March 16, 2004
Media Coverage of ADC's Merriam-Webster's Campaign
March 8, 2002
Arab Group: Change Dictionary Entry on Anti-semitism
By Ori Nir
Washington - An Arab-American organization is demanding that the Merriam Webster company drop references to "opposition to Zionism" and "sympathy for the opponents of Israel" from its definition of anti-semitism.
The American-Arab Anti Discrimination Committee, the leading Arab civil rights organization, yesterday sent a letter to Merriam Webster demanding that the changes be made to the "Third New International Dictionary - Unabridged." The Arab group asked that Merriam Webster publicly repudiate the definition, send errata sheets to correct the dictionaries in libraries and rephrase the definition in future editions.
The current entry on anti-semitism reads as follows: "1) hostility toward Jews as a religious or racial minority group, often accompanied by social, political or economic discrimination (2) opposition to Zionism (3) sympathy for the opponents of Israel."
In correspondence with Dan Walsh, a Maryland graphics artist who has recently launched a public campaign to differentiate between anti-semitism and expressions of opposition to Israel, Merriam Webster stated that the latter part of the definition is a "relic" and "will most probably disappear from the next edition of the International" dictionary. The publication house refused, however, to issue a public clarification or a correction.
The Arab group's communications director, Hussein Ibish, wrote a letter to Merriam Webster's senior editor Steve Perrault, arguing that the dictionary "conflates the first sense of the definition with two spurious ones, thereby diminishing and even trivializing the very concept of anti-Semitism... Smears and impugns the motives of all those who support the human and political rights of Palestinians, undermines the efforts of Arab and Jewish groups working for Middle East peace and stigmatizes legitimate political opinions and activities."
Perrault said that the letter was passed along to the president of Merriam Webster. A spokesman for the company, Arthur Bicknell, told the Forward March 4 that a new edition of the dictionary, with an updated entry, is expected by the end of this decade. He said that sending errata sheets to libraries as a temporary fix is beyond the capacity of a small publishing house such as Merriam Webster.