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The Jewish Conspiracy To Change My Mind
I never had much of an opinion on the whole Israel-Palestinian affair, because — true to my brand — I avoid opining on what I know nothing about. My horrified reaction to Hamas’s attacks morphed into existential despondency when I saw others cheering on the massacres with inexplicable glee. My curiosity was piqued, so I read up on the topic with the specific goal of understanding what could motivate joy as a response to carnage. I expected a heavy slog and wrenching ethical dilemmas, all submerged within murky ambiguity. Instead, I was very surprised at how lucid the delineations of the conflict were, and how lopsided the moral clarity was.
I very quickly shifted from ‘ignorant agnosticism’ towards generally favoring Israel’s position on the matter (I can't recall ever changing my mind on an issue so dramatically). I don’t want to turn this into a “midwit deludes himself into thinking he’s a savant after some Wikipedia perusal” meme — I’m absolutely no expert, but I can’t grasp what I’m missing.
I’ll start with my opinion on various facets of the conflict, and then finish off with some theories I have for why this issue generates such implacable disagreement.
Motte-and-Bailey: I admit, I never knew what ‘Zionist’ meant except as a grave denunciation yet the Zionist movement has been fairly transparent about its goals from its beginning in the 19th century. You could categorize its aim across a spectrum, simplified from least to most radical: 1) Jewish homeland somewhere,1 2) Jewish homeland somewhere in the Levant, and 3) Exclusive and total Jewish domination of the entire Holy Land. Both pro & anti-Zionism labels have a strategic ambiguity that can be intentionally levered by any extremist wishing to blend in the crowd. There’s a similar dynamic with the Palestinian chant ‘From the river to the sea’, because is it calling for totally and completely erasing Israel from the map? Or is it simply advocating for a coexisting independent Palestine in both the West Bank (river) and Gaza (sea)? Whatever you want! I see the motivations for a Jewish homeland in the Levant to be sound and understandable. The scattered Jewish diaspora suffered unrelenting oppression across millenia virtually anywhere they went, culminating in some particularly nasty pogroms within the Russian Empire in the late 19th century. The general land borders the Zionists agreed upon weren’t pulled out of thin air, and although the-land-formerly-known-as-Canaan exchanged bloody hands multiple times, the area historically represented the only cogent Jewish political entities to have ever existed. Zionist migration had already begun in earnest throughout the early 20th century, and the horrors of the Holocaust only further emphasized the necessity for a Jewish state.
Palestinian Land: The area was already inhabited by Arab Muslims by the start of early Zionist migration. The Arabs too have a historical claim to the area and also benefited from being last in the very long list of adverse possession feuds. If a stranger shows up to your figurative house and suggests taking only 20% in response to your attempts to evict them, it’s not unreasonable to tell them to fuck off. The Zionists had way more of a diplomatic bargaining chip after the Holocaust, but either way it wasn’t unreasonable for the Arabs to reject ceding 56% of the land that was Mandatory Palestine. I don’t want to frame this as a “shoulda negotiated” fable, but the practical outcome of the ensuing 1948 war resulted in the creation of Israel with about 78% of the territory. It’s reasonable for any loser of a war to hold a grudge against their conquerors.
The Nakba: The human toll of the 1948 war on the Palestinians shouldn’t be diminished or overlooked. The war resulted in around 25,000 total dead and the displacement of 700,000 Palestinians, an event forever commemorated by the Arabic word for “catastrophe” — Nakba. Displacement doesn’t just mean a change of address; it was a wrenching life upheaval. The Nakba led to squalid refugee camps, outbreaks of diseases like typhoid, and the erasure of villages that had stood for centuries. Material and immaterial culture — homes, orchards, community centers, dialects, local traditions— were lost, perhaps irretrievably. This was very Bad and unfortunately all too common.
Vendetta Forever: Human history is rife with violence, often fueled by ancestral grudges. There’s nothing wrong with suggesting that some blood feuds should have been abandoned long ago. Next door to Israel, the ongoing Syrian Civil War has a death toll (500k-600k dead) nearing that of the Nakba's displacement figure, alongside a global refugee crisis.2 After 12 years of destructive stalemates, the best outcome Syrians can hope for is to solidify the current status quo; it’s not plausible for any side to conclusively end the conflict without additional bloodbath. But imagine a Syrian refugee in Turkey disavowing this hypothetical ceasefire and instead pledging a lifelong vendetta — as well as the lives of all his future descendants — fixated on reclaiming his family's vineyard in Homs from Al-Assad’s forces. The wounds are still fresh but steering someone away from such an insane and self-destructive fanaticism isn’t unreasonable. And yet, that’s not the reception Palestinian grievances from 1948 land grabs receive, despite their much older expiration date. I don’t want to turn this into a catastrophe pageant competition; we can acknowledge the suffering someone’s ancestors endured while also reminding those living that their unyielding attachment to past vendettas has only brought further ruin to themselves and their families. The fanatical obsession over relatively resource-barren land simply cannot be explained by just tallying up the generational wealth the expelled Palestinians lost out on; there’s much more than is admitted to here (more on this later).
Arab Humiliation: After the 1948 war, Israel’s borders were left on a standstill with an armistice agreement with Egypt taking over Gaza, and Jordan grabbing the West Bank. It’s tediously irrelevant to litigate the ‘who started it?’ chain, but Israel (along with the UK and France) did indeed invade Egypt in 1956 over the Suez Crisis, though they pulled out after a week and Egypt agreed not to block their shipping lanes through the Straits of Tiran. In 1967, Egypt, Jordan, and Syria planned a surprise invasion against Israel but instead got absolutely trounced in what was named the Six Day War. Their invasion didn’t just spectacularly fail on its intended merits, but every invading country lost significant territory to Israel’s counter-offensive (Golan Heights from Syria, West Bank from Jordan, and Gaza Strip plus the entire fucking Sinai Peninsula from Egypt). The Arab League convened three months later and doubled down on their vendetta against Israel, issuing the Three Noes Resolution against Israel: No peace, no negotiation, no recognition. Not content with their first military invasion, they tried another surprise attack six years later in 1973. The Yom Kippur War wasn’t as quick, taking slightly less than three weeks to resolve in yet another Israeli victory. It’s hard to overstate just how much of an existential humiliation for the Arab world this time period was. The Arabs were ostensibly blessed by Allah Himself, and fighting in their home desert turf, and yet they couldn’t put a dent on the Yahud? Knowing full well they couldn’t match the Jews in conventional warfare, much of the Palestinian cause shifted towards “unconventional” methods of indiscriminate rocket attacks, suicide bombings, & kidnappings. It’s reasonable to discount the Arab countries’ self-serving claims about being motivated by the plight of the Palestinian people,3 because instead of assisting them directly they squandered tens of thousands of lives on foolish military adventures.
Israel Sometimes Lies: Israel, like virtually any other government, has a history and incentives to lie about its actions. The most notable example is the 1996 Qana massacre where IDF lobbed artillery shells at a UN compound in Southern Lebanon, killing over 100 Lebanese civilians. The IDF has maintained it was all totally an accident and initially repeatedly denied they had any reconnaissance drones in the area, until serendipitous UN footage proved otherwise. In 2009, Israel initially denied ever deploying white phosphorus in Gaza, until the video evidence from journalists on the ground was too overwhelming to ignore. In the current phase of the conflict, Israel is simultaneously asserting that 1) Hamas militants were able to break through a heavily-monitored security fence and go on a rampage because of an unprecedented intelligence failure and 2) Israel has the capabilities to execute targeted strikes against Hamas leadership while minimizing civilian casualties within the urban jungles of Gaza. It’s perfectly reasonable to be skeptical of any self-serving claims made by Israel absent any corroborating evidence.
Orthogonal Violence: I’m not a pacifist, but anyone who decides to deploy violence as a tool should be extremely careful they’re not simply succumbing towards quenching a primeval bloodthirst. Any application of violence should be oriented towards a specific goal, proportional to the objective, and carried out with humility.4 I wrote about how the relatively bygone Punch A Nazi discourse failed all three prongs: 1) vague hypothetical that the spread of dangerous ideas will be curtailed if enough “Nazis” are punched in the face, 2) Antifa’s awful target acquisition meant random Bernie supporters got metal pipes to the skull, and 3) the violence enactors were generally extremely hostile to any criticism about their tactics. Within this narrow framework5 I’m willing to say that the suicide bombing of CIA base involved in drone strikes in Afghanistan was justified, as was the targeted assassination of the architects behind the Armenian genocide, and as were either tête-à-tête military battles or guerilla actions between Jewish and Arab forces in 1948.
Perverse Excuses: In contrast, I find no justification for indiscriminate attacks on orthogonal targets. What exactly is the objective and how does murdering Olympic athletes, or bombing a discotheque, or bombing a pizzeria, or murdering bus passengers, or sniping a baby in a stroller get anyone closer to it? The rockets Hamas regularly launches against Israel are slap-dash affairs, jury-rigged from water pipes and common materials. There’s no guidance system to speak of, and the most precise aim Hamas could hope for is [waves vaguely over the distance]. Their only practical purpose is to sow psychological trauma on a civilian population, which is as cogent of a definition for terrorism you could get. I don’t believe I’ve encountered anyone directly defending the strategic merits of indiscriminate unguided rocket attacks, or music festival mass shootings. Instead, I see either excuses about how we outsiders shouldn’t cast judgement upon the anguished and desperate actions of an oppressed populace, or affirmative declarations that “resistance” is justified through “any means necessary”. Hamas leadership parrot this argument, as seen in this rare moment where Ghazi Hamad breaks into English to say that as the victims in this conflict, anything they do is by definition justified. This view is beyond heinous, because it has no bounds. It posits an insane moral outlook that once someone is anointed as sufficiently oppressed, their actions — no matter what! — are indefinitely beyond reproach or scrutiny. This is indistinguishable from how some of my domestic violence clients jettison any semblance of responsibility for their abuse, by focusing exclusively on how they were “provoked” into ripping out a chunk of their girlfriend’s scalp. This is a framework I thought was too fucking stupid to entertain seriously, because the parody writes itself. We always can and must maintain the capacity to simultaneous condemn and empathize, without requiring us to plunge into the abyss of moral sociopathy. Jeffrey Dahmer’s actions can’t suddenly become righteous endeavors if he happened to be a Palestinian eating Israelis. And no matter how righteous a cause might be, it will never be worth having this as one of its Wikipedia pages.
Security Dilemma: I am a proponent of 100% open borders (for both trade & people) but concede it’s not a tenable position during ongoing hostilities. It’s true, both Gaza and the West Bank are surrounded by formidable security barriers that require Palestinians to be subjected to intrusive, arbitrary, and often humiliating security screening, but it was largely built in response to a wave of suicide bombings during the Second Intifada. I would love to see a free flow of goods and people but any security relaxation whatsoever is immediately exploited, with children as young as 14 regularly employed into martyrdom. I have no idea what the alternative solution is supposed to be here.
Placating the Extremists: Both sides™ of the conflict contend with warring internal strife. On the Israeli side, you have hardcore Zionists who are religiously motivated to habitate as much of the Promised Land as possible, chant “Death to Arabs”, and are now forming roving gangs to dispense retributive violence in the West Bank and elsewhere. On the Palestinian side, you have Hamas and its implacable founding principles calling for the absolute and total elimination of all Jews, and a RETVRN to a worldwide caliphate. The messy logistics of coalition politics necessitates cooperating with unsavory actors lest the whole structure irreparably collapses. Any moderate who strays too far from the flock faces serious risk from the fanatics with any sizeable power, which is why Yitzhak Rabin’s openness to a peace plan got him assassinated by a right-wing Jewish activist. This also explains Israel’s unjustifiable & needlessly antagonist (IMO) settlement policy of sort-of-maybe-not-but-actually-yes encouraging civilian takeover of contested territory. This also explains Yasser Arafat’s intransigence during the Camp David talks, refusing to provide any counter-offer after rejecting Israeli’s proposal. The moderate wing of either side balances benefiting from the zealot’s “enthusiasm”, while also making sure not to scare the hoes (by hoes I mean the international community of course).
Apartheid State: Given the constant sloganeering about “Apartheid” and given that Israel was founded to be an ethnostate intended to prioritize the interests of a Jewish population, I was surprised to learn about the conditions of Arab-Israelis. 21% of the population is Arab — almost all of whom are Muslim. Arab-Israelis are nominally afforded the exact same rights as any other Israeli citizen, though there remains rampant disparities in income, employment, and municipal funding. I don’t want to pull a Kendi here and claim the only explanation for disparate outcomes is discrimination, because it very well could be a ‘pipeline problem’ that stems from the aforementioned disparities in public services, or perhaps differences much more inherent. Arabs are exempt from Israel’s compulsory military service, which traditionally provides a highly-respected advancement ladder. Arab-Israelis are allowed to volunteer though this virtually never happens but the ones that do are well assimilated into Israeli society, such as the highly-celebrated Captain Amos Yarkoni. But set all that aside for now and just assume that Arab/Jewish disparities are strictly the result of incessant discrimination. It’s true that Arab-Israelis earn about 60% as much income as Jewish-Israeli households, yet this roughly translates into an average daily wage of $50 for Arab-Israelis compared to $32 in the West Bank, and $13 in Gaza. I don’t know how directly comparable the ratios are to individual income, but as a rough metric Israel’s $54k GDP per capita is more than ten times what is available in neighboring Egypt, Lebanon, and Jordan. By any material measure, Arab-Israelis fare much better under Israeli governance than under any neighboring Arab governance.
Decolonization Narrative: The “colonization” narrative is facile and misleading but let’s assume the truth of the charge, what exactly is the complaint? I used to think the “only functioning democracy in the region” mantra was an exaggeration but no, it’s true. Some Arab-Israelis even serve in parliament. If the worry is a lack of political self-determination among non-Jewish Israelis, the concern doesn’t appear substantiated. Personally, political self-determination has little inherent value to me; it’s useful only insofar as it helps foster governance better tailored to a community’s needs and if the two aims are ever in tension, I will always prioritize material benefits (give me Hong Kong under British colonial rule over democratic India any day of the week). Israeli governance is already demonstrably vastly superior from a wealth perspective, so I don’t understand the complaint lodged. I also personally would always prioritize a cosmopolitan open society over the self-determination of followers of a repressive religion, and nowhere is that schism funnier than with the unironic “Queers for Palestine”. Palestinian culture has regressive aspects I have no interest in seeing replicated. Beyond economic comfort and civil freedoms, Israel has demonstrated a broader commitment to cosmopolitan multiculturalism, as illustrated by how the Temple Mount is governed. It’s the former site of the destroyed Second Temple (Judaism’s holiest site) which was later replaced by the Al-Aqsa Mosque (Islam’s third holiest site) and despite its central importance within Jewish lore, I was surprised to find out that Israel has prohibited all Jewish prayer since its takeover of the area in 1967 after the Six Day War. The Temple Mount area is governed by a religious committee composed only of Muslims members. I can’t fathom the countervailing scenario where Muslims are willing to prohibit prayers at Al-Aqsa.
Sorry for that encyclopedia up there, I had to get it out of my system. There are no doubt some valid Palestinian grievances scattered among the bloodied ashes above, but I can’t shake off the conclusion that much of the unrelenting rage lobbed towards Israel is driven overwhelmingly by petty nationalistic pride, fanatical religious zealotry, or just plain ethnic bigotry. Again, I’m not saying all! Previously, I would roll my eyes at the reflexive refrain that any criticism of Israel is driven by anti-Jewish6 bigotry. I was generally skeptical of bare allegations of bigotry in any context (as a baseline), but particularly within Israeli discourse given the potential for nationalistic motives to skew reasoning. Some of my skepticism remains warranted, but I readily admit I had seriously underestimated the ambient level of anti-Jewish bigotry.
There’s been a real mask-off moment among the Pro-Palestinian movement, with no pushback against the atrocious message discipline. Shortly after Hamas' incursions, before Israel's Gaza pulverization campaign, we had crowds in Sydney with “Gas the jews!” chants. The posters of Israeli children kidnapped by Hamas continues to be irresistible bait for folks driven into an uncontrollable rage to tearing them down, and in the process showcasing their barely-veiled animosity. I feel like I’m insulting everyone’s intelligence here because they’re not even trying to hide it, otherwise why would anyone cite the expulsion of the Khaybar Jewish community by the Muslims in 628 CE supposedly to protest a country founded in 1948?
The early Zionists secured land through legal purchases, though the transactions were often made with absentee landlords and came as a surprise to the occupants. The Palestinian Arabs reacted with enmity towards the growing Jewish presence in the area, leading to a wave of deadly riots and revolts throughout the 1920s and 1930s. One way to describe the Palestinian reaction here is as violent anti-immigrant vigilantism fueled by racial animus. The enmity was obvious from the neighboring governments too; few instances in history rival the unequivocal refusal to even entertain negotiation or peace as a possibility, as expressed in the Khartoum Declaration. The closest historical analogue I could fathom is maybe Carthago delenda est but even that one was a warning about the threat of a geopolitical rival, not a promise to forever disavow any diplomatic entreaties.
It’s funny how easily the phrase “economic anxiety” is lobbed as a punchline to skewer the notion that Trump supporters are motivated by anything except virulent racism. A couple hundred people wielding tiki torches is presented as definitive proof of America’s enduring and widespread racism problem, but brays to slaughter the Yahudis is reflexively dismissed as understandable human reactions. If that’s your position, the question always remains what evidence would convince you otherwise about their true motivations? If every call to arms about killing all the Jews can be justified within the oppression rubric, you now have an unfalsifiable theory that is immune from scrutiny.
There’s an argument on the Palestinian “resistance” side I’ve seen from several sources that apes the misguided politics of Identitarian Deference. The idea being that someone’s willingness to detonate a suicide vest among a crowd of people is conclusive proof of their desperation, because no rational person would do something so terminal unless they were truly pushed to the brink with no other option. In other words, their depravity is evidence of their virtue.
There are so many things wrong with this argument but what I’ll focus on is its assumption of rationality, because human beings are capable of acting in all sorts of deranged ways for all sorts of reasons. We have cults whose members are subject to what is functionally elaborate mind control. We have debilitating mental illnesses that rob people’s ability to tell what is real and what isn’t. And of course, we have fanatical religions that can maintain a robust foothold despite indoctrinating its followers into self-obliteration.
Gaza polling is not totally reliable, but recent findings indicated tepid support for Hamas and its apocalyptic mission, clocking in only at 20%. Yet it’s difficult to imagine how such a severe ideology can remain neatly contained within its own bucket. The mentality behind the Hamas militant gleefully bragging to his parents about all the Jews he killed cannot spawn out of thin air, nor could his parents’ immediate emotionally-overwhelmed congratulations. The Hamas-run show Tomorrow’s Pioneers aired the most deranged children’s television segment I have ever seen. In one episode, children sang about how qualified they are for martyrdom (can you believe it gets worse?) and in another, the actual children of Reem Riyashi are invited to sing a song written from their perspectives, about how it’s ok their mom couldn’t hug them on the last day they saw her…because her arm was too busy holding a bomb.
What’s the counter-argument here? Is the homicidal propaganda taken out of context? Is the claim that it’s not representative? Maybe that’s true, but how can you tell? It’s baffling that anyone seriously believes the Palestinian cause is primarily motivated by someone’s great-great-grandparent losing their farm 75 years. Al-Aqsa Mosque imagery is inextricably linked with the broader messaging. Hamas names everything after it (TV, brigades, floods, etc.), and Israel’s administration of the Mosque itself remains a point of serious contention. Zealots are incentivized to garner broader support for their fanaticism by sanewashing it into palatability, and the unique amalgamation of revolutionary Marxism and Arab nationalism afforded a readily available mantle:
In this new reading, the possibility of transcendence outside history was reworked into the possibility of transcendence inside history through revolution. Salvation was secularized, and atheized, into temporal salvation brought on by a political collective will. That Islam is a philosophical totality to be achieved through national liberation and socialism, and progressive revolution against the forces of colonialism, Judaism (particularly as embodied in Israel), and reaction (embodied in conservative pro-Western Arab monarchies), became the generic message.
Longstanding land grievances get repackaged as anti-colonial struggle, and genocidal religious fanaticism gets rebranded as anti-imperialist resistance. So when we are presented with acts of extreme desperation, demanding our unquestioning empathy for their purported plight, we can decline. We have the capacity to think critically and carefully scrutinize their self-professed motivation and see if it’s in accord with reality. Sometimes we are intentionally fed a misleadingly sanewashed narrative, and sometimes the behavior we’re observing is not the result of rational faculties.
I did not revisit some personal interactions until recent events prompted otherwise. Whenever I visited my family back home in Morocco, no other topic generated as much acrimony as Israel. It’s a common trope for home families to worry their emigrated members will be brainwashed into secularism, and bizarrely the most scrutiny I ever received from them about my life in the United States wasn’t about whether I ate bacon or drank alcohol, but whether I was friends with any Jews. The Yahud aren’t to be trusted, they warned, as evidenced by the fact that no Jew was ever killed on 9/11, or by the fact that Mossad created ISIS as a bid to make Arabs look bad (I’m not joking, these claims are unironically professed by several of my family members). I assumed their baffling conspiracies were the understandable byproduct of what had to be justifiable rage against Israel.
I admit deep embarrassment at how under-informed I previously was about this topic. Everything I wrote above took time obviously,7 but it was all based on readily available sources (ChatGPT was also an amazing help in quickly filling in gaps and finding counter-arguments). My operating assumption used to be that this was all too complicated of an issue to untangle. I presume I might have been influenced by the underdog memeology of a child throwing a rock at a soldier.
I’m also willing to blame media coverage on this topic. This Vox video purporting to ‘explain’ Gaza is the perfect illustration of this genre of lying by omission. See how much it breezily glosses over the lead-up to the 1947 civil war:
In 1947, as the British prepared to leave they left the fate of Palestine up to a newly formed United Nations who voted to divide Palestine into a Jewish state and an Arab state. Soon, Zionist forces and militias began to forcibly expel hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from their land...
So the UN had a plan but the Jews responded by just kicking people out? Damn that’s so crazy! That segue belongs in a museum somewhere, as it eviscerates decades of conspiracy theorizing about who really controls the media.
Ultimately, I find very little to sympathize with behind Palestinian militancy. Except for the ongoing West Bank encroachments, I can’t take any of the land grievances from 1948, 1967, or 1973 seriously; at least not seriously enough to justify the knee-deep bloodshed. I can’t support any movement, no matter how righteous its cause might be, that employs sadistically orthogonal violence. I can’t endorse any culture that punishes sexual and political non-conformity with forceful repression. And I want absolutely nothing to do with any ideology capable of such self-serving justifications towards its destructive fanaticism.
Despite the zealous wing in its own house, its history of covering-up its war crimes, and its ongoing settlement expansion campaign, Israel remains the obvious choice for whom to favor if I had to pick. I’m neither Jewish nor do I have any interest in a religious ethnostate, but out of the available options I’d much rather have a society that can build up material comfort enviable to its oil-laden neighbors, establish a semblance of multicultural cosmopolitanism, and provide a haven of responsive governance within a region known for its rarity.
I remain open to having my mind changed. You may attempt this in several ways, including but not limited to:
Point out any specific factual errors or misunderstandings in anything I wrote. If you believe any of my (mostly Wikipedia) sources are too biased or otherwise unreliable, explain why and suggest alternatives.
If you object to Zionism, specify what kind and why.
If you believe persistent Palestinian land grievances remain warranted today, be specific about which ones (Early migrations? 1948? 1967?) and explain why. Also make sure to specify if your standard applies to all displaced people anywhere else, or if it’s unique to the Palestinians’.
If you object to how Israel deploys its military or security apparatus, specify if you disagree with their goals or with their tactics, and be specific about what they should do differently.
If you object to my comparative preference for Israeli’s model of governance and culture, be specific about which aspects of Palestinian governance/culture have superior merits.
If you disagree with my criticism of oppression-status granting infinite moral immunity, be specific about what limiting principle you’d propose (if any).
That’s it. Thank you for weathering through this with me.
Salam & Shalom.
Around the same time as the Nakba, the 1947 India-Pakistan Partition resulted in up to 2M dead and up to 20M displaced. It feels unconscionably perverse to flatten the sheer scale of human tragedy here into a glossed reference to “millions” but it’s all the time we have.
Israel’s Arab neighbors have had a contentious relationship with the Palestinian cause, despite the superficial optics. Palestinian Fedayeen for example tried to overthrow the King of Jordan in 1970. When they got expelled from Jordan, they tried to use Lebanon as a staging ground for attacks against Israel, events which culminated into the protracted Lebanese Civil War. And today, Egypt still enforces its half of the Gaza blockade.
For the love of Allah please remember that I am only assessing whether the violence is justified within the contours of bounded scenarios; I am not making any larger pronouncements about the righteousness of any side’s cause.
Anti-Semitism is such a misleading term as ‘Semitic’ is a language family, not an ethnic categorization, and includes Arabic!
Many thanks to the Baileyites for their invaluable feedback.