The “J” Word

I have no idea what it is, but there’s something about the word “Jew”, that once spoken out loud by me or overheard during a conversation or a TV show or even read in its written form, by me; there’s just something about that utterance that makes me feel like I’m saying, hearing or reading something anti-Semitic. It’s the feeling you might get when you’re chatting at a dinner party and in the throes of pleasant conversation you say something incredibly politically incorrect and there’s a silence as everyone becomes aware of what you’ve said.

It is the strangest feeling but it’s like there is an anti-Semitic radar in my head that starts to beep wildly whenever this word approaches. What I find worse now is the word “Israel”. It has come to mean “Judaism”. My mind is still able to dissect the word “Israel” into a political establishment i.e. being “Zionism”. And yes, in essence Israel is based on a Zionist political ideology, but even that ideology is based on the establishment of a “Jewish” state and thus the need to maintain a “Jewish” majority.

The words have become scrambled and tangled up together. Such an entanglement takes at least a second or two to make sense of when it shouldn’t. It should be one of those things where you answer without hesitation. Like someone who says “apple pie” and you think “hell yes!”. The word “Jew” now only slightly feels comfortable saying when it’s in the same breath as “Christian” and “Muslim”. As if the latter two are covering for the former; a verbal distraction.

Media bombardment and the social conditioning of the international community or perhaps the global village we now live in, has lead me to hesitate. When I say “Israel”, is what I’m about to say anti-semitic? Many pro-Zionists argue yes and we, in turn, have argued time and again, no.

We differentiate between the politics and the religion, or at least we should.

And it should be pointed out to the non-reader of the Iris, that while I have massive grievances with the state of Israel and its policies towards Palestinians, I have nothing against the Jewish religion. The conflict or rather the struggle here is not about religion, it’s about politics. When oppressed, one could care less about what God the oppressors pray to; it’s the guns they carry, the policies they follow, which matter.

But I digress.

…It seems to me sometimes that Zionists, or shall we say Israel as an entity, has insisted on the conjoining of all these terms to mean “Israel”. It offers that ability to attack people who disagree with its policies, as being anti-semitic. When I hear the word “right to defend itself” and a “Jewish homeland” or even “a repeat of the holocaust”, sometimes in the speeches of American politicians, I become confused. There becomes this subtext that implies anyone who touches Israel is “attacking”, thus Israel is “defending” in an attempt to avoid the second attempt to annihilate the “Jews”, the first time of which either Arabs were to blame for or was allowed to happen by the western powers who now feel bad.

The gray relationship between the words “Jew”, “Judaism”, “Jewish State”, “Israel” and “Zionism” have become tougher and tougher to decipher. All these ingredients have gone into the blender of reason and the mixture that has been produced no longer retains the original structure of the original ingredients that went in.

Half of Emad Hajjaj’s caricatures on Israel could be casually deemed as anti-semitic simply for his use of the blue Star of David to represent Israel. But then again, if Israel had put anything else up on its flag…


  • Well,
    Israel is a jewish state so you can’t split them apart, it was built upon relegion and that the israelis are the “chosen” or gods favourite people..
    I have nothing against judasim just like you, but the concept of god choosing people to be “more” superior feels wierd to my conception of god, God created human beings and gave them the path and they make choices and they will be judged upon the choices that they made in their lifes..Will God be just if he chose some people to be his favourite?
    Regarding being anti-semitic, nobody says that the jews didn’t suffer or deny the holocaust, but at the same time each and everyone of us has his right to express his opinions, so why is it ok for “them” to attack the basics of islam? Is that called anti-islam, they don’t call it like this, they call it freedom of speech!!
    I don’t know, sometimes I feel lost in this strange world..
    God bless All the good people whatever their relegion is, God will be the judge at the end…At the end we are all humans..

  • I can’t comprehend in any way why can’t we as Arabs use the anti-semitic term in order to defend ourselves as well. How in the hell can an Arab be an anti-semitic while we are part of the semitic nations?!!

    How can any Israeli point a finger on anyone critisizing Israel’s policy to be anti-semitic while what they do mostly is opressing semitic nation?

    Maybe because of the strength of this term, we should use it to our benefit. Whenever it comes up, we should point out that we are semitic as well. Arabs are semitic. Stop the anti-semitic against us.

  • I think part of the reason that using the word “Jew” seems so politically incorrect is that so many people have spit that word off their lips in hatred and desire for violence.

    In much the same way now do people spit the word “Muslim”, or “Palestinian”. The clash of cultures, and the co-opting of Islam by the fanatic and violent has turned the name of a religion into a curse in much of the west.

    It is my opinion that any Theocracy is a mistake, whether it be the theocracy in Israel, the theocracy in Iran, the theocratic monarchy in Saudi Arabia, or the attempt at a theocracy being perpetrated by the Bush administration in the United States.

    It seems upon review that most of the religions agree on basic moral principals. Do not steal. Do not lie. Do not commit adultery. Do not kill. Do not hurt others. Since that is fairly common to all, why does religion want to be the basis of secular government?

    The prophet Jesus (PBUH)said “Render unto Ceasar that which is Ceasar’s. Render unto God, that which is God’s.” It seems even He supported the concept of separation of church and state.

    Once religion gets a foot in the door of the political arena, it seems that both politics and religion start down a slippery slope to perdition.

  • I feel like I am stalking your blog. Kind of commenting on every thing you post; but I can’t help it, your articles interest me!

    Anyway, It’s funny because I feel the same way, it’s like you want to whisper it instead of saying it out loud.

    I never had this problem in Amman, when we said “Yahoody” we only meant the religion but here in Canada I developed this thing where I am afraid to say it when referring to someone. But I think I know why; A lot of people in Canada hate Jews and they refer to them as being cheap among other things (which I do not agree with at all and I hate it when somebody does that) so they refer to a person by saying “ oh he is such a Jew” so it became kind of an insult in a way, like for example the word Arab means terrorist nowadays and I bet you anybody hears it thinks 9/11 right away.

    It boggles my mind that in North America I found so much hate for Jews from white and European people in particular. I heard so many racist things here in Canada that I never knew existed back in Amman.

    They hate Jews because of the religion and traditions where we hate the state of Israel because of the Palestinian peoples suffering and their policy.

    So did that affect you Nas? When you stayed in Canada and made you feel that this word is bad?

  • It is the media, social conditioning and certain groups being given special sensitivities. I remember in the mid 90’s when the U.S. was at the height of its Political correctness phase, people were so hyper sensitive that they stumbled when sayinig something as Black pen. As if the proper term was “african american pen”.

    Social conditioning and hyper sensitivity has caused the words that have been acceptably used to describe a group to be hurtful. Thats why Black and Jew have become slurs. First black people were called colored, then negro, then Black and now African American. African American is the only acceptable term left, i cant wait till that goes out of style. However i think the term is too convoluted with nonsense for anyone to discern a negative meaning.

  • I wanted to clarify something. It is not that Jews are superior at all. They are equal beings as are all people. Their plight is more of a responsibility – a living law if you will. Nowhere is it stated that chosen is always a blessing, it can also be seen as a curse. Ask somebody about it and look through your history as well. Hopefully you will see the reasoning and measure of what I have said.

    Furthermore, let’s all grow thicker skin as it is more akin to getting somewhere in converse.

    Love always

  • Prehaps one of the Arab readers here can explain what this means.When a Palestinian group called Al Awdabegin start chanting in Arabic ” Al Yahud Kelabna” ?

    JOSEPH WAHED,who grew up in Egypt,remembers this: distressing for me since it conjured up terrible memories of when I was a young boy growing up in Egypt. These memories included Egyptian mobs descending upon the Jewish quarter of Cairo chanting ” Al Yahud Kelabna,” followed by violence that left some Jews dead and injured and the community dazed.Egyptian Muslim mobs no longer do this, but only because there is no longer an Egyptian Jewish community to speak of. We once were over 80,000. Today there are fewer than 50 Jews remaining in Egypt, according to one official tally.Being Jewish was criminalized in Egypt in the late 1940s. Other Arab states such as Iraq, Libya, and Syria, passed similar laws. Jews began facing iron walls of discrimination and harassment by the authorities. Most of us were dispossessed. Our schools, homes, synagogues, businesses, farms, and hospitals, were all confiscated by Arab governments. Our rich, 3,000-year-old culture and heritage was decimated. No trial, no jury, no justice.

  • Relax. Your ultrasensitivity is a direct consequence of living in Canada, In Jordan everyone bel3an sansafeel al yahood on daily basis. The dinner party situation happens only if you talk nicely about Jews.
    In Jordan the controversial word is another J word for Jordanian and a P word for Palestinian. Always think 100 times before spelling anyone of them.

  • 7aki Fadi: it affected me more over there than it does here in amman. mostly because when i talk about israel and when i hear others talking about it i always says “isra2eeli” or “sahyooni” (israeli or zionist) because im referring (and most are referring) to a political structure rather than a religion. (and stalk away!) 😀

    G: There are people in this world who are very ill educated, who are stuck in that mob mentality. but moreover, again, the word “yahood” (jew) and the word “sahyooni” (zionist) have come to mean the exact same thing. the impression imparted on the arab world is that there is no difference. people say the word “jew” out of habit now. it makes it harder to separate them when there are so many elements, including Israel itself, that seem to want them meaning the same thing.

    D.B. Shobrawy: nice to see you on my blog. i agree with the level of political correctness and the hyper sensitivity you’re talking about but i’m hoping we can get to a place where states of mind are shifted. and while the political correctness of “blacks” is a good example of social tendencies, theirs is a struggle that is very different than that of the political structure of israel and zionism with relations to jews

  • don’t feel bad. read the western “liberal” west and you will quickly note the liberal use of the word Muslim , in negative contexts, even when it’s evident the persons in question have known nationalities or even in situations where it’s clear the word “orthodox” or “fundamentalist” is called for to prefix the religion. while JEWS have extremists and settlers and orthodox, Muslims have Muslims. in JEWISH Israel it’s even worse. so no need to be politically correct when political correctness has degenerated into protocols that governs all forms of expression to protect the politically powerful but denied to political adversaries. of course PC still protects the underdogs, but long after they have been massacred and brutalized or emasculated, such as American natives, Hispanics, and African Americans. i have no doubt at some point it will be unPC to defame Arabs and Muslims, but after a few million have perished. 1.5 million in Iraq and still counting. One cannot help but be highly cynical of Anglo liberalism, PC not excepted.

  • No doubt the struggle is different but all groups who enjoy or terrorize through hyper sensitivity and political correctness do share something unique in common.

    The commonality is the guilt that the public at large has been forced to incur over the opression of other groups. In america in relation to blacks its referred to as “White Guilt”, a general guilt imposed on white americans regardless of their ancestery. Forcing whites to be apologetic and fearful of being labled a racist.

    I believe the “J” word in the middle east is a similar phenomenon. A guilt by the educated classes for being Arab and for being associated with the opression of jews. Regardless if individual Arabs are guilty of it or not, its a blanket stereotype imposed on arabs, that we hate jews etc. This perception makes people excessively apologetic out of fear and that fear is generally the fear of the court of public opinion. Who wants to be labled anti-semitic in a liberal society, you would be better off with the plague! Thats how the word Jew can be used as a slur, out of fear of peoples percieved image of you. A Jew saying jew is neutral because how could they be racist against themselves but the farther you stray from that group the more racist the word becomes, until you hit the polar opposite, Arabs (who arent really that opposite) an Arab using the word JEW is percieved as edgy or even racist because of the stereotype of “the arab who hates jews”. All i can say is God free me from these social shackles!

  • Watch more South Park and get over it.
    They are Jews it’s their name it’s not a cuss word

    FYI you are as semitic as they are so how could you be anti-semitic?
    Arabs, Aramaeans, Assyrians, Babylonians, Chaldeans, Sabaeans, and Hebrews are all semitic decendents of Shem.

    Zionists hijacked the word in the 19th century. Only Mizrahi Jews are semites

  • An actual Jew, here… I have to say that I’m really interested and sort of touched by this discussion.

    It seems to me anyone of Palestinian background might be forgiven for considering Jew to be a pejorative term. You are right that the Zionists claim to speak for all Jews, and Israel claims to be our homeland. Whatever distinction there may be between Jewish and Israeli is deliberately blurred and the defenders of Zionism are the first to equate criticism of Israel with “anti-Semitism”.

    Zionism actually began as a rejection of nineteenth century Jewish values and culture, i.e. the Zionists said to the Jewish community “stop praying for God to deliver you from the ghetto, and do something for yourselves.”

    Great, and so what did they do? They went and took someone else’s land. This is really not in keeping at all with Jewish values.

    It took a long while for religious Jews to embrace Zionism. The Messiah was supposed to lead us back to Zion, not ben Gurion and a bunch of atheists. In my opinion, we were wrong to embrace it, for all the damage it’s done.

    It impresses me that you are making the distinction. There’s a notion here in the U.S. that anti-Jewish sentiment (you are right, anti-Semitism is an incorrect term) is very widespread in the Arab world. Sad to say, many American Jews would be surprised to find a discussion on an Arab website about how to criticize Zionism without insulting the Jewish people per se.

Your Two Piasters: