Friday, July 25, 2014


A little over ten years ago, I opposed the U.S. invasion of Iraq and I was called "anti-American." This year, I oppose Israel's war in Gaza and I am called "anti-Israel." I think both charges are inaccurate--the belief that a country is making a horrible error in judgment and harming a lot of people in the process does not mean I am against that country or its people--but that is not what this post is about.

What this post is about the linguistic issue. Why are the terms that are used "anti-American" and "anti-Israel"? Why isn't it ever "anti-America", which is more parallel to the term "anti-Israel"? Or if "anti-American" is the right way to go, why wouldn't the other one be "anti-Israeli"? Is it anti- the country or the people? Why does "anti-American" sound more natural than "anti-America" but "anti-Israel" sounds more natural than "anti-Israeli"?

Do the natural-sounding antis vary by country? I must admit I don't have a good sense for anywhere else. Is it "anti-Colombia" or "anti-Colombian"? "Anti-Senegalese" or anti-Senegal"? "Anti-Tajikistani" or "anti-Tajikistan" (or, I guess, "anti-Tajik" if you want to suggest your beef is with the ethnic group and not the nationality)? They all sound equally natural to me. Is one more correct than the other?