to redefine
"anti-Semitism" would be in direct conflict with the teachings of Rev. Dr.
Martin Luther King Jr., whose lessons on combating hate are held dear by
Americans. Boycott Watch urges Merriam-Webster, Inc. to disregard the ADC's
requested all other similar requests for a redefinition of "anti-Semitism.".
The current definition properly recognizes the unique connection of the word to
Jews and to Zionism, and should not be distorted to satisfy one group's
Thank you for your consideration. Please do not
hesitate to contact Boycott Watch with any comments or questions.
|----- End Of Boycott Watch letter -----