[Ed. note: I find it very fascinating that almost all spell-check programs, including the Microsoft package, do not recognize "Anti-Semitism" as a word. Think about that.]
I admittedly hijacked the conversation in the comments section on a Racialicious blogpost entitled "Racial Fractures and the Occupy Movement", but every time this particular subject arises I feel compelled to say something. The commenter wrote this:
"Antisemitism as being under the umbrella of racism defines Jewish people as being a Jewish race. One can be racially White, Asian, Latino, Native, and/or Black, and also Jewish. Anti-Jeiwsh sentiments, actions, and negatively impacting behavior in general should included too, but I don't think it is appropriate to generalize it to race. That would be a major oversight. Also, the term "Semite" refers to many different people, or which those who identify as Jewish are included. By using that term, did you mean to highlight oppression of Jewish people in the United States, Middle Eastern and/or Arabic people in the United States, or specifically all of the groups under the definition of the term "Semite"? I'm using the definition from wikipedia, so I am open to discussion to continue disambiguating this term."
My response to his comment is as follows:
As a Sephardic-Jewish linguist and activist, I have to contest what you wrote. The word “Anti-Semitism” and the word Semite have historically been used to refer to anti-Jewish bias and Jewish people for countless years both as a racial/ethnic group and a religious minority.
The use of “Semite” in the linguistic sense of the word can and does refer to Hebrew, Arabic and Geez-speaking (among others) groups of people but does not refer to an ethnic group outside of Jewish people. The Wikipedia article you referred to actually points out this explicitly by informing us that the term was coined in the 19th century in Germany and roughly translates from German as “Jew-hateness” or the hating of Jewish people.
There are many arguments for including other ethnic groups in the term Semite, but the word anti-Semitism continues to refer to the hatred or bias against Jewish people and personally I believe that using it as an umbrella term does disservice to the awareness of anti-Semitic actions against Jewish people. I would also just like to point out that the last two FBI hate crime index reports have listed Jewish people as one of the consistently attacked group in the religious tract (above Muslims even after 2001).
Perhaps it is contradictory of me to end on this note but this is not the time to be watering-down terminology and discussing terminological problems. We need to be fighting racism in all its form, not being distracted by pedagogy.
I am honestly not sure what else to say on the subject. I just find comments like his quite contradictory and also troubling. It is troubling to me that people want to gloss-over the problem of anti-Semitism as something of the past...it is still a problem here in this country! It's racism! Racism is still a problem too.