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September 30, 2016 / 27 Elul, 5776
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LOSERS NO MORE

It’s Time We All Learned to Speak (and Act) Arabic

Linguistics for the next round of fighting.

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Young Arabs faced an Israeli tank last Friday, and the tank came out the loser, because we communicate with the other side in Hebrew, not Arabic.

Young Arabs faced an Israeli tank last Friday, and the tank came out the loser, because we communicate with the other side in Hebrew, not Arabic.
Photo Credit: Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash 90



Of course, we didn’t just lose a war with Hamas forever and ever, there will be a next time. Hamas did not gain any territory this time around, or destroy all our military assets etc. The political/military thinking on our side of the engagement is completely skewed, though, or as one Knesset Member, Michael Ben-Ari, put it, succinctly. “We keep on talking to Hamas in Hebrew, and they don’t get it. It’s time we spoke to them in Arabic.”

What he meant was, When we withdraw our army from Gaza, let us leave behind ten thousand Hamas widows and their loved ones wailing, ululating and gnashing their teeth in the smoking ruins of former homes and settlements. Let us leave behind stinking huge piles of skulls and mounds of offal. Let us flatten their dreams and drown their hopes in rivers of blood – or words to that effect. Let us, in effect, first do unto them what they will undoubtedly do to us if we don’t.

I, for one, am excited to learn Arabic, especially the local dialect; it has such catchy slang phrases as “Family Unification Program,” “Peace of the Brave” and “Explosive Undergarment Engineering.” And I’m all too eager for local Arabs to discover what happens when we do learn their lingo.

Can you only imagine what would happen to the Arabian Peninsula were we, Jews, to learn their language with any fluency? Can you picture one of us strapping something incandescent to his body and presenting it as a gift at the Ka’aba in Mecca in the middle of the pilgrimage? Can you wrap your head around it? Or something with a bit of a bang on the southern quadrant of the upper third of the lower cataract at Aswan? It would certainly flush out the gutters in downtown Cairo, pretty darn swiftly, I can tell you that much.

You know something, I could get to like Arabic, it has a certain flair, a certain je ne sais quoi.

I jest, of course; but I ought not to. I should do as MK Ben-Ari says, I should take him seriously and start learning Arabic. We all should, because our thinking is stuck in Hebrew and it’s getting us the rough end of the stick. That’s the whole point, we don’t just talk to Hamas in Hebrew, we force-feed them like stuffed geese with our Hebrew ideas and thinking as well, great big butterballs of concessions and privileges.

We need to learn Arabic from the ground up; Arabic as it is spoken to the Syrians by their Presidents Hafez and Bashar al-Assad. Or cultured, Farsi flavored Arabic of the kind Hassan Nasrallah talks to the Lebanese. And then we can do our post-graduate work in Arabic as it is spoken in Hamastan, Gaza.

I can smell it already, the heady whiff of brimstone-tinged cordite, laced with sewage, Khan Yunis, Arabic Springtime, 2013.

Arabic is more than a language you know, it’s a whole body experience, well, a whole body is what you start with, I mean.

Sheni Leumi

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