Linguistic and Possibly Anti-Semitic Considerations…
Paul Eisen, elsewhere on deLiberation, objects to the use of such terms as zionists, anti-zionists, and anti-zionist-zionists (AZZs) on the grounds of their imprecision, seemingly confusing connotations, and their effect of simplified sloganeering. His arguments can be read here.
Gilad Atzmon objects to the use of the term “zionism” as applied to any current Jewish ideology because he considers it an anachronism, a term whose “sell by” date has expired once the original express goal of zionism — the creation of the state of Israel — has been attained.
Nevertheless he uses the term anti-zionist-zionist (AZZ) not by way of contradicting himself but as an ironic denial of the claim of today’s “anti-zionist” Jews, who are the exponents of Jewish power and act in ways meant to appear adverse to the state in Israel as long as their actions are not seriously threatening it.
It is understood by those who have read Gilad Atzmon that AZZs represent the “greening” (not Gilad’s term but mine) of the Palestinian movement by the Jews who freely state that their presence in the leadership of the movement is essential to “kosherize” it, i.e., the defend it from accusations of anti-semitism.
The dispute over the appropriateness and accuracy of the term anti-zionism resembles to some extent that over the term anti-semitism, whose critics object that
- the Ashkenazim are not Semites and/or
- that the term never extends to signifying animosity against Semites like the Arabs.
I have forgotten most of what I once learned in linguistics, but clearly remember this: nothing, and I mean absolutely nothing, decides the ultimate fate of a word in any language, except usage.
Linguists, historians, or etymologists can write more books than you can shake a pencil at and pull their hair out by the roots, they may implore, beg, threaten, ridicule, all to no avail. They cannot stop a word from being consecrated into misuse or altered usage by the unshod and underschooled majority of users.
Who uses nowadays the word “cynic” in its original meaning? How would the Epicureans feel about their philosophy having been debased to mean more or less the life-style of people inclined to gorge themselves? I guess hoi polloi has not been tread heavily enough and, through misuse, is still hovering in between two complete opposites. It would not be surprising at all to see it stabilize in English in the wrong meaning, contrary to the original one, simply because “hoy” sounds similar enough to the English “high.”
“Zionist” may have denoted at one time to the whole world a person supporting the creation of the state of Israel. It may still mean that and only that to Israelites of Gilad’s generation and younger.
Nevertheless the rest of the world is still made up mostly of Goyim due to the inability of the laudably fertile orthodox Jews in settlements to overcome the huge headstart of the Chinese and Indians. For them, by observing the usage, a zionist is a supporter of Jewish power and/or of the state of Israel (too bad for the AZZs, they get no breaks). Why is that?
Perhaps it is because the general sense of most people is that the self-declared anti-Jewish power zionists and the anti-Israel Jewish power-friendly Jews are both either hypocrites or supporters of one, the other or both in effect if not necessarily by conscious intention, their seemingly judicious and objective criticism of either notwithstanding.
To the majority of speakers who use the terms zionist or AZZ, Israel and jewish power are in final analysis inseparable.
The rejection of such terms, which Paul calls “labels,” or their acronyms, would be reasonable, paradoxically, only if the analysis and deliberation he proposes instead would in the end result in new terms, labels and acronyms.
Unfortunately language is like that: it demands names for the objects signified. In my garden I don’t have a deciduous, sometimes semi-deciduous member of the Ulm genus found in temperate and occasionally tropical mountainous regions that may or may not harbor acomycete microfungi that will eventually kill it. I just have a bloody elm.
Perhaps soon “zionist” will come to be an even more comprehensive term, signifying a supporter of any aspect of jewish political culture considered nefarious by the Goyim. Israel seems to make efforts to expand the term in that direction.
Perhaps it will come to mean “any Jews except those I know personally and can vouch for and not further than I can throw them.” Jews in the US, UK and western Europe act as if they, too, would like the connotation of the term maximally expanded.
Conversely, perhaps the Jews, the smartest people in the world by their own reckoning, and the heads of almost all Ethics departments in American academia, will rise up (make that soon, please) and accomplish a revolution in Jewish culture of such magnitude as to change the dictionary (and popular) definition of the word zionist. It may be: “a Jewish exponent of the movement of humanist ethics and universalism at the beginning of the 21st century.” Inshallah!