The “Arabs are Semites too” fallacy

When I raise the issue of Arab antisemitism, I invariably get anti-Zionists riled up, and they invariably make the argument that “Arabs can’t be antisemites since they are Semites too”.  I find it difficult not to pause at the idiocy of this response, but when examined further, this response provides useful insight into the core of the Israel / Arab conflict.

The response that “Arabs are Semites too” is a fallacy of course, as anyone who can use a dictionary can tell.  Oxford, Merriam-Webster, and Cambridge all give slight variations of the same definition, which is that “antisemitism” means hatred of Jewish people.  Therefore whether Arabs are Semites or not is totally irrelevant to the issue of Arab antisemitism.

One possible reason for this response is that those who make it have never bothered to check the meaning of the word antisemitism in a dictionary so they go by the intuition that antisemitism must mean the hate of Semites.  In most cases, however, those who say “Arabs can’t be antisemites since they are Semites too” have no solid rebuttal to the accusation of Arab antisemitism, and they are attempting to divert the discussion to avoid admitting a fact that they do not like.

The ease with which antisemites use this fallacious argument is an indication that the fallacy is commonly shared and accepted among anti-Zionists.  It is also an indication that anti-Zionists have a very low threshold of integrity for arguments that they are willing to use and re-use Ad nauseam.

This predilection for repeating lies that sound like truth is undoubtedly meant to score points based on the principle that “If you repeat a lie often enough, people will believe it, and you will even come to believe it yourself” as enunciated by Joseph Goebbels, Adolf Hitler’s Propaganda Minister in Nazi Germany.

Goebbels’ principle also explains why those who make this fallacious argument generally seem sincere and genuinely offended.  They have obviously repeated the lie so often that they have internalized it.

But who is uninformed, dimwitted, or fanatical enough to believe the “Arabs are Semites too” fallacy?  Sadly, even some otherwise intelligent and open-minded people fall for it or at least pretend to.  No person is as blind as those who do not want to see, and few people are willing to see the obvious fact that antisemitism is the root of the Israel / Arab conflict.  The fallacy is simply a symptom of that problem.

About the Author
Fred Maroun is a Canadian of Arab origin who lived in Lebanon until 1984, including during 10 years of civil war. Fred supports Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state, and he supports the Palestinians' right to self-determination in their own state. Fred supports a liberal and democratic Middle East where all religions and nationalities, including Palestinians, can co-exist in peace with each other and with Israel, and where human rights are respected. Fred is an atheist, a social liberal, and an advocate of equal rights for LGBT people everywhere.
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