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The accents of the Israeli team

For many, following all the ins and outs of the Israeli-Palestinian saga can be confusing.  Hamas did that, the Israeli army did that.

They started the war. No, they started the war.  They broke the ceasefire.  No, they broke the ceasefire.  Hummus belongs to them. No, it belongs to them.

It is all very overwhelming.  One thing is glaringly clear.

American journalists seem to have a much easier time having conversations with Israeli officials than they do with their Palestinian counterparts.  The reason is obvious.

All of Israel’s official mouthpieces speak perfect unaccented English.  And why wouldn’t they?  After all, they are not from Israel.

 

Amer Zahr published this August 6, 2014:

Zahr is a Palestinian American comedian, writer, and speaker living in Michigan. He is also the editor of “The Civil Arab.” Email Amer Zahr.

Here are the cast of characters acting as Israel’s cheerleaders to the American public.

1. Peter Lerner is the foreign press spokesperson for the Israel Defense Forces.  He was born in London in 1973.  He immigrated to Israel in 1985.

Hebrew, one of the two official languages of Israel (yes, Arabic is an official language too, because Israel is a democracy), is his second language.  You might have wondered why Peter Lerner sounds more like a spokesperson for the Queen than he does for Israel.  Why wouldn’t he? He is, after all, a foreigner in the land of Israel.

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2. Dore Gold is a diplomat who has served in many Israeli governments.  He was once Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations.  He is currently the president of an Israeli think tank in Jerusalem.  He was born in Connecticut, attended high school in Massachusetts, and earned a BA, MA, and PhD from Columbia University in New York City.

He has appeared on television numerous times during Israel’s latest offensive defending and explaining the policies of the Netanyahu government.  As you might expect, his English is perfect.  Mr. Gold lives in Jerusalem.

He might even live in a house that once belonged to Palestinians:  trust me, in Jerusalem, it’s a safe bet.  You might have wondered why Dore Gold sounds like a Yankees fan.  Why wouldn’t he? He is, after all, a foreigner in the land of Israel.

3. Mark Regev is the official spokesman of the Netanyahu government.  In 1960, he was born in Australia, where he grew up and finished college.

He immigrated to Israel at the age of 22, when he began his graduate studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.  He has remained in his adopted homeland ever since.  Hebrew is also his second language.

You might have wondered why the official Israeli spokesman sounds like Crocodile Dundee.  Why wouldn’t he? He is, after all, a foreigner in the land of Israel.

4. Michael Oren was most recently Israel’s ambassador to the United States.  He was born in upstate New York.  He earned his MA and PhD from Princeton University in New Jersey.  He immigrated to Israel in his mid-twenties. He has lectured at dozens of American campuses.

He articulately defends Israeli policies on American televisions across our great country.  Well, he is usually articulate, if you don’t count his recent interview on MSNBC when he suddenly (and quite conveniently) couldn’t hear Andrea Mitchell when she asked him about reports that Israel had eavesdropped on John Kerry last year.

But even when he flusters and fumbles, he speaks eloquent East Coast English.  You might have wondered why Michael Oren sounds like an American university professor.  Why wouldn’t he? He is, after all, a foreigner in the land of Israel.

5. Micky Rosenfeld is the Israeli police spokesperson to the foreign press.  He speaks English flawlessly.  That’s because he is English.  Yup, he was born in England and grew up there.  He is blond and blue-eyed.  There’s nothing wrong with that, of course.  He grew up with Duran Duran, the English Premiere League, and bland food.

The garlicky cuisine of his new homeland must have come as a bit of a shock to him.  You might have wondered why Micky Rosenfeld sounds like Piers Morgan.  Why wouldn’t he? He is, after all, a foreigner in the land of Israel.

6. Ron Dermer is Israel’s current ambassador to the United States of America. He has been all over CNN in recent weeks.  He attended the University of Pennsylvania before moving to Israel is his twenties.  He was born in 1971 in Miami Beach, where both his father and brother were once the mayor there.

He is one of Netanyahu’s closest advisers, writing many of his speeches, in English I assume.  He is highly educated, yet for some reason he still sounds obnoxious and rude during just about every interview.  You might have wondered why Ron Dermer sounds like a whiny kid from Florida. Why wouldn’t he? He is, after all, a foreigner in the land of Israel.

 

Now I don’t really mind that all of these Israeli messengers speak perfect English in American, Australian, and British accents.  However, I do mind that with all that Western education they still can’t pronounce “Hamas.”

They insist on continuing to say “Khamas.”  This is just offensive.  Hamas is already frightening enough with its crappy rockets, ancient rifles, and hooded militants.

Do they really have to add that chilling “kha” sound?

Do they do that with all “h” sounds?

It would make some nursery rhymes seem just downright scary.  “Khumpty Dumpty sat on a wall” just sounds alarming.  C’mon guys. It’s “Hamas,” like “happy.”  Just think that.  Hamas. Happy. Hamas. Happy. See, it works.

In any case, this is the cast of characters acting as Israel’s cheerleaders to the American public.

Justifying racial supremacy, ethnic cleansing, and indiscriminate bombing campaigns definitely sounds better when it’s done in an accent we can all relate to.

But I’m sure every American listening to them still wonders why all these Israelis sound like the next door neighbor.  Why wouldn’t they?  They are, after all, foreigners in the land of Israel.  Foreign colonist settlers.

Hilarious Letter to George Clooney: Welcome to the extended larger family

 posted the letter of Amer Zahr this 

Following George Clooney’s engagement announcement to Lebanese lawyer Amal Alamuddin, a great portion of the world’s population (all the women, to be exact) were heartbroken by the news.

But at least one Arab man rejoiced, and in this hilarious open letter to the actor, he welcomes Clooney to the family.

Arab Man Writes Hilarious Open Letter To George Clooney About His Engagement
ENTERTAINMENT •  • 

Amer Zahr wrote this letter to George Clooney

Dear George,

Congratulations. Mabrook.

You’re marrying Amal Alamuddin, an international award-winning barrister (for us Americans, “barrister” means lawyer, but I wrote “barrister” because it just sounds so much cooler). And on top of that, she is one of us. You hit the jackpot.

CNN has called her “discreet.” It looks like you found the only Arab woman who wouldn’t blab to the whole world that she is dating George Clooney. Lucky you.

I do have some words of advice for you, from one Arab guy to another soon-to-be Arab guy. Yes, you are not currently an Arab, but you will become one soon enough.

See, when one of our women marries a white guy, she doesn’t become whiter. He becomes more like us. Wikipedia says your “ancestry includes Irish, German, English, and more distant Scottish and Dutch roots.” And you were born in Kentucky. As far as I can tell, that means you’re “really white.” Strap yourself in for the ride.

I have been known to get a little upset when Arab girls marry non-Arabs. But most of the time, they turn those non-Arab guys into Arabs. And when that happens, I’m all for it.

Our culture is strong. It is contagious. And though you are George Clooney, you will not be immune to this phenomenon.

And by the way, there are tens of thousands of Arabs named “George.” My dad is one of them. And it’s not Arabized or anything. It’s just “George.” We just say the “g” a little differently, like it sounds in “beige.” So we will be able to say your name just fine. And you won’t be the first couple to be named “George & Amal” either. So you’ll fit right in.

Let’s talk about a few things.

Get ready to go to Lebanon and explore. We Arabs are extra proud of where we come from. And Lebanese Arabs are extra special super-duper over-the-top proud of where they come from.

Lebanon is a beautiful country and you will have a great time. But movies come to the Middle East a little late, so don’t be surprised if some Arabs tell you, “Hey, I loved you in Ocean’s Eleven.”

They might not even know about Ocean’s Twelve or Ocean’s Thirteen yet. Try not to ruin it for them. Also, while parts of Beirut are more beautiful than any other place in the world, don’t be alarmed if most of it looks like it was bombed yesterday. This is normal in our part of the world.

Also, you are marrying an international lawyer who has represented kings and advised secretary-generals. We Arabs are political animals, and I imagine Amal is no exception.

You will be learning much about the ins and outs of Arab history and politics over the last century. If you haven’t yet, you will probably be receiving some lectures on Palestine. Sit back and listen. You will learn a lot. And it will all be true.

You’ve been in Hollywood for a long time, so much of it may come as a shock at first. This is normal. But you’re not just marrying any Arab girl. You’re marrying the Arab girl who is an expert in international law.

And there’s nothing we Arabs love more than talking about international law and how it has been betraying us since… well, since forever.

And there might be some anger directed at America. But remember, we don’t hate Americans. We just hate America.

And we have to talk about the wedding.

You may have hoped for a small, tactful affair. I wouldn’t be too optimistic. Arab parents like to brag when their daughter marries someone really accomplished like a doctor, a lawyer, or an owner of three or more gas stations.

But this Arab daughter is marrying freakin’ George Clooney! She’s marrying Up in the Air! She’s marrying Gravity! She’s marrying Batman! (Yes, I know Batman wasn’t your proudest moment, but you know what I mean.)

At the wedding, the size of your family will immediately grow a hundred times over. You will become a cousin to more individuals than you ever dreamt was possible. You will hold hands with men and dance in circles. You will need to learn the “change the light bulb” and “windshield wiper” moves. I have a video that might help.

Our weddings can create a sort of sensory overload.

I would go to a few to observe the spectacle firsthand before your big day. It could be quite traumatic if the first Arab wedding you attend is your own. Yours might make “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” look like a private ceremony.

Incidentally, now that you will have an Arab wife who advocates for Arab rights, if you were ever going to run for political office in America, you definitely cannot now. Unless, of course, you move to Dearborn, Michigan, where you will be swiftly elected mayor with 99.9% of the vote, Saddam-style.

Finally, George, you have inspired me. If you can snag an accomplished, intelligent, beautiful, worldly, multilingual Arab genius professional, then maybe I can too.

So, welcome to the family. You’re going to have more fun than you ever imagined.

Sincerely, Amer

KATIE GONZALEZ

Katie Gonzalez is a contributing writer covering fashion and feminism. Katie graduated from Dartmouth College with a degree in Middle Eastern Studies and currently lives in Haifa, Israel, splitting time between academic research and scouting for “The Middle East’s Next Top Falafel Wrap.

She enjoys a hot cup of green tea and a Joan Didion novel to take the edge off her aggressive online shopping addiction. Follow along on Twitter and Instagram: @KatieGonzalez12


via CivilArab.com, Photo Credit: WENN

A first? Palestinians portrayed as human beings on CNN?

Amer Zahr posted on September 16, 2013 in the Civil Arab: “Anthony Bourdain, Will You Marry Me?”

Something amazing happened on CNN last night. Palestinians were portrayed as human beings.

In his show “Parts Unknown,” Anthony Bourdain travels to exotic and controversial localities to examine the intersection of food, politics, and everyday life. Last night, he visited Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza.

He was immediately mesmerized by Palestine, which is a common phenomenon.

It is an amazing place, where the gravity of the history and spirituality is heavy in the air. It feels majestic.

Something is a little off.

Bourdain felt the splendor, but, as he said, “Then you see the young draftees (teenage Israeli soldiers holding machine guns) in the streets, and you start to get the idea.”

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Anthony Bourdain?

He began his journey with an Israeli chef and author, Yotam. They started by tasting some falafel in Jerusalem’s Old City.

Yotam told the audience, in a stunning admission, “Israelis made falafel their own, and everybody in the world thinks falafel is Israeli, but in actual fact, it is as much Palestinian, even more so, because it’s been done for generations here… The question of food appropriation is massive here.”

Now if they could only say the same thing about the land, the houses, and the air, we might be able to get somewhere.

Bourdain then made his way into the West Bank. And on his way to visit a settlement, he said something that Americans never hear on TV:

In 2003, Israel began construction of a wall along the green line representing the Israeli-Palestinian border. The wall now stretches 450 miles. When completed, it will span 700 miles, 85% of it in Palestinian territory…

Since 1967, 500,000 Israeli settlers have moved into the West Bank, all in contravention of international law, many in contravention of Israeli law, though in effect it seems to make little difference, they’re here and in ever larger numbers.

Anthony, you will be hearing from certain individuals and organizations in the coming days. They will be upset. They’ve been trying to keep this stuff a secret.

Before he got to the settlement, he noticed some Hebrew graffiti on a Palestinian house in a neighboring village. His driver translated it for him: “Death to Arabs.”

Anthony, you will be hearing from certain individuals and organizations in the coming days. They will be upset. They’ve been trying to keep this stuff a secret.

Bourdain finally made it to the settlement of Eli.

Eli is located north of Ramallah and in the heart of the West Bank. It is nowhere near the 1967 borders.

He asked the chief executive of Eli, Amiad, what Palestinians might think of the existence of Eli.

Amiad told Bourdain, “Actually they are happy we are here. We gave them prosperity for the past 45 years.”

I was worried the show might go in a bad direction, but then Bourdain said, “I’m guessing a lot of people would disagree with that statement.”

Wow, I think he’s getting it. Then Bourdain said, “So, from the high ground, you can see anyone walking at night, you can see pretty far out.”

Wow, he is getting it!

Anthony, you will be hearing from certain individuals and organizations in the coming days. They will be upset. They’ve been trying to keep this stuff a secret.

As Bourdain prepared to leave Eli, he brought up the disturbing graffiti he saw with Amiad. “Why not paint it over?” he asked innocently. The response? “Good question. Maybe we should. You’re right.”

I’m sure Anthony knows he’s not the first person to suggest such a thing. Now, Anthony, I am a bit more experienced with Israeli talk than you are, so let me translate that. “Good question. Maybe we should. You’re right,” really means, “Silly question, we definitely won’t, get out of my face.”

Bourdain then made a quick visit with a now famous group of Palestinian female drivers called “The Speed Sisters.”

This visit had nothing to do with food, but he was able to be in a car alone with Betty Saadeh, a hot Palestinian woman.

And you don’t turn down an opportunity like that. He even looked like he caught a little case of Palestinian fever. I can relate.

After visiting Jerusalem, Bourdain took the short but interesting drive into Bethlehem, through a checkpoint, and past the infamous wall:

It’s right there for all to see. And it feels like something out of a science fiction film. This is the wall. From the other side, from inside this place, it doesn’t feel like anything other than what it is. A prison. (The Ashkenazi Jews ghetto style within Israel?)

Bourdain visited Aida refugee camp, just north of Bethlehem. There he met Abdelfattah Abusrour, my friend, and the founder of Ruwwad, a group that uses theatre for young people to express their desires and feelings.

Abusrour sees Ruwwad as nonviolent resistance, a way for young people to express themselves, creating what he calls “a peace from within.”

The honest portrayal of the residents of the camp, from their squalor to their own struggle to find productive channels of resistance, was something I had never seen on American TV.

Bourdain noted that these Palestinian children do not have the luxury of idolizing pop stars and athletes. They turn to politics early, sometimes idolizing martyrs and politicians.

And he’s right, there’s something wrong with that.

We Palestinians are normal in so many ways. And we’re so not normal in so many others.

Then Bourdain went to Gaza:

Getting in and out of Gaza from Israel is truly one of the most surreal travel experiences you could have on Earth.

Over 1.5 million people live in Gaza, most of them considered refugees, meaning they are not from the place they are compelled to live now. In most cases, they are either prohibited from or unable to leave. Israel decides who comes and goes, what gets in and what stays out.

In Gaza, he met Laila Haddad, a well-known Palestinian author and activist who has written books about Gaza life and cuisine. As she explained that Gaza’s cuisine should include a lot of seafood, she noted that fishermen can rarely get prize catches as the Israeli military limits how far out they can sail. If they go too far, the Israeli navy shoots at their boats and cuts their nets.

Bourdain and Haddad then visited the Sultan family, where they were served a Palestinian staple, maqloobeh.

That dish happens to be one of my specialties (Yes, ladies, I can cook.) As they were eating, the man of the house was worried about being rude. Why?

The cameramen were not eating. His wife asked Bourdain to open a restaurant for her. We Palestinians are always looking for a hook-up. We need it.

Her husband continued to yell, but Leila assured Anthony. “This is a normal tone of voice. He’s not upset, by the way. This is how we talk. We yell.” I can relate.

Before Bourdain left Gaza, he met and dined with one more group of men. These men, like 75% of Gaza’s population, were refugees. As he sat, laughing and eating, he told us:

Many of these guys are not too sympathetic to my country, or my ethnicity I’m guessing. But, there’s that hospitality thing. Anywhere you go in the Muslim world, it seems, no matter what, you feed your guests, you do your best to make them feel at home.

It’s true. We Palestinians are overly hospitable when people visit our homeland. Sometimes too much.

The episode ended with Natan, the owner of a restaurant right outside of Gaza in Israel. Natan’s daughter was killed by a mortar bomb in the constant struggle between groups in Gaza and Israel.

Since 2008, over 1,600 Palestinians in Gaza have also been killed in this conflict.

Natan spoke of the senseless deaths on both sides. He clearly disliked settlements, and he believed it was possible for like-minded people from both sides to get together and make peace. I would agree,

if just more people like Natan existed. But the people who are pointing the guns at me aren’t named Natan… They’re named Netanyahu.

By the end, Bourdain did not seem too optimistic about the prospects of peace.

“One doesn’t even have to speak metaphorically because there is an actual wall… or a fence, depending on who you’re talking to.” Natan told him, “No. It is a big wall. It is ugly. It is really ugly. You can see it, it’s not far away from here.” Unfortunately, it’s not far away from anywhere.

Anthony, you will be hearing from certain individuals and organizations in the coming days. They will be upset. They’ve been trying to keep this stuff a secret.

Part of being Palestinian in America is getting really excited whenever someone tells the truth about us on American TV. Kind of depressing, right?

Anthony, in the beginning of this episode, you gave the following announcement:

By the end of this hour, I’ll be seen by many as a terrorist sympathizer, a Zionist tool, a self-hating Jew, an apologist for American imperialism, an Orientalist, socialist, a fascist, CIA agent, and worse.

I didn’t see any of that. I just saw what happens to anyone who actually interacts with Palestinians.

You fell in love with us, and we fell in love with you.

President Obama to visit Palestine and Israel: An American/Palestian has this to say…

Amer Zahr posted in the CivilArab this March 13, 2013. Amer has this to say:

Mr. President, I hear you are traveling to Israel next week.  As a concerned patriotic American citizen of Palestinian descent, I have some pointers for you.

I assume you’ll be flying into Tel Aviv.  Usually, when non-Jews arrive there, especially if they are a little darker-skinned, they are asked to wait in a… let’s call it a “VIP Room.”

Incidentally, the room is quite nice. There’s a water cooler, comfortable chairs, and a soda machine.  It’s probably the only place in the world where you can be racially profiled and get an ice-cold Coca-Cola all at once.

To avoid the room, I would mention that you are the President of the United States.  It might help.

You may get strip-searched.

Saying that you are an American doesn’t help much here.  I’ve tried.

I even sang the national anthem last time an Israeli soldier was looking down my pants.  Right after I said, “Oh say can you see,” he said, “Not much.”

To escape this embarrassment, I would mention that you are the President of the United States.  It might help.

In case they don’t already know, you might not want to tell Israeli security you are half-Muslim.

As a fellow half-Muslim, I can tell you they don’t really care about the percentage.

Any bit of Muslim freaks them out. And I’m not sure if you heard, but the fans of one of Israel’s soccer teams, Beitar Jerusalem, actually protested when the club signed two Muslim players.  When one of them scored in a game last week, hundreds of fans actually walked out of the stadium.  One of the fans later stated about the Muslim players, “It’s not racism. They just shouldn’t be here.” Hopefully, they don’t know your middle name is “Hussein.” Maybe they didn’t watch the inauguration.

In any case, I would mention that you are the President of the United States.  It might help.

This next one might be a little tough.

Maybe you didn’t hear, but lately there has been a little “African problem” in Israel.  Over the past several years, tens of thousands immigrants from Africa, mostly from Eritrea and Sudan, have entered the “only democracy in the Middle East.”  Most of them are looking for work, and some are political refugees.  Israel has recently rounded up many of them for deportation.

Oh, and by the way, they don’t call them “refugees” or “migrants,” they call them “infiltrators.”  Israelis have held numerous demonstrations in Tel Aviv, where most of the migrants live, to demand an African exodus from Israel.

And the refugees aren’t the only Africans Israel seems to have a problem with.  About 150,000 Israeli Jews are of Ethiopian descent.  A number of news organizations reported early this year that Israeli government doctors had been giving Ethiopian Jewish women contraceptives either against their will or without their knowledge.

The Israeli government admitted the practice and decided to stop it once it was reported on.  See, Mr. Obama, many rabbis in Israel have questioned the “Jewishness” of Ethiopian Jews.  And if you’re not Jewish in Israel, well… I’d be glad to give you the full story on that someday.

So they’re not too crazy about their own Ethiopian citizens, and last year, Benjamin Netanyahu warned that illegal immigrants from Africa “threaten our existence as a Jewish and democratic state.”  I know, “Jewish” and “democratic”? It’s confusing.  I’ll try to explain that one to you one day too, but I can’t guarantee I’ll be able to.  But I think one thing is clear.  Israel does not seem to like Africans too much.

I know Mr. President that you’re not from Eritrea, Ethiopia, or Sudan, but I probably wouldn’t advertise too strongly that your dad was from Kenya.  This might be really hard, given your skin tone and everything, especially if you’re bringing Michelle with you.

To avoid any dangers of getting deported to Nairobi, I would just keep mentioning that you are the President of the United States.  It might help.

When you leave, Israeli security officers are going to search your bags.  And they don’t do it casually with a smile like our airport security here.  They go through your stuff like a wife looking for evidence of an affair.

You might remind them that you, as the President of the United States, sign their checks.

And they’re going to strip search you again.  Yes, on the way out too.  Strip searches in Israel are “buy one, get one free.”

They perform the strip search in a section of the airport aside from where the normal operations are conducted.  You’ll run into a few of your Palestinian-American constituents when you’re there.  I know it’s a weird place for someone to ask to take a picture with you, but to us, it’s just part of visiting home.

You don’t have to mention to us that you are the President of the United States.

We already know.  We supported you, twice.  Maybe you can return the favor?


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