NSW Parliament’s Hansard adopts growing consensus on the spelling of “antisemitism”

January 17, 2022 by J-Wire Newsdesk
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The NSW Parliament’s Hansard department – which officially records parliamentary proceedings – has adopted the official spelling of “antisemitism” over the increasingly archaic common misspelling “antisemitism”.

Walt Secord

This brings NSW Parliament into line with growing international practice.

The change was communicated last week by the Editor of Hansard, Ms Vanessa Schlenert, after representations from NSW Labor frontbencher Walt Secord, deputy chair of the NSW Parliamentary Friends of Israel. He is also Shadow Minister for Police and Counter-Terrorism and NSW Patron of the Labor Israel Action Committee.

“Unfortunately, we are entering an era in which groups are trying to appropriate the word or obfuscate its meaning.  Make no mistake, the word antisemitism has ever and always only referred to the ancient and illogical hatred of the Jewish people,” Mr Secord said.

Over the last two decades, several international organisations have officially adopted the spelling – including the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, the Associated Press, the US Holocaust Memorial and Museum, renowned international Holocaust historian and Biden-nominee as special envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism, Professor Deborah Lipstadt, the Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ), and the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies.

Wikipedia had extensively debated the matter and carries a well-researched entry on the subject.

In a letter to NSW Hansard last month, Mr Secord cited Jewish philosopher Emil Fackenheim’s view that: “the spelling ought to be antisemitism without the hyphen, dispelling the notion that there is an entity ‘Semitism’ which ‘antisemitism’ opposes”.

Mr Secord said: “Antisemitism is not directed at Semitic languages or Semitic people as a whole. It is directed solely at Jews.”

Mr Secord said the spelling was brought to his attention after giving a speech on November 17 entitled “Anti-Semitism” in the official Hansard record. Subsequently, Mr Secord wrote to Hansard providing examples, a case for dropping the hyphen and an explanation.

“Antisemitism was coined specifically to ‘give an air of modernity and science to old-fashioned Jew-hatred’. It was the original spelling and it specifically referred to the ancient hatred of Jews as profound, irrational, and indeed the oldest hatred.

“When I was a journalist at the Australian Jewish News from 1988 to 1991, under the then-editor Susan Bures and then-deputy editor Vic Alhadeff, the newspaper had an internal discussion and adopted the spelling. For the record, the Australian Jewish News was one of the first Australian publications to adopt the spelling,” he said.

Mr Secord added that he was pleased that NSW Hansard listened to the arguments and responded in a professional manner.

Ms Schlenert wrote: “I would be more than happy to be guided by the community and the evidence you presented below to introduce the `antisemitism’ spelling in to the Hansard style guide. The Hansard editors will use that spelling going forward. I have also reached out to the Editor of the Macquarie dictionary to raise the issue and seek their view.”

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