I, Thou, and You

Dec. 10 2014

Much as vulgar language is acceptable in certain social situations but not in others, different forms of address are appropriate for different situations. Many European languages distinguish between formal and familiar forms of the pronoun “you” (e.g., vous and tu in French). Since English lost this distinction long ago, and Hebrew never had it, Philologos hypothesizes about how they compensate.

I suspect that languages that lack the tu/vous distinction tend to resort to nicknames much more than languages that have it. French, certainly, has nothing like the pairings of William/Bill, Robert/Bob, Richard/Dick, John/Jack, Albert/Al, Daniel/Dan, and so forth that are systematic in English. And Israeli Hebrew, in this respect, is very much like English. There is hardly a name in it that does not have one or more possible nicknames, many of them formed by suffixed endearments that generally come from Yiddish. For Yosef, there is Yosi or Yoske; for Avraham, Avi or Avrum; for Moshe, Moishele, Moshke or Moishik; for Ya’akov, Kobi or Yankele; for Sarah, Sarke or Sarale; for Miriam, Miri or Mirele; for Rakhel, Rokhi or Rokhele, etc. And there are additional suffixes like the Slavic –ushke or the Ladino –iko that can be appended to many other names.

Editors’ Note: This was Philologos’ final column in the Forward. We are pleased to announce that, beginning in January, his columns will appear biweekly in Mosaic.

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More about: Hebrew, Ladino, Language, Yiddish

Zionists Can, and Do, Criticize Israel. Are Anti-Zionists Capable of Criticizing Anti-Semitism?

Dec. 12 2018

Last week, the New York Times columnist Michelle Goldberg defended the newly elected anti-Israel congresswomen Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar, ostensibly arguing that anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism aren’t identical. Abe Greenwald comments:

Tlaib . . . has tweeted and retweeted her enthusiasm for terrorists such as Rasmea Odeh, who murdered two American students in a Jerusalem supermarket in 1969. If Tlaib’s anti-Zionism is of the Jew-loving kind, she has a funny way of showing it.

Ilhan Omar, for her part, once tweeted, “Israel has hypnotized the world, may Allah awaken the people and help them see the evil doings of Israel.” And wouldn’t you know it, just because she believes that Zionist hypnotists have cast global spells masking Israeli evil, some people think she’s anti-Semitic! Go figure! . . .

Goldberg spends the bulk of her column trying very hard to uncouple American Jewishness from Israel. To do that, she enumerates Israel’s sins, as she sees them. . . . [But] her basic premise is at odds with reality. Zionists aren’t afraid of finding fault with Israel and don’t need to embrace anti-Zionism in order to [do so]. A poll conducted in October by the Jewish Electorate Institute found that a majority of Americans Jews have no problem both supporting Israel and criticizing it. And unlike Goldberg, they have no problem criticizing anti-Semitism, either.

Goldberg gives the game away entirely when she discusses the discomfort that liberal American Jews have felt in “defending multi-ethnic pluralism here, where they’re in the minority, while treating it as unspeakable in Israel, where Jews are the majority.” She adds: “American white nationalists, some of whom liken their project to Zionism, love to poke at this contradiction.” Read that again. She thinks the white nationalists have a point. Because, really, what anti-Semite doesn’t?

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More about: Anti-Semitism, Israel & Zionism, New York Times