SEMITISM vs. ANTISEMITISM (Part 1). The Structure of our History

E. Rowell:  In these days of surging antisemitism online and in the streets, this article describes the essence of both semitism and antisemitism.  Gil-White delineates the fabric of meaning throughout the long history of the semites and those who want the semites dead.

By Fransisco Gil-White, MANAGEMENT OF REALITY    16 February 2024

Once thought to be the mask of Sargon of Akkad, this is now believed to be, on stylistic grounds, the mask of Naram-Sin, his grandson. Credit: Wikimedia.

Imagine that history class were like plunging into the millennia-spanning, action-packed, multi-novel adventure worlds of Frank Herbert (Dune), Isaac Asimov (Foundation), or J.R.R. Tolkien (The Lord of the Rings). No child would ever get bored!

So why are teachers boring them?

I ask because the political history of Western Asia—which includes Europe—does have that fantasy/science-fiction structure: it’s been a 4,300-year clash between two great ideological forces.

That’s tailor-made, I should think, for Asimov or Herbert. No? It’s even corny enough for Tolkien! Because these two giant forces, clashing time and again with nuances and complexities over the entire length of our political history, may with justice be called the forces—cringe if you must—of ‘Good’ and ‘Evil.’ (You’ll soon see why…).

I call this confrontation: semitism vs. antisemitism.

But this simple model, at once a giant, thrilling story and a powerful heuristic that clarifies the structure of our entire political history and—to boot—makes sense of our 21st-century predicament, is not what they teach you in school. So allow me.

In this series I will:

  1. define antisemitism;
  2. define semitism; and
  3. outline the structure of our political history.

What is antisemitism?

An antisemite is a racist enemy of the Jewish people.

Why this label? Because the racist enemies of the Jews have proudly wanted to be known as ‘antisemites’ (they invented the term in the 19th century) and everybody has deferred to them. They call themselves antisemites because Hebrew, the ancestral and ritual language of the Jews, is a Semitic language. By modern custom, then, we call the Nazis ‘antisemites.’

Antisemites pose a special danger to the Jewish people. In the WWII Shoah (Holocaust), the antisemites killed between 5 and 6 million Jews. But don’t get distracted by that; I want your eye on this ball: the antisemites, who started that war of planetary destruction, also got upwards of 64 million non-Jews killed. And those selfsame antisemites directly enslaved hundreds of millions of—again—non-Jews.

The point is this: the antisemites are coming for everyone. They’re coming for you. And there you have it: that’s the structure—or one half of it.

But can we find this structure in other centuries? We certainly can.

Earlier centuries saw great expulsions, forced conversions, burnings, and enormous massacres of Jews. The powerful antisemites responsible for all that anti-Jewish violence were then, as they are now, very bad news for all Westerners.

Indeed, enormous massacres of Christians were organized in Medieval and Renaissance Europe courtesy of the same antisemites then busy killing and expelling Jews. Many were burned at the stake—I mean the Christians, now. And those Christians who weren’t killed were definitely oppressed—yes, by the selfsame antisemites. The pagans, meanwhile, were either forcibly converted or exterminated by the stout and devout antisemitic Germanic knights.

And what about further back? Once again we find the same structure. Scroll through the centuries of pain and terror of the Inquisition and rewind all the way back to pagan Rome, searching now for the climactic crime: the first- and second-century genocide against the ancient Jews.

You heard perhaps of the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple (Tisha B’Av) in the year 70 of the first century of our era, an episode of the First Jewish War. The Diaspora Revolt and the Second Jewish War followed. All were genocidal wars. After this, few Jews remained in the Mediterranean. Historians estimate that, in proportional terms, the Romans killed more Jews than Hitler!

And guess what? Those same Romans, those antisemites who murdered the Jewish people of antiquity, well they were bad news for everyone else too. The Romans were enslaving all and sundry.

Interesting facts:

  • Hitler and his Nazis called themselves the Third Reich, a reincarnation (the second) of the First Reich: the Germanic Holy Roman Empire, governed by a kaiser (‘Caesar’), and itself a reincarnation of ancient Rome. The Nazis also proudly saluted their Führer with their right arm raised, as they believed the ancient Romans had done with their Caesar, shouting ‘Heil Hitler!’ (Hail Caesar!).
  • The Catholic Church, author of much antisemitic cruelty over the centuries, is also proudly Roman. It was the Church that herself recreated the Roman Empire as the Germanic Holy Roman Empire of the Middle Ages.

I insist: there is a transhistorical structure here.

But let’s go further back—before the Romans. What did we have? Greeks and Macedonians. And they were enslaving everyone too.

Forget what they told you in school about Athens, supposedly ‘democratic.’ In a different piece I present a detailed and documented refutation of that school narrative (which is still going strong). But consider here only this: Demetrius of Phalerum—ruler of the small Athenian empire in the years 317-307 BCE—documented in his census the following totals: 21,000 citizens, 10,000 metics (semi-free or semi-slaves, take your pick), and 400,000 slaves.

I won’t say the Athenians were unimaginably cruel because we have the recent experience of the Nazi and Ustashe death camps. The Athenians had them too: giant multitudes of slaves—tens of thousands—were worked to death in the mines of Laurion, to the south of Athens. Motivated with whips and worked in irons, the slaves were made to enter the Earth again and again until they dropped dead.

A democracy has death camps?

This culture of horror was inherited to the Macedonians. And guess what? The Greco-Macedonians also committed genocide against the ancient Jews, as was famously narrated in the Books of the Maccabees (contained in the Christian Bible). They wanted to abolish the Jewish religion. So: antisemites.

I ask: Why this pairing? Why is it that, century after century, those who mean to enslave us all want also to kill every last Jew? Could it be, perchance, because the Book of Exodus traces Jewish origins—as a legal and political community—to a slave revolt?

It’s kind of obvious (once you say it…). And there you have it: the other half of the structure.

Now let’s put both halves together. Jewish Law, the Law of Moses, is the law of the liberated slaves who defied the Egyptian Pharaoh and escaped to the desert to live in freedom. The entire point of this law is to fight oppression. So the danger—for the slave-makers—is that the Jews might inspire and lead other slaves in revolution! Therefore, the slave-makers—the antisemites—have always persecuted the Jews with great violence.

Antisemitism explained!

But the ancient antisemites—mind you—were not simply judeophobes. They were antisemites. The term really applies (this is the most interesting part). Because the ancient antisemites wanted to destroy not only the Jews but semitism writ large. And they were at it even before any Jews made their mark on world history.

But what is semitism?

Semitism, defined thus, speaks of the relationship—anchored in the evolution of law—that must exist between a king and his people: the king guarantees the rights of all and protects, most especially, the poor and vulnerable. This ideology was founded by Sargon of Akkad, Sargon the Great, when he established the Akkadian Empire in revolution.

That’s the original revolution at the beginning of our story.

Now, before this, discontent had already manifested in Sumer, when Urukagina deposed the oppressive Lugalanda and followed that with loudly proclaimed legal reforms to protect the poor and the vulnerable in the cities of Lagash and Girsu that he ruled.

But oppression was a wider problem, because just a few years later, Sargon, with the widespread support of the lower classes, staged a general revolution of all Sumerian cities in one swift, sudden movement. And he unified those cities, establishing the Akkadian Empire (the world’s first). From the fact that Sargon replaced Sumerian with Akkadian (Eastern Semitic) as the new official language of government we may infer that the oppressed masses had been mostly Semites.

This Sargon was something special.

Judging by the famous claims made about him in a text copied in antiquity as his presumed autobiography, Sargon liked to boast that an agricultural laborer had raised him, thus highlighting an (adoptive) family connection to the Semitic lower classes he’d led in revolution and who were the very source of his power:

Sargon, the mighty king, king of Agade [Akkad], am I.
My mother was a high priestess, my father I knew not.
The brother(s) of my father loved the hills.
My city is Azupiranu, which is situated on the banks of the Euphrates.
My high-priestess mother conceived me, in secret she bore me.
She set me in a basket of rushes, with bitumen she sealed my lid.
She cast me into the river which rose not (over) me.
The river bore me up and carried me to Akki, the drawer of water.
Akki, the drawer of water lifted me out as he dipped his e[w]er.
Akki, the drawer of water, [took me] as his son (and) reared me.
Akki, the drawer of water, appointed me as his gardener.
While I was a gardener, Ishtar granted me (her) love […]

As historian Robert Wolfe comments: “There is more than a hint in the ancient inscriptions that the rise of Akkad under Sargon was also something of a social revolution.”1 Yes, and Sargon’s presumed biography (above) has uncanny resemblances to that of Moses, leader of the slave revolt narrated in The Book of Exodus. No scholar that I know considers that a coincidence.

There is indeed no reason to doubt that Sargon led a revolution, because the evidence from his dynastic successors makes clear that, from Sargon’s reign onwards, a new political culture became strongly institutionalized in southern Mesopotamia.

And that astonishing—and astonishingly stable—political culture and ideology that Sargon founded would be preserved in turn by Akkadians, Amorites, Chaldeans, and Arameans—all Semites who, for almost two thousand years, would never forget Sargon.

And what is this Sargonian political culture that the Mesopotamian Semitic peoples transmitted and preserved? It speaks of the king’s obligation to his people; of the importance of establishing peace, tolerance, legal equality, and justice; of the sacred mission to eliminate oppression.

Okay, then. So I am calling this ideology semitism for three obvious reasons:

  1. because it was originally produced and then transmitted for a long time by Semitic kings;
  2. because it flourished in a majority-Semitic civilization; and lastly (but hardly least)
  3. because it is precisely the opposite, in its ethical and political content, to what the antisemites want.

This contrast and opposition—semitism vs. antisemitism—has been the engine of our entire political history.

From the deepest antiquity in Western Asia (which includes Europe), all the way through to the modern ‘West’ (understood as Europe and its descendant societies), and finally to the Nazi genocide and the horrific events of October 7th, 2023, antisemitic criminal groups eager to profit from our slavery have seen in semitism their mortal enemy. So they’ve done their dishonest best to poison and mobilize ordinary folk against the human vehicles of this liberating ideology.

Against all that, and paying an incomprehensible human price, semitism has nonetheless made tremendous strides for political progress and transformed our world.

That story follows, in Part 2.

April 18, 2024 | Comments »

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