What’s in a name?


In a discussion on the Link’s website, I noticed something I’d seen in a few places before: an anonymous pro-Palestinian poster (alias “ii”), when referring to Israeli PM Ariel Sharon, felt it necessary to include the fact that his birth name was Schneinerman in parenthesis. I asked him why he felt the necessity to do this, and he gave the following reply:

The reason I use it is to discredit the misnomer ‘anti-semitism.’ The name shows Mr. Scheinerman to be of European, rather than Semitic origin.

Why did he choose to change his name? I don’t know. To fabricate a history perhaps?

He then proceeded to give the birth names of Golda Meir, Shimon Peres, David Ben Gurion, and Yitzchak Shamir, seemingly incapable of so much as mentioning any of these prominent figures in Israeli history without a parenthetical reference to the fact that they all Hebraized their names.

Aside from the obviously convoluted reference to the “Semitic” race – a social construct of racists, with no basis whatsoever in reality – “ii” shows both a lack of understanding of the term and basis of antisemitism, and a gross disrespect and disregard for Jewish and Israeli history. Firstly, the term “antisemitism” is defined as hatred directed against Jews. The whole point is that there is no so-called “Semitic” race! That’s why it’s racist. And the fact that all the Israeli politicians to whom “ii” referred were Ashkenazi rather than Sephardi really has no bearing on whether attacking Jews is antisemitism or not. According to “ii”‘s logic, it’s not antisemitism to make racist statements against Jews of European origin. Do I really need to go into how twisted that is?

Secondly, if “ii” knew more Israeli history, he would know about the efforts of the olim in the early twentieth century to revive Hebrew as a national language. Prominent people such as Eliezer Ben-Yehuda (whose name graced the cover of the pocket dictionary that got me through Hebrew school) and others accomplished what was essentially a modern-day miracle: the revival of a language that had not been used in everyday conversation for nearly two thousand years.

Far from an attempt to “fabricate history”, as “ii” slanderously suggests, the revival of modern Hebrew was an attempt to reunite a People who had been scattered in different parts of the world for far too long. While Hebrew continued to be the language of religious study and prayer throughout all that time, by the beginning of the twentieth century, most Ashkenazi Jews spoke Yiddish, Russian, Polish, German, French, or English, and many Sephardic Jews spoke Arabic, Ladino, or a whole host of other languages in everyday conversation. What Ben-Yehuda and his compatriotes recognized was that if Israel was going to reunite the Jewish people from across the world, they would need a common language as an expression of a common heritage and national identity.

When Ben-Gurion, Meir, Shamir, Peres, and Sharon – as well as Ben-Yehuda himself and a host of others – Hebraized their names, it was as much an expression of their common National Jewish identity as anything else. And it is precisely this identity that people like “ii” seek to discredit. A person’s name is an expression of who they are, and who they wish to be, and the habit of anti-Zionists to deny the history and heritage of the Israeli leaders is nothing but a thinly-veiled claim that the history and heritage does not exist.

As poster “bistro” commented in reply to “ii”‘s post:

The idea there is that Jews are not “really” a people: Jews from Arab countries are “really” Arab; Jews from European countries are, surprise, Europeans after all; and you’re done — people (des gens), but not a people (un peuple). [. . .] The your-real-name-is manoeuvre is very convenient. It’s shorthand for saying: you don’t really belong in the Middle East, your peoplehood is a lie, even your names are lies, and you are really European. You don’t belong here.

Next time you see this being done, pause a moment and think about it. It may seem like a small thing, but it’s nothing but an attempt to claim that Jews aren’t really a people at all.

{ 27 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Mike 12.17.02 at 10:04 PM

Ironically, Arafat also changed his name at one point (from Mohammed Abder Rauf Arafat al-Kudwa al-Husseini), possibly to hide his relation too Haj Muhammed Amin al-Husseini (the Mufti, who had a pact with Hitler).


2 Jonny 12.17.02 at 10:21 PM

A website of the militant Hamas organization has issued a new announcement praising the murder of Jews as Jews, without connection to Israel, Israel Radio reported Tuesday.

It said the organization’s Palestine Info site carried a picture of a vulture picking at the head of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

The picture was captioned “We will make the skulls of Jews into a bridge, which we will take to reach heaven.”


3 Peter 12.17.02 at 11:22 PM

Well I don’t know what the Arab students
think Farah is a racist if they come up
with nonsense like this.

Also, I think this is a preview of what
is going to be show up at that “antisemitism”
conference the CSU will be holding in January.
As Sabine Freisinger said, it will be about
“all types” antisemtism, I believe was the
phrase she used.

Anyway, the story about Hamas’s website
can be found at:



4 Hanthala 12.18.02 at 2:11 AM


What stuff, exactly did “the Arab students” come up with?

PS: Arabs are not the only people who think Farah is racist, or a homophobe for that matter.


5 jaws 12.18.02 at 4:19 AM

PS: Arabs are not the only people who think Farah is racist, or a homophobe for that matter

Actually, I think Hanthala has a point on this one…

From what I’ve read of his, Farah seems to be somewhat of a conservative christian; which may explain the homophobia aspect.

As for the groups who consider him racist, I dunno anything about that.


6 jaws 12.18.02 at 4:22 AM

Another thing,

many of the early Olim to Israel in order to fit into the ideal of the “new Jew” who was to live in their state, adopted Hebrew names based on Bibilcal heroes.

E.g. David (eng. pronounciation) Green–>David (Hebrew) Ben-Gurion


7 Shmoo 12.18.02 at 4:39 AM

Name changes are always interesting… Most people probably wouldn’t think that Saddam’s number 2 man, the Deputy Prime Minister of Iraq, is Christian. His name is Tariq Aziz, but he used to be Michael Hannah…


8 ronnie schreiber 12.18.02 at 4:42 AM

Arabs and their apologists like to talk about Jews from Poland or Brooklyn taking away the poor Palestinian’s land. They get a free pass from the liberal pundits with this stereotyping.

My guess is that by obsessively focusing on Sharon’s Yiddish birth name, they can avoid any discussion of “Palestinians” who are curiously named al-Masri (the Egyptian) or have family names associated with Syrian villages.


9 Peter 12.18.02 at 6:47 AM

The truth is Arabs have always
referred to “Palestine” as Southern
Syria. It was the British who adopted
the roman name in 1920.


10 Hanthala 12.18.02 at 8:59 AM

I’m really trying to understand why the issue of the name “Palestinians” is so important to you guys. It doesn’t change the fact of the Zionist terror/ethnic cleansing campaigns of 1947-48 which dispossessed 750,000 people and made them homeless refugees.

Do you guys get your stuff from the masada site, cuz a lot of your rhetoric is very similar to theirs.


11 Shmoo 12.18.02 at 4:08 PM

“Zionist terror/ethnic cleansing campaigns” ???

Give me a break…
An Israeli state and an Arab state were created out of the British mandate. The Jews accepted their state. The Arabs refused to play nicely with others and attacked the newly created Jewish state. There would have been plenty of room for all of these “refugees” in that Arab state had the Arabs accepted the UN’s decision and not tried to push all of the Jews into the sea.


12 Geoff 12.18.02 at 6:32 PM

I find it interesting that the putative “European” Ariel Sharon was born in what was then Palestine and the “true Palestinian” Yasser Arafat was born in Egypt. Just exactly who is the interloper, hmm?


13 Jonny 12.18.02 at 7:52 PM

My grandfathers cousin was involved in setting up protection for jews living in middle eastern countries and getting them out of those countries. He said about 80% of them tried to go to places like Canada. He said that Morroco and Yemen were the worst.

Its ironic to note that while the muslim world accuses Turkey of supporting zionism, Turkey is really the only country that doesn’t support zionism, as they did not persecute their jews (as badly) or throw them out.

So Hanthala, where did you expect the jews to go when you threw them all out of your countries?


14 Jonny 12.18.02 at 8:03 PM

“Zionist terror/ethnic cleansing campaigns”

Ain’t that the pot calling the kettle black.


15 Hanthala 12.18.02 at 9:41 PM

“So Hanthala, where did you expect the jews to go when you threw them all out of your countries?”

Who is “we” and what does this have to do with depriving Palestinians of citizenship rights in their own homeland?


16 Shmoo 12.18.02 at 10:09 PM

Hanthala, Palestinians do have citizenship rights in their homeland…their homelands of Jordan, Syria, Egypt, Lebanon, etc…

So I don’t quote understand your problem with the Israelis…Take it up with the leaders of the countries that still refuse to accept the “Palestinian” people from living in them.


17 Hanthala 12.19.02 at 1:28 AM

The Palestinians’ homeland is Israel/Palestine. Your suggestion is as ridiculous as it was to tell black South Africans to quit whining about their lack of rights under the Apartheid regime and move to another state since they’re just Africans like all the other Africans.


18 ronnie schreiber 12.19.02 at 5:24 AM


It doesn’t change the fact of the Arab/Muslim terror/ethnic cleansing campaigns of 1947-51 which dispossessed 750,000 Jews from Arab and Muslim countries and made them refugees.

Of course, unlike the Arabs refugees who were turned into Palestinians to be used as pawns and eternal refugees to maintain the struggle against the Jews, the Sephardi Jews who were terrorized out of the Arab world were absorbed by their fellow Jews in Israel, France and the Americas.


19 jaws 12.19.02 at 5:41 PM


A prior posting brought to the forefront one of the issues about “palestinians” claiming their homeland.

As Geoff pointed out, Arafat, the leader of the PLO is infact an Egyptian. Another prominant “palestinian”, Edward Said, was discovered to also be an Egyptian. What’s my point in all this? There is a sizeable discrepancy in claiming that one was born in a certain place and then proving their ties to that location.

Second, there was no organized ethic cleansing/terror attacks that took place during Israel’s War of Indepedence. As I said elsewhere, all such claims have been debunked (academically)

Finally, no we don’t get our information from the Masada2000 site. That site is obviously put together by (an) extremeist(s); there is very little on that site of quality, as most of it is covered in tirade like remarks. Though the list of links on the site is a nice “launching pad” to other pages.


20 Hanthala 12.20.02 at 12:08 AM


“there was no organized ethic cleansing/terror attacks that took place during Israel’s War of Indepedence”

That is correct, they took place before the war of independence, from December 1947 to April 1948.

Concerning the masada site, it seems a little odd to me that about 90% of their rhetoric makes up the Hillelniks’ rhetoric.


21 jaws 12.20.02 at 3:32 AM


First, there was never an organized “ethnic cleansing”/terror campaign directed at civilians. Their records (publically available) even indicate this.

As for the second statement, I don’t know anything about the Hillel at CSU(except from what i hear in the news), so I can’t pass judgement on their positions. While some positions may be the same or similar, I’m sure that the Hillel has a diffent chain of thought/logic.


22 Hanthala 12.20.02 at 6:47 PM

jaws, I disagree about the records–they exist.

As for Hillel, and I’m speaking only of Hillel Montreal (there are Hillel chapters in the states with whom groups like SPHR could work), it uses a lot of the same arguments as that masada site. None of it gets reported, of course (not because “the Jews” control the media but because anti-Arab racism is just not newsworthy and doesn’t sell papers very well)


23 anon coward 12.21.02 at 4:10 AM

Hanthala sagely comments: ” it uses a lot of the same arguments as that masada site”.

Hey, cool, guilt by association. Hanthala, many of your arguments are identical to Hamas’s. Are you a murderous terrorist?

Ohhhh … so guilt by association is dishonest and arguments should be refuted based on what they say, not who said them. No wonder. (Smacks self on head.) Could you walk me through that Masada site and Hillel thing again?


24 Hanthala 12.21.02 at 6:52 AM

“Hanthala, many of your arguments are identical to Hamas’s”

Really, which ones?


25 anon coward 12.21.02 at 3:36 PM

So, I go: “Hey, cool, guilt by association. Hanthala, many of your arguments are identical to Hamas’s.” Hanthala sagely responds: “Really, which ones?”

Oh, you know, Palestinian self-determination, Jewish racism, etc., etc.

Hamas says a lot more than that, too. Lots of which you hadn’t said. But it seems you want to play the “guilt by association” game: if A says something and you can find some statements of B that are the same, then A must be identical to B.

Uh, nope.


26 Hanthala 12.21.02 at 7:40 PM

“Palestinian self-determination?” You’ve got to be kidding. I hardly think that this is an argument proper to Hamas.

“Jewish racism?” Where? Oh, you must mean my criticism of Israel or Hillel’s POLITICS.


27 Morley Harper 12.23.02 at 6:20 PM

Mike: Arafat (of Gazan/Egyptian origin) is not related to the Mufti of Jerusalem. That’s just another of his lies (to gain support).

Shmoo: The interesting thing about Saddam’s #2 man being a Christian — he doesn’t have to worry about him turning on him. It’s not like he’s in a position to ascend. Iraqis (97% Muslim) would not tolerate a Christian #1.

Ethnic cleansing? Many Arabs safely remained in Israel, yet no Jews at all remained in territories illegally seized by Jordan and Egypt in 1948. For example, eastern Jerusalem became “Arab East Jerusalem” after the destruction of its 57 synagogues.

Just to comment on the original thread: Semitic refers to a LANGUAGE group (not a race). Anti-Semitic as anything other than anti-Jewish is non-sensical. Who is going to be against an obscure academic grouping of languages? Roughly half of Ethiopians speak a Semitic language. Can any racists tell them apart to know if they hate one because of the language the speak and the other only because they are Ethiopian?

The term “anti-Semitic” was invented by Jew haters as a euphemism meaning anti-Jewish.

Furthermore, the claim that Jews are just members of a religion (like Muslims or Christians), but not a nation (thus not worthy of self-determination) has also become popular. (As have allegations that Ashkenazi Jews are really just Khazars. Oh, so they are a people, but a different people.) Various genetic studies in recent years paint a different reality:





Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: