Over the last few weeks, I have noticed a disturbing trend on the Facebook and LinkedIn sites. Not just anti-atheist ranting, that is normal and somewhat expected. No, there appears to be more anti-Semitic rants, aimed at Jews and Muslims. So I did a little searching and examining of the topic of xenophobia and language.
First, there are some definitions that seem to be misused, Semitic is a fine example.
Semitic refers to the group of languages common to the Middle East, including Hebrew, Arabic, Aramaic, and others. Using linguistics alone, anti-Semitism includes all people speaking the languages from Syria south to Yemen and parts of Ethiopia. However, no specific nation is assigned to the term.
Most of the Semitic countries would be found in the ancient regions of Canaan, which would include most of the Arab nations and Israel. It does not, however, include Persia and Mesopotamia (Iran and Iraq) or Turkey.
In the literal sense, the term “anti-Semitic” deals with the people of an entire region and not one country or religion. Many researchers go as far as reminding their readers that there is no such thing as a Semitic race. Biblically, the term derives from Noah’s son, Shem and his descendants.
The diversion to the modern meaning originated in 1879 in Germany by xenophobic pamphleteer Wilhelm Marr. He narrowly define a Semitic as a Jew – more specifically but not limited to German Jews. His claim was all of Germany’s ills were caused by the Jews and, therefore, Jews were the enemy.
A Palestinian is a person from within the old boundaries of Palestine, which includes today’s Israel, Lebanon, parts of Syria and Jordon. There are Palestinian Jews, Muslims, and Christian; even some atheists.
Caucasian is the race of the people from the Middle East . Jew is not a race. Nor is Palestinian or Arab.
Jewish is a religion and tradition of the Jewish faith, where the religion is handed down through the maternal order.
The American Jewish ethnicity really deals with the country from which most American Jews originated, Poland, having taken on many of their ancestors’ practices, foods and traditions. For example, the Bagel, with or without lox, is not a Jewish food, but Polish, coming from the city of Krakow where “bagels would be given as a gift to any woman in childbirth.” Or as a tribute to Polish King Jan III Sobieski for saving Austria from a Turkish invasion.
Hebrew is a language, as is Yiddish and Arabic. There are many variations, just as there are in English.
Now for my own confusion. How does anyone reserve the right of superiority via race, national origin, language, religion or any other classification? As the Human Genome Project has proven, we are all of the same mother, and I really do not care if one calls her Eve, Mitochondrial Eve, or Lucy.
We know she and her mate, “Y-chromosomal Adam” or as I call him Irving, were made of the same star stuff as are we, and our evolutionary tree has modern Man at the current point of a long line of variations in our physical and mental makeup. And that branch will continue to grow and expand.
It is near impossible to denote a single or short list combination of racial, ethnic, religious or language traits for any one person. In fact, if each of us takes our family histories back, let’s say, five generations, we will find we are all mixed breeds. Watch Stephen Fry’s explanation as it concerns anti-Semitism…
Let’s take Fry’s short statement one step further. Regardless of what classification one uses to define themselves, none of us are pure anything. Through the Epic of Gilgamesh, which dates back some 4800 years, we know this ruler of the city state of Uruk met people of yellow and white skin, so there is no reason to believe that those from the Far East did not mate with those of the Middle or Near East.
So why are we so xenophobic? I have one theory, though I cannot find verification or proofs to support it… yet. Maybe all forms of xenophobia can be likened to our mythologies, including modern religious mythologies. Maybe it is a way to take blame off of one’s self when life takes a “bad” turn and put that blame on someone else that looks, sounds or prays differently.
All discrimination is certainly based, at least in part, on the denial of one’s own wrong doing or the workings of Chaos Theory. Atheists and theists alike are blamed by the other for ills that would never have been associated with someone of the same religious or ethical sect, as we have seen over the centuries. Even today, the hostility in the Middle East between Israel and Palestine is based in large part on the mythologies of their respective religious scriptures.
In Shakespeare’s “Merchant of Venice,” Shylock understands there is no difference between those of different faiths. In Act 3, Scene 1, Shylock asks the hard questions about man and faith;
I am a Jew. Hath not a Jew eyes? hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions? fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer, as a Christian is? If you prick us, do we not bleed? if you tickle us, do we not laugh? if you poison us, do we not die? and if you wrong us, shall we not revenge? If we are like you in the rest, we will resemble you in that. If a Jew wrong a Christian, what is his humility? Revenge. If a Christian wrong a Jew, what should his sufferance be by Christian example? Why, revenge. The villany you teach me, I will execute, and it shall go hard but I will better the instruction.
The real question is why do we find these differences so intimidating and hostile? Even the atheist community has succumbed to noting the differences rather than noting the similarities with our theist brethren. “Those Christians are dangerous because they are spreading lies about reality.” “There has never been an atheist Inquisition or Crusade.” “Atheists have never burnt witches at the stake.”
I would like to suggest another understanding. We are all of the Human Race, Homo-Sapiens. We share the same planet and eat the same foods (with some regional variations). We share the same air molecules as did Gilgamesh and his people of the lands between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. We may even share the same water molecules.
Superiority based to religion, skin color, race, ethnicity, language, or any other measurement is false and another man-made mythology to be thwarted from our being.