Comments: Thinking about it

It's a good start. Gotta give you much credit for trying.

The fact that all the essential Israeli actors in creating Israel were secular, and that secularity has always remained in control, though lately not in full control, can wait for a later discussion.

Posted by Gary Farber at December 23, 2003 08:00 PM

"As I understand it, the mythology goes something like this..." That explanation sounds very Margaret Cho. :)

As far as I can see you haven't written anything anti-Semitic (not to put too fine a point on it, but Arabs are Semites too, the word has just come to mean "anti-Jewish" the way "homophobic" means "anti-gay" rather than literally "afraid of gays"). It gets very frustrating for many of us American Jews to combat the "you can't criticize Israeli policy 'cause that means you're a self-hating Jew" mentality. It's the same ridiculousness as saying "you can't criticize the Bush administration 'cause that obviously means you hate America."

Posted by Elayne Riggs at December 24, 2003 08:52 AM

You see what I mean? I went out and did research and I didn't pick up on the secular nature of Israel's formation. And I think you should discuss it, okay?

Nor has anything I've read explained that Arabs are Semites - although now that Elayne mentions it, it makes sense to me.

And, Elayne, I'm aware that I'm not anti-Semitic (Well, not in any mean way. Clearly I'm of the opinion that religion exists to be made fun of if no one's in the process of dying for it.) but, as you said, just like criticizing the current Administration makes you "anti-American" it seems that criticizing Israel makes you "anti-Semitic."

Posted by Anne at December 24, 2003 09:25 AM

(P.S. I'm such a cultural illiterate that I had to go Google "Margaret Cho", Elayne. :) I think you're doing her an injustice. Heh.

Posted by Anne at December 24, 2003 09:43 AM

"...Arabs are Semites too, the word has just come to mean 'anti-Jewish' the way 'homophobic' means 'anti-gay....'"

Arabs are Semites, but the rest of this phrase actually is completely untrue, and is ahistoric to the philology of the word. It's helpful if one only ventures information that is actually based upon fact.

See here:, and this, try dropping "Wilhelm Marr" and "anti-semitism" into Google.

There are a vast number of online resources on the history of Zionism and the founding of Israel, Anne, as well as thousands of good books.

Posted by Gary Farber at December 28, 2003 11:09 PM

The founders of Israel, incidentally, were all socialists (except for the Irgun segment, who were also entirely secular).

Buy me dinner and I'll talk your ear off about it. :-)

Posted by Gary Farber at December 28, 2003 11:11 PM

"It's helpful if one only ventures information that is actually based upon fact. "

Hey, let's play nice, okay? I've had to correct myself often enough to find a minor error in historical fact forgivable.

Anyhow, the fact that someone coined the phrase and then used it to describe something other than what it actually means is relevant, but if all "Semites" could be brought to acknowledge that commonality, that might force them, and others, to find different ways to identify their differences.

It's possible that that exploration would teach them much about themselves and others.

It's possible.

Posted by Anne at December 29, 2003 12:20 PM