Who are the Semites 1

"Nothing against Jews."

Even if it sounds a little contradictory, anti-Semitism has little to do with "Semites". Although the Bible already spoke of "Semites", this term was not used again in contemporary discourse until the end of the 18th century, by the historian and linguist August Ludwig von Schlözer. At first the term was only used as a description - "Semitic". It was used to designate a specific family of languages. It was not until the following century, in the course of racial ideological ideas, that the adjective "Semitic" was turned into the national noun "Semites" - as a counterpart to the Aryan myth.1

The term "anti-Semitism" came up one hundred years later in the context of the journalist Wilhelm Marr. Mr. Marr was not looking for a name for others, but for a name for himself, as the name of the "Anti-Semite League" he founded impressively shows. The anti-Semitism that had existed for centuries had largely freed itself from its religious argumentation patterns during the Enlightenment and has turned into a modern, secular variety.2 With the term "anti-Semitism" a name was immediately available for this novelty. This name was deliberately given the appearance of neutral scientificity by adorning it with the term "Semites", even if this term was suddenly narrowed down to Jews only.

Ultimately, such trickery is based on the assumption that certain prejudices cannot be represented and spread by those who are themselves affected by them. Even if this idea may seem quite understandable at first, it is not tenable in reality. Of course, Jews can also express themselves anti-Semitically.

Just a few years ago, for example, there was a trial in Germany against the journalist Henryk Broder, who accused the publisher Abi Melzer of being anti-Semitic. Rightly so, as the court confirmed.3 It is precisely these Jews who are often cited as key witnesses for their own anti-Semitism. Almost 100 years ago, Kurt Tucholsky polemically stated that Jews had "much better and more striking things against Judaism than all German national full beards put together."4

The reference to the word "Semit" is a popular tactic to divert attention from real anti-Semitism. It ignores the fact that terms have no "real" meaning. Terms grow historically and develop in a specific social context. The transfigured demand that one should simply let the words speak for themselves represents a distortion of social and linguistic reality.5