Sanchez asks Goldfarb a Question

CNN’s Rick Sanchez asks McCain campaign flack Michael Goldfarb to give specifics when he claims that Barack Obama pals around with antisemites; Goldfarb crashes and burns.

Some have criticized Sanchez for stipulating that Columbia University professor Rashid Khalidi is antisemitic for the sake of the argument; but I saw the whole thing and Sanchez points out at the end that Khalidi and his supporters would challenge the characterization in the first place.

(People like Michael Goldfarb define antisemitism as disagreeing with the Zionist Far Right.)

Incidentally, Joe Klein’s defense of Khalidi started a controversy over whether the term ‘antisemite’ also refers to Arabs. The glib answer that the term was invented in the 19th century specifically for Jews ignores the history of writing about ‘Aryans’ and ‘Semites,’ in which many European thinkers did in fact group ‘Semites’ (i.e. speakers of Semitic languages such as Arabic and Hebrew, though the Europeans racialized them) together. French commentators on Algeria in the 1860s spoke of the lethargy and fanaticism of Semites in general versus the dynamic Aryans. They intended both North African Arabs and North African Jews. Ernest Renan was one such thinker, and he certainly saw both Jews and Arabs as inferior Semites together. Faced with the problem that early Arab-Islamic civilization made great advances in science, Renan castigated Semitic Arabs as unoriginal and argued that early Islamic science actually was developed by the Aryan Iranians (Iranians speak an Indo-European language for the most part, and so were coded by Renan and his contemporaries as a kind of Aryan). Arthur Comte de Gobineau, a major theorist of Semitic and Aryan race, also saw the Iranians as the good Muslims because they were Aryans (he was French ambassador in Tehran for a while).

It would be nice if these debates on Israel and antisemitism attended to the history of European racial thought toward the Arabs that were colonized, a major arena for the development of the Aryan/Semitic dichotomy that rightwing Zionists want us to ignore.

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