Daily Archives: May 25, 2021

Semitism

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The Ancient Levant

If you’re planning on solving a world problem, it might be wise to know, in great detail, what you’re talking about. For example, there’s the issue of war in the Middle East.

For a moment, let’s leave the politics and who owns what out of it. With the recent conflict in Gaza, in the news, more than a few articles have been titled or focused on antisemitism. This is normally interpreted as referring to a bias against the Jews. I have a problem with that. The Jews are not the only Semites involved.

What is a Semite, anyway? The Merriam Webster dictionary provides the following:

Sem·​ite | \ ˈse-ˌmīt , especially British ˈsē-ˌmīt \ – 1a : a member of any of a number of peoples of ancient southwestern Asia including the Akkadians, Phoenicians, Hebrews, and Arabs b : a descendant of these peoples 2 : a member of a modern people speaking a Semitic language

As near as I can tell, anyone who lives, or whose ancestors lived in the Levant, is a Semite.

This should not be a surprise to anyone. The Jews trace their ancestry back to Abraham through his son, Isaac. The Arabs trace their ancestry back to Ibraham through his older son, and Isaac’s older half-brother, Ishmael. Given that Abraham and Ibraham are the same person, it’s not surprising that at various times they both lived in the same neighborhood.

The reason I bring that up is that people find it far too easy to point out where people are different from one another, often making a bad situation worse. Maybe it would be better if we focused on the things we have in common. We don’t have to agree on everything–but perhaps we shouldn’t disagree on everything, either.

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The Modern Levant