Friday, October 2, 2015

UK: Professor says Arabs should turn the antisemitism label "on its head"

Annabelle Sreberny is Professor of Global Media and Communication in the Centre for Media Studies at SOAS, University of London.

Her idea on solving Muslim antisemitism?  Redefine it!
What if the label of ‘Semite’ were to be readopted by Arabs and Muslims as part of their identity-formation, so that any antisemitism would also include them? As other negative and hostile discursive tropes – think of nigger and queer – have been decathected and turned on their head in ironic appropriation and realignment, so could ‘Semite’.

At an international level, this might recoup some of the long history of mixed-up and fascinating Jewish-Arab encounters and social practices and take the steam out of both Hasbara propaganda and Arab state hostility. In a utopian imagining, it could also be the renewed basis for a single, egalitarian state.

Meanwhile, in Britain, echoing the rush to be Charlie Hebdo, imagine the possibility that placards claiming ‘I too am a Semite’ might put off some proto-fascist demonstrations. Protests about the ‘Jewification of Britain’ could indeed be matched by a plethora of claims that ‘we (we!) are all Semites now’. I did once promise to produce some T-shirts with that slogan, a promise I have not yet fulfilled. Anybody want one?

Of course "queer" and "nigger" were "turned on their head" by the people suffering the persecution, not by the people committing it.  But that doesn't bother Prof. Sreberny.

Arabs can define themselves as Semites as much as they want to, but  "Antisemitism" has nothing to do with "Semites".  The term was invented by European antisemites who wanted a scientific way to phrase their Jew-hatred.

Is it the best term to use?  Not really.  

But Srebern's option is even worse.  Redefining antisemitism is a basic antisemitic trope.  It denies Jews the way to express the hatred against them.  

"I too am a Semite" will not convince Nazis, who want to kill both Jews and Muslims.  In fact, it will only enforce the Nazi ideology that Jews are devious and take over everything.

However, it will (and does) enable Muslims to pretend that they can't be antisemitic.   As a Jew who constantly has to put up with this claim, I fail to see the advantages.

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