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My name is Daniel Waterman, I am Jewish and have lived in Israel-Palestine. I am an author and social-critic with a keen interest in Ethics. 

 

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What is "antisemitism" really ?

This may sound like a stupid question, however it is an important one considering the extent to which the term anti-semitism has been and is being abused (a point I will expand on below) as well as the extents to which different groups are willing to go to promote and defend their definition(s) of antisemitism.

My premises:

a) I do not agree with any definition of antisemitism that includes criticism of Jews, Jewish organisations, Jewish culture, religion, beliefs, cooking, Zionism, or the State of Israel and its policies. I do not include insults, regardless how painful or disgusting they may be or how offensive they might be.

b) I believe a strong case can and ought to be made for confining the term "antisemitism" to a historical period that ended around the mid 1950s. The reasons for this, and I understand this is controversial, are simply the radical transformation that occurred in public, cultural, legal and political attitudes toward Jews and towards racist, prejudiced, stereotyping, xenophobic, superstitious and biased attitudes towards Jews as a consequence of the awareness of what these attitudes had caused in the period ±1918-1945 (particularly in Nazi Germany, but also e.g. in the Soviet Union) as well as the creation of the State of Israel (a historical event that significantly altered attitudes toward Jews).

c) I do not include "conspiracy theories" about Jewish, Zionist and Israeli influence and interference. While it is undeniably true that such accusations have been levelled at Jews and the "Jewish community" as a whole by antisemites, communist leaders and Nazis, critical questions about the financial interests and political influence of individuals and groups are, in my view, legitimate. In addition, I believe it is good practice to listen to those who, even if poorly informed and poorly worded, sound concerns and intuitions about things that are, at least to some extent, possible, probable, or true. At least some of the criticism and "conspiracy theory" levelled at Jews, Jewish organisations and/or supporters of Israel is not only true, but is also extremely damaging, possibly deliberately so, precisely because it occurs with the awareness that those who try to discuss or publish about it can be silenced by calling them antisemites of their statements antisemitic.