An article in Haaretz by Samuel Lebens argues that 'Jews are not a race, but a nation'. I'm interested here in the first part of that two-part claim. I didn't need persuading of it, because it's what I've always thought. But it reminded me of an email I received a while ago, after posting about anti-Semitism as a form of racism; my correspondent said that anti-Semitism couldn't be this because the Jews are not a race.
So, if the Jews are indeed not a race, does it mean that anti-Semitism can't be a type of racism? I don't believe so. I have long been puzzled by the usage one sometimes reads or hears 'racism and anti-Semitism' - as if the latter were not contained by the former. But, in any case, legally anti-Semitism is certainly covered by standard definitions and prohibitions that deal with racism and racial discrimination. Thus, the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination specifies (at Part I, Article 1) that:
the term "racial discrimination" shall mean any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin which has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal footing, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural or any other field of public life.
Note 'ethnic origin' there. This country's Race Relations Act includes under the heading 'Racial discrimination' a similar clause - see Part I, 1(b)(ii) - covering 'the colour, race, nationality or ethnic or national origins of the person'.
The same point may be made philosophically: anti-Semitism can be a form of racism even if the Jews aren't a race. How so? It is arguable that 'race' is not itself a sound category, and though I don't propose to pursue that argument now, I will use it as the basis of a thought experiment. Merely suppose, then, that it has been established that there is nothing objectively corresponding to the category of race. This wouldn't mean the phenomenon of racism was non-existent. For if there are people who think that others are part of a race which is inferior or malign in some way, to be scorned or hated or treated disadvantageously, then there is reason to retain the term 'racism' to describe such beliefs and the behaviour resulting from them. (Thanks: StM.)