Erase "anti-Semitism"

Nazi activst Photo Credit: Reuters


While the practice of anti-Semitism will likely never be completely eliminated, it is a term that needs to go away.


Do a Jay Leno “Jaywalk” and ask people on the street what a Semite is and I bet they’ll look at you with a befuddled expression. But it’s not just the hoi polloi who’d stumble. Honestly, have you ever met anyone who identified themselves as a Semite?


That’s because it’s mainly used as a term of antipathy, with the “anti” prefix, aimed at those who hold ill will towards Jews. But then why not just call it what it is, without any confusion or ambiguity – Jew hatred. I think most people would understand what that is.


Besides, if you use the term “Semite”, Arabs also claim to be Semites and if you’ve ever gone down that path, it leads to a whole side-debate about who really is a “Semite”, when the only point of using the term in the first place was to associate it with Jews and anyone who was anti-Semitic was anti-Jew.


Moreover, because Arabs and Muslims can be and are Jew haters too, then if they’re Semites, logically it’s hard to refer to them as anti-Semites.


Look it up in any dictionary and anti-Semitism is defined as the prejudice, discrimination and hatred of Jews as a national, ethnic, religious or racial group. But did you know it was first coined by a German racist and journalist, named Wilhelm Marr, way back in the 19th century? It could be translated as “Judenhass” but Marr was aiming for a more scientific sounding term and voila, Antisemitismus (though it sounds a little like Merry Christmas) caught on. Oy vey.


Aside from the dirty linen sewn into its’ etymological lineage and using a term that a racist invented—we live in the 21st century where, we get to the point in 140 characters or less. We call it as it is. The flowery poetry of Lord Byron gave way to Hemingway a long time ago. Let’s call anti-Semites what they are—Jew haters.


Abe Novick is a writer and communications consultant and can be reached at