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‘Anonymous’ video attempts to redefine antisemitism as “anti-racism”

A video which purportedly originated with the ill-defined group Anonymous attempts to redefine antisemitism, construing it as an opposition to alleged favour shown towards Jews.

The video was shared by a page called “no racism no war”, and has been shared hundreds of times from that source.

It starts from the assumption that no race should be given special privileges, yet complains that the U.S. Department of State website lists special envoys for Holocaust issues and for combating antisemitism, as well as a special advisor for Holocaust issues and “one page dedicated to the definition of antisemitism”. The video draws attention to what is perceived as a similar issue with the European Commission, which has “combatting antisemitism” as a distinct category of issues pertaining to racism and xenophobia. A conclusion drawn from this is that “there must be more to antisemitism” than just being a certain type of racism.

In an attempt to establish what is different about antisemitism, the maker of the video appeals to two definitions of the word “Semitism”.  Referring to Merriam-Webster dictionary, he describes Semitism as a “policy or predisposition favourable to Jews”. However, in doing so the creator deliberately blurs out the other definitions, “a :  Semitic character or qualities” and “b :  a characteristic feature of a Semitic language occurring in another language”. The speaker nonetheless concludes that Semitism is “a kind of favouritism towards Jews” and that what is described as antisemitism is mere opposition to this. The speaker also references Arabs also being a Semitic people, in an attempt to demonstrate that the connotation of hatred of Jews is inaccurate.

Firstly, such a conclusion is clearly dishonest; it evades the common-sense meaning of antisemitism in favour of constructing a new meaning from one use of the word ‘semitism’, whilst both ignoring and outright obscuring the more obvious and common connotations of the word. Secondly, it deliberately ignores and attempts to minimalise the actual meaning of the term ‘antisemitism’ as it is used. Antisemitism as a term originates in nineteenth-century Germany, where it was employed as opposed to the older term “Jew hatred” as authors developed a concept of hatred of Jews which, although strongly linked to the phenomenon of religious antisemitism, was a distinct, total concept that viewed the Jews as an inferior race. Nonetheless, today antisemitism unambiguously refers to prejudice towards Jews which manifests in various forms. The attempt to obscure the true meaning of antisemitism and pose a new definition is itself antisemitic, as it minimises the real prejudice, marginalisation and violence which Jewish people face at an alarming frequency. Finally, in insinuating that when Jews make complaints of antisemitism, that they are really complaining about anti-racist activities is extremely demonizing towards Jews.

Attempting to link this new ‘definition’ of antisemitism to slavery and racism, the speaker refers to the curse of Canaan, in which Noah curses his son Ham and grandson Canaan, claiming that within Jewish thought, Shem’s descendants (the Semitic peoples) are “basically regarded nobler than other peoples, and are to be served and respected”. The definition of antisemitism states that “stereotypical allegations about Jews” are anti-Semitic; insinuating that Jews have an elitist attitude and demand to be “served and respected” above others clearly fits this description. Linking this to slavery involves the assertion that black people are descended from Ham. This is despite the fact that this interpretation of the ‘Sons of Ham’ gathered much of its momentum in 7th century through Christian and Islamic writings and never appears in any Hebrew Biblical canon. However, this line of reasoning leads to the attempt to suggest heavy Jewish involvement in the slave trade, allegedly motivated by the belief that “Ham’s descendants must be enslaved eternally”. Theorists such as David Goldenberg have examined the case for “Rabbinic racism” and found that any justification for this rests on a “mass of incompetent misreadings and misunderstandings”, whereas a closer examination finds “positive perception of Blacks running throughout the rabbinic corpus”. Similarly, the insinuation that Jews were heavily involved in the Atlantic slave trade is a tactic which has been debunked and described as antisemitic by, among others, the American Historical Association.

Finally, the video goes beyond the suggestion that religious Jews found justification for slavery from their religion by describing “Semitism” as the “true culprit” for racism and slavery. The definition of antisemitism states that it is antisemitic to “blame Jews for why things go wrong”. It also suggests that “this way of thinking” is “interwoven” with the government, clearly playing on the antisemitic canard of Jewish control over politics.

One of the last images in the video proclaims “anti-semitism=anti-racism”, which disturbingly appears to provide a justification for antisemitic acts as ‘anti-racist’ activity.