Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Keep CounterPunch ad free. Support our annual fund drive today!

Semitic is a Language Group, Not a Race or Ethnic Group


One of the myths that has been perpetrated on the world is that only Jews are semites. This is totally inaccurate. Unfortunately, the ADL (the Anti-Defamation League) has made a fortune in donations and has conned most media networks and most people in the world into believing this untruth.

If one looks into the history of the word, “semite”, it has to do with a language group and no more. The semitic languages are, at least according to most linguistic experts, Amharic (spoken in Ethiopia and Eritrea, the lands once known as Abyssinia), Arabic (spoken in all the Arab countries and in many Muslim countries because it is the language of the Qur’an), Hebrew (spoken in Israel and by some Jews and others outside of Israel), Aramaic (spoken primarily by the Chaldeans of Iraq and by some Catholic and Maronite Christians in the world, at least in their church services if not in their homes or business) and Syriac (spoken by a few in various parts of Syria and in the Middle East). Incidentally, according to most linguists, Abraham, the father of the Jews and Arabs, spoke Aramaic, that was the language of the land at the time, not Hebrew.

To get back to facts about semites, Jews, language and genetics, let me go futher. The actual genetic Jews were born in the Middle East and are known as Sephardic Jews. These Jews did speak a semitic language, Hebrew , from their earliest incarnation, but also, some at the time of Christ, also spoke Aramaic, Arabic and Amharic because of their location in Jerusalem and other Middle Eastern cities such as what isnow Addis Abbabba, Cairo, Baghdad and Damascus. One rarely hears a Sephardic Jew yelling, “anti-semite” because the know better and because he is aware of his own history within semitic language speaking lands.

Let me be clear about another important matter; I am not touting for people who are anti-Jewish or anti-Arab, or anti-any ethnic or racial group; those people who stereotype or attack others based on their race or ethnicity are dead wrong and should be condemned_so too should those who abuse labels and use them wrongly to stop others from being justifiably critical should also be condemned (and in this case, I am referring to the ADL and other groups of that sort who label people with impunity and carelessness, sometimes wrecking their careers, their reputations, their businesses and their lives!)

Thus, when a person from the ADL calls someone who is critical of Israel, Zionists or Zionism, an “anti-semite”, this is pure nonsense. The person speaking is simply critical of Israel or Zionism. Also, if a person speaks against an Arab, and as I pointed out, Arabs speak a semitic language, he may be anti-Arab, but he is not “anti-semitic.”. In both cases, the person may be anti-zionist or may be a racist and be anti-Jewish or anti-Arab, but the person is SIMPLY NOT ANTI-SEMITIC.

This abuse of the term and our language reached new heights recently when some of the Zionists in the American media began saying that Robert Novak, himself a Jew, was “anti-semitic.” First of all, most of those Ashkenazim Jews who were born and raised in America, such as Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle and Feith, are not even Jews genetically because they are descended from Slavic tribes known as the Khazars who converted to Judaism and whose native language was Slavic and whose first language in America has been English, as was the case of Robert Novak. I am not saying all Ashkenazim are not Jews, but the way some of them behave is certainly not in the way Moses brought Judaism from God through the Torah. One has but to look at the haters and war-mongers in the Bush circle of influence and this is evident; no God would want them to be associated with his name. Thus, as a friend of mine, Rabbi Shmuel Handelman put it, “They may call themsevles Jews, but I doubt very much if I’d them that, and if I did, I’d say they were the worst of what any person might be. I’d rather not be associated with them.”

However, Novak is intelligent and educated enough to know the difference between a Jew, a Zionist and what semitic actually is! An excellent and accurate source for this history is Arthur Koestler (himself an Ashkenazi), THE THIRTEENTH TRIBE. The ADL and others have attacked, and continue attacking this book, but scholars know of its truth. The book is difficult to find, but one may find it with tenacity. This is not a condemnation of Ashkenazis and their intent to convert to Judaism, but it does mean they have enough genetic DNA in them not to have the same feelings about Judaism and life in the Middle East as do the Sephardic genetic Jews.

Unfortunately, the misuse of the label, “anti-semitic” and its consequences have been so bad that even presidents, senators, congresspeople, media giants and all others in the world cringe at being labeled, “anti-semitic” by some Zionist, Israeli or ignorant religious, media or social group. Little do they know they are being victimized by charlatans of the language who have found a label that they throw around with impunity and for which there has been little or no come-back. Those who read this article and do further research may now correct those who speak this nonsense_they can throw this nonsense back in the faces of the ignorant or the charlatans.

It is time our media people and non-linguistically literate “scholars”, politicians, religious leaders and others became educated about the truths about “semitic” and its misuse (intentional or unintentional).. If not, we’ll keep allowing charlatans to abuse our language and to continue their name-calling, abusing others, including Jews, Arabs, Americans, Brits and others case, I am referring those individuals and groups who label people with impunity and carelessness, sometimes wrecking their careers, their reputations, their businesses and their lives!) by calling them “anti-semites” if they speak against Israel ( which is not a semitic state) or Zionists (a political group, not exclusively Jewish and which has nothing to do with semitic).

Until we clean up our language and stop this incorrect name-calling at the whim of a few politically ambitious and unscrupulous people, we shall remain victims of a misuse of a legitimate language categorization that has been abused for the benefit of a few.

SAM HAMOD is an expert in world affairs, especially the Arab and Muslim worlds. He is also the former Director of The National Islamic Center in Washington, DC and editor of Third World News. He publishes often in CounterPunch and;he may be reached at

Copyright, SAM HAMOD, 2003.


More articles by:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine


October 24, 2016
John Steppling
The Unwoke: Sleepwalking into the Nightmare
Oscar Ortega
Clinton’s Troubling Silence on the Dakota Access Pipeline
Patrick Cockburn
Aleppo vs. Mosul: Media Biases
John Grant
Humanizing Our Militarized Border
Franklin Lamb
US-led Sanctions Targeting Syria Risk Adjudication as War Crimes
Paul Bentley
There Must Be Some Way Out of Here: the Silence of Dylan
Norman Pollack
Militarism: The Elephant in the Room
Patrick Bosold
Dakota Access Oil Pipeline: Invite CEO to Lunch, Go to Jail
Paul Craig Roberts
Was Russia’s Hesitation in Syria a Strategic Mistake?
David Swanson
Of All the Opinions I’ve Heard on Syria
Weekend Edition
October 21, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Wight
Hillary Clinton and the Brutal Murder of Gaddafi
Diana Johnstone
Hillary Clinton’s Strategic Ambition in a Nutshell
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Trump’s Naked and Hillary’s Dead
John W. Whitehead
American Psycho: Sex, Lies and Politics Add Up to a Terrifying Election Season
Stephen Cooper
Hell on Earth in Alabama: Inside Holman Prison
Patrick Cockburn
13 Years of War: Mosul’s Frightening and Uncertain Future
Rob Urie
Name the Dangerous Candidate
Pepe Escobar
The Aleppo / Mosul Riddle
David Rosen
The War on Drugs is a Racket
Sami Siegelbaum
Once More, the Value of the Humanities
Cathy Breen
“Today Is One of the Heaviest Days of My Life”
Neve Gordon
Israel’s Boycott Hypocrisy
Mark Hand
Of Pipelines and Protest Pens: When the Press Loses Its Shield
Victor Wallis
On the Stealing of U.S. Elections
Michael Hudson
The Return of the Repressed Critique of Rentiers: Veblen in the 21st century Rentier Capitalism
Brian Cloughley
Drumbeats of Anti-Russia Confrontation From Washington to London
Howard Lisnoff
Still Licking Our Wounds and Hoping for Change
Brian Gruber
Iraq: There Is No State
Peter Lee
Trump: We Wish the Problem Was Fascism
Stanley L. Cohen
Equality and Justice for All, It Seems, But Palestinians
Steve Early
In Bay Area Refinery Town: Berniecrats & Clintonites Clash Over Rent Control
Kristine Mattis
All Solutions are Inadequate: Why It Doesn’t Matter If Politicians Mention Climate Change
Peter Linebaugh
Ron Suny and the Marxist Commune: a Note
Andre Vltchek
Sudan, Africa and the Mosaic of Horrors
Keith Binkly
The Russians Have Been Hacking Us For Years, Why Is It a Crisis Now?
Jonathan Cook
Adam Curtis: Another Manager of Perceptions
Ted Dace
The Fall
Sheldon Richman
Come and See the Anarchy Inherent in the System
Susana Hurlich
Hurricane Matthew: an Overview of the Damages in Cuba
Dave Lindorff
Screwing With and Screwing the Elderly and Disabled
Chandra Muzaffar
Cuba: Rejecting Sanctions, Sending a Message
Dennis Kucinich
War or Peace?
Joseph Natoli
Seething Anger in the Post-2016 Election Season
Jack Rasmus
Behind The 3rd US Presidential Debate—What’s Coming in 2017
Ron Jacobs
A Theory of Despair?