by Martin Odoni

I have been warning for a long time that the widespread and irresponsible misuse – make that abuse – of the term “anti-Semitism” was devaluing it, and desensitising the public to it. My original fear was that the general public would grow to assume that it just means, “Anything Jews dislike.” But truth to tell, I am not sure that it has any meaning even that strong left by now.

My breath has been truly taken away repeatedly by how meaninglessly and carelessly the term has been thrown around since 2015, and the growing depths of its misuse continue to astonish me even now. Take this little gem I saw on Twitter today, responding to Laura Pidcock taking issue with Keir Starmer’s feeble pushback against a racist caller on LBC Radio this week; –

I have no particular knowledge of whoever ‘Ade Hughes’ is, apart from his own Twitter profile claiming he is in the Labour Party and centre-left. But I was genuinely bewildered to see him calling my former employer at The Canary, Kerry-Anne Mendoza, an anti-Semite. If ever there were proof that the term no longer really means anything substantial or specific, this is it. Kerry-Anne is many things. She is a laugh in the pub, she is a dab-hand at taking the mickey. But an anti-Semite? Seriously?

Here is what I am puzzling over. Ten years ago Kerry-Anne got married to a lady called Nancy. Guess what? Yes. Nancy is a Jew. So, if Kerry-Anne hates and fears Jews, why did she choose to spend the rest of her life with one? Why does she visit Israel every couple of years, to be surrounded by Jewish people, if she is terrified of them? The only way the accusation makes any sense is if we assume that the term anti-Semite does not mean an anti-Jewish racist. It is just being used as a broad term-of-abuse.

Hughes followed this up with another random application of the term to attack Laura Pidcock via Chris Williamson.

As the text of my retweet indicates, no one has ever come up with a shred of evidence of Chris saying or doing anything of an anti-Semitic quality. Oh sure, he has said plenty of things that annoy Zionists, and to that I raise a glass to him and express the hope he continues the practice for years to come. But annoying Zionists is quite different to feeling hate towards Jews. Even if it were not, it does not make Starmer’s appalling limpness in the face of racism and xenophobia any more acceptable. Hughes is therefore just deploying lazy ‘whataboutery’. To that I can counter that we all know what the media would have made of it had that been Corbyn at the LBC mic.

But to keep on-point, this is just one person I am using as an example of a phenomenon I see happening all over social media, every day, at least in Britain, and to a lesser extent in the USA. Anti-Semite, as I intimated in the tweets above, is being used with such shameless and irresponsible frequency as an insult and nothing more, that its real meaning is breathing its last. The same happened to the word bastard down the centuries, and probably to the word fascist during the 20th Century. All three terms have always implied something negative, but they each used to mean something specific i.e. anti-Semite meant someone who has a prejudiced hatred of Jews, bastard meant a child born out of wedlock (obsolete social standards made that a negative for a long time), and fascist meant an advocate of Absolute Government against basic human liberties.

By now though, all three terms have been misused as swearwords so much that they no longer mean anything specific. Indeed, with their modern, vague, hostile meanings, they are almost interchangeable; they all just seem to be shorthand for, “I don’t like you, and I want to tell you so in a way that is really hurtful and demeaning.”

Yes, most of the people doing this are Zionists, and yes, most such Zionists will be my fellow Jews. I need to ask them, with the greatest polite restraint, is that really what you want? Do you really want the name of the bloody prejudice against your own bodies and minds to just become a bit of playground namecalling? Do you want to risk it becoming so devalued that no one will respond to it any more when examples of Jew-hate really do happen in the future?

That is the inevitable effect of what you are doing, and it seems we are reaching the point of ‘critical mass’. If you want to put a stop to it, you can. Just stop doing what you are doing, and re-discover your sense of responsibility.