Boycott Watch
May 19, 2004
Boycott Watch Responds To Political Request By An Arab Organization To Redefine Anti-Semitism And Jews.
Summary: Should organizations request dictionary changes for political reasons?
   Boycott Watch was sent notification of a letter from the Arab-American Anti Discrimination Committee to Miriam Webster's Dictionary requesting a redefinition of the word anti-Semitism along with a request to analyze the ADC letter from a non-biased perspective. Boycott Watch accepted the challenge.

   After conducting extensive research, Boycott Watch wrote a letter to John Morse, the President and Publisher of Merriam-Webster, Inc., outlining three critical areas of concern, and showing how the ADC request is based on political expediency and not fact.

   The following is the Boycott Watch response:

----- Original Boycott Watch letter -----

    May 19, 2004

John Morse, President and Publisher
Merriam-Webster, Inc.
47 Federal Street
P.O. Box 281
Springfield, MA 01102

Mr. Morse,

   I am the Executive Director of Boycott Watch, a non-profit and non-political organization that verifies and publishes the facts behind boycott calls, so that consumers can evaluate both sides of boycott issue and then determine their own course of conduct based on the facts. In our capacity as consumer watchdog, we often receive requests from our readers to investigate various issues, and that is why I am writing to you today. One of our readers sent us information about a letter from the Arab-American Anti Discrimination Committee (the "ADC"), requesting that you redefine the word "anti-Semitism" in its dictionary. Our reader asked Boycott Watch to analyze the validity of the ADC's request, and respond from a non-biased perspective. Boycott Watch agreed to look into this matter, and reviewed the ADC request on 3 levels -- linguistically, sociologically, and politically -- all of which are significant.

   Linguistic concerns are of primary importance to every dictionary, and thus that is where we begin. The second edition of The Oxford English Dictionary defines a "Semite" as "A person belonging to the race of mankind which includes most of the peoples mentioned in Gen. X as descended from Shem son of Noah, as the Hebrews, Arabs, Assyrians, and Aramæans." The Oxford Dictionary, however, specifically defines "anti-Semite" as "Theory, action, or practice directed against the Jews. Hence anti-Semite, one who is hostile or opposed to the Jews; anti-Semitic." There is thus a distinct difference in the application of the words "Semite" and "anti-Semite." "Semites" may include Arabs, but "anti-Semitism" is specifically and only directed toward Jews.

   The Oxford Dictionary also indicates the first known usage of the word "anti-Semite" as being German in origin. The Oxford Dictionary etymology is further supported by the research of noted authors Dennis Prager and Joseph Telushkin. In their book, "Why The Jews - The reason for Anti-Semitism," the authors describe the word "anti-Semitism" as being German in origin and how it came into use. Prager and Telushkin state that the word "anti-Semitism" has always specifically referred to Jews and only Jews. From a linguistic standpoint, therefore, it is easily established that the word "anti-Semitism" is in direct reference to Jews and only Jews.

   Dennis Prager is best-selling author, nationally syndicated columnist and radio talk show host, as well as a highly respected lecturer. Joseph Telushkin is a rabbi, scholar and acclaimed writer. Individually, each author has the credentials to address this issue, and together, they assembled an authoritative text about anti-Semitism. Their book details why people are anti-Semitic, historical manifestations of anti-Semitism, and that Zionism is an integral part of Judaism and can not be separated from it.

   From a sociologic view, Prager and Telushkin dedicated a chapter in their book detailing that anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism in practice and that groups, especially the Arab world, draw a distinction between the two for the purpose of disguising their anti-Semitism. Prager and Telushkin wrote, "There is only one possible reason people isolate Israel of all the countries in the world to deny its right to existence. That is because Israel is the only Jewish state. Anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism…"

   Merriam-Webster's current definition of "anti-Semitism" includes "opposition to Zionism" and "sympathy for the opponents of Israel." This is a logical definition since those who are opposed to Zionism, which is an integral part of Judaism, are therefore also against Jews, thus anti-Semitic.

   The interrelationship of anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism is not lost among leaders in the Arab world. A recent example of this was evident when Prince Bandar Bin Sultan, the Saudi Arabian ambassador to the US, refused to mention Israel by name during an interview. On Meet the Press (4-25-04), Bandar referred to Israel just as 'the Zionists,' which is common in the Arab world. Israel is the only country in the world which is referred to in the abstract by those who are opposed to its existence. This stands in direct contradiction to the practices of other countries around the world. Although the US, for example, does not recognize the legitimacy of North Korea or Cuba, it still refers to those countries by name. As Prager and Telushkin point out, Zionism is an integral part of Judaism. The result, therefore, of Arab leaders such as Prince Bandar not mentioning Israel by name is significant because that those who wish to remove all Zionists from the region will inherently remove all Jews at the same time, thus a de facto recognition of the inherent coexistence of Zionism within Judaism, but the ADC would have you believe otherwise.

   The notion that anti-Zionism is a form of anti-Semitism is not a recent development. Dr. Seymour Martin Lipset, currently the Hazel Professor of Public Policy of George Mason University and a professor at the Hoover Institution of Stanford University, also weighed in on this topic. The noted sociologist and political analyst wrote the article "The Socialism of Fools: The Left, the Jews and Israel" which was published in the December, 1969 (page 24) edition of Encounter magazine, and was reprinted in other publications. The article states: "Shortly before he was assassinated, Martin Luther King, Jr., was in Boston on a fund-raising mission, and I had the good fortune to attend a dinner which was given for him in Cambridge...One of the young men present happened to make some remark against the Zionists. Dr. King snapped at him and said, "Don't talk like that! When people criticize Zionists, they mean Jews. You're talking anti-Semitism!"

   Thus, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. acknowledged the interrelationship between Zionism and Judaism, and that anti-Zionism is a mask that anti-Semites try to hide behind to avoid anti-social labels. It is difficult to argue with the wisdom of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the greatest civil rights leader of our era, especially when referring to hate and civil rights. This great country has learned much from Dr. King and his lessons are taught every day in this country and around the world. To start picking and choosing which civil rights and anti-hate lessons of Dr. King we should follow would pose a danger to freedom in this country and around the world.

   The ADC's entry into this matter is based on political, not linguistic or even sociological concerns. The ADC is a political organization that has a vested interest in molding the definition of anti-Semitism. A redefinition would benefit the ADC in its aim to affect the shape of the proposed Palestinian state, which the ADC supports. The ADC is apparently concerned that if it fits within the definition of "anti-Semitic," that label would lessen the value of the ADC's political arguments.

   To further expose the political nature of the ADC's request, this analysis would be remiss without examining the statements and backgrounds of those requesting the redefinition. ADC Communications Director Hussein Ibish has been under fire for his comments defending Hamas, a terrorist group that has been responsible for blowing up busses in Israel and murdering innocent Israelis and Americans, including women and children. Hamas murders indiscriminately, and Ibish has praised those actions.

   On June 5, 2000, Ibish appeared on CNBC's Rivera Live program where Rivera asked, "How do you stand about Hezbollah and Hamas? Do you condemn them?" ADC spokesman Hussein Ibish replied: "No. I think that Hezbollah fought a very good war against the Israelis, a guerrilla war..." The "guerrilla war" Ibish referred to included mortar attacks from Lebanon on civilian communities in northern Israel. On May 26, 2000, Ibish was quoted in the Los Angeles Times as saying, "Everywhere Hezbollah fighters, derided by the Israeli and U.S. governments as 'terrorists,' conducted themselves in an exemplary manner... [They are] a disciplined and responsible liberation force." Ibish has thus established himself as not only a partisan in the Middle-East conflict, but also as publicly defending and praising Hamas and Hezbollah, which are both recognized by the US Government as terrorist organizations.

   Praising Hamas hardly distinguishes oneself from being an anti-Semite since a goal of Hamas is to kill Jews, yet Ibish wants you to make that distinction. Ibish claims to be looking out for the best interests of both Israelis and Palestinians, but he is actually an anti-Semite under the first definition, "hostility toward Jews as a religious or racial minority group, often accompanied by social, political or economic discrimination" - Defending Hamas' murder of Jews clearly displays hostility toward Jews. As such, Ibish is an anti-Semite trying to change the definition of himself because he does not like it. This alone should invalidate the ADC's request.

   Also involved in the ADC's request is ADC President Mary Rose Oakar, a former Cleveland area Congresswoman who was forced to retire from Congress amidst the Dan Rostenkowski Congressional bank and post office scandal. Oakar left Congress and did not run for re-election after the discovery of a ghost employee on her tax-dollar-funded Congressional office payroll. She claims she knew nothing about this ghost employee, yet she had to personally approve the payroll. Oakar's decision not to run for re-election resulted in her not having to answer questions about improprieties from her constituency or the media.

   In conclusion, the ADC's request that Merriam-Webster change the definition of "anti-Semitism" is not based on linguistic or sociological concerns, but rather political expediency. The primary beneficiaries of the requested changes are strictly the ADC and those who share its political aims. The proposed changes do not enhance or facilitate linguistic usage of any words in any language whatsoever, and actually are in direct conflict with other dictionaries. Granting the change would, however, reflect an impossible separation of Zionism from Judaism, and would effectively establish Merriam-Webster, Inc. as a partisan in the Middle-East conflict.

   Although this is not meant as a comparison, it is important to note that the word "Jew" was most recently redefined in the dictionary when Hitler came to power. He almost immediately redefined Jews as non-human, a primary step leading to the Holocaust. This is alarming evidence of the dangers of redefinitions associated with Jews. The ADC's request to redefine "anti-Semitism" would be in direct conflict with the teachings of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., whose lessons on combating hate are held dear by Americans. Boycott Watch urges Merriam-Webster, Inc. to disregard the ADC's requested all other similar requests for a redefinition of "anti-Semitism.". The current definition properly recognizes the unique connection of the word to Jews and to Zionism, and should not be distorted to satisfy one group's political goals.

   Thank you for your consideration. Please do not hesitate to contact Boycott Watch with any comments or questions.

Sincerely yours,

Fred Taub
Executive Director,
Boycott Watch
----- End Of Boycott Watch letter -----

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