The meaning of the term “antisemite” has significantly changed in recent years. There was a time when this term referred to those who despised Jews. Later, the term referred to those who promoted myths about a global Jewish conspiracy to rule the world. Today the term “antisemite” is used by the ruling elite to lambast human rights activists who advocate equal rights between Jews, Christians and Muslims, the right of return of Palestinian refugees to their homeland and the vision of a common, democratic state for both Palestinians and Israelis. The word “antisemite”, which initially conveyed a negative and even sinister meaning, refers now to positive and highly commendable attitudes that can be carried with honour. One may lament this change of meaning, but one should remember that a word does not carry any particular meaning. It is merely a conventional symbol that refers to external contents. By convention, society could agree to name animosity towards Jews “xakaculca”, democracy “zbzb” and elefants “democracy”.
Advocacy for a just and democratic solution to the conflict in Israel/Palestine is grounded on international human rights norms, including the right to equality and the right of everyone to return to her country. These norms are enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (articles 1, 2, 7, 13(2)) and the Preamble of the U.N. Charter. This advocacy also seeks its legitimacy from the constitutional principles that underpin the Western democratic order. According to current terminology, as imposed by those who mould public opinion, the word “antisemitism” now refers to human rights advocacy and to the struggle for democracy. There is no need to combat the new convention. One merely has to adjust to it.
Inasmuch as the term “antisemite” now refers to human rights advocates and radical democrats, I declare myself a radical antisemite.
June 10, 2011