by a previously reasonable commentator goes to Joe Klein, who wrote the following in response to claims that Obama associate Rashid Khalidi is anti-Semitic: "I've never met Rashid Khalidi, but he is (a) Palestinian and therefore (b) a semite, so the charge of anti-semitism is fatuous." In other words, because Arabs are "semites" they can't be anti-Semitic.
(Aside: I have no reason to believe that Khalidi is anything but a non-anti-Semitic, but anti-Israel, Palestinian nationalist). Jeffrey Goldberg responds:
I want to be absolutely clear that I'm not about to accuse Joe of being an anti-Semite, but I will note that this the first time I've ever heard a Jewish person, or a non-anti-Semite, make this sort of malicious statement, one that perverts the universal meaning of a term in order to mock the phenomenon of Jew-hatred. "Jew-hatred" is actually my preferred term, because, as I'm sure Joe knows, "anti-Semitism" was a term invented by the avant-garde Jew-hater Wilhelm Marr, who was the founder, in 1879, of the League of Anti-Semites, which argued that Germans and Jews were locked in a death struggle for racial superiority. And we know where that ended.Goldberg is being properly charitable, but readers should recall that Joe Klein was last seen on this blog ranting about "Jewish neocons" allegedly pulling John McCain's strings on behalf of Israel. And, as Goldberg notes, "Joe derives great pleasure from criticizing Jewish supporters of the Iraq War — the Wolfowitzes, Perles and Feiths --in specifically Jewish terms, while never seeming to use the Christianity of other supporters of the war, including Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice, Powell, and other such marginal figures, against them."
Since Marr's time, of course, the term has evolved from a compliment to an insult, but its meaning has held steady all these years. As I said, the only people who insult Jews by denying the meaning of the term are, in my experience, anti-Semitic.
UPDATE: I have to disagree slightly with Goldberg, in that I do know of individuals who have repeated the "how dare Jews call an Arab anti-Semitic when Arabs are also Semites," line because of complete ignorance of the origins and typical uses of the term anti-Semite, combined with an absence of proper reasoning skills (even if "anti-Semitic," including Arabs, Arabs could be anti-Semitic, just as there are anti-Semitic Jews). Of course, it doesn't help Klein much to argue that he threw out this line out of a combination of ignorance, poor reasoning, and being too lazy to actually look up what "anti-Semitism" means.
And, as one commentator notes, Klein's line is analogous to saying, "Canadians can't be anti-American, because they are Americans, too."
FURTHER UPDATE: Klein has apologized for his "wordplay."
He then adds: while the term, antisemitism, will always retain its traditional meaning--anti-Jewishness--it does conflate certain categories: there are those who just hate Jews, and then there are those who merely disapprove of zionism...and a third category, those who accept the idea of a Jewish state, but disapprove of Israeli expansion into the West Bank and Gaza. People like Goldfarb--and far too many other Jewish neoconservatives--go around calling people like Rashidi antisemites when, in fact, they're merely opposed to the more egregious expansionist schemes favored by the some of the more extreme members of the Likud Party.Yikes! First, the term "anti-Semitism" doesn't "conflate" anything, even if there are some people who use it to disparage people whose views on Israel they don't like. Second, what basis is there for claiming that obscure McCain spokesman Goldfard is a "neoconservative," as opposed to just a conservative Jew that Klein doesn't like? Third, and most important, the last part of this quote is laughable. Khalidi, from what I've read, was associated with the PLO at a time when its charter called for the destruction of Israel. It's true that almost all prominent Palestinian nationalists were affiliated in some way with the PLO at this time. But to conflate criticizing a Palestinian nationalist who thinks of the creation of Israel as the "Nakba" with criticism of someone "opposed to the more egregious expansionist schemes favored by some of the more extreme elements of the Likud Party" is absurd. You'd think from what Klein wrote that Khalidi is a Labor Party Zionist! So, while Klein is right to call Goldfarb to task for calling Khalidi an anti-Semite because he is anti-Israel, Klein is making the opposite mistake: suggesting that anyone who is NOT an anti-Semite must not be anti-Israel.