Monthly Archives: June 2009

Palestinian Children in Israeli Jails

I was surprised to see the mainstream press reporting on this. Here’s a Yahoo News/Time Magazine report on the mistreatment of Palestinian children by Israeli soldiers and the Israeli system.

Under Israeli military law, which prevails in the Palestinian territories, the crime of throwing a stone at an Israeli solider or even at the monolithic 20-ft.-high “security barrier” enclosing much of the West Bank can carry a maximum 20-year-prison sentence. Since 2000, according to the Palestinian Ministry for Prisoner Affairs, more than 6,500 children have been arrested, mostly for hurling rocks.

Human-rights groups in Israel and elsewhere have also condemned the punishment meted out to Palestinian children by Israeli military justice. Most onerous, says Sarit Michaeli of the Israeli human-rights group B’Tselem, is that inside the territories, the Israeli military deems any Palestinian who is 16 years and older as an adult, while inside Israel, the U.S. and most other countries, adulthood is reached at age 18.

The report states that “the ill-treatment and torture” of Palestinian child prisoners “appears to be widespread, systematic and institutionalized, suggesting complicity at all levels of the political and military chain of command.” The group’s director, Rifaat Kassis, says the number of child arrests rose sharply in the past six months, possibly because of a crackdown on Palestinian protests in the West Bank in the aftermath of Israel’s military offensive in Gaza.

The Geneva organization’s report alleges that under Israeli military justice, it is the norm for children to be interrogated by the Israeli police and army without either a lawyer or a family member present and that most of their convictions are due to confessions extracted during interrogation sessions or from “secret evidence,” usually tip-offs from unnamed Palestinian informers. If so, the practice may violate the U.N. Convention Against Torture, which Israel ratified in 1991. In response to TIME’s queries, a lawyer for the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said that under “security legislation” and Israel’s interpretation of international law, no lawyer or relative need be present during a child’s interrogation.

According to the Israeli human-rights group Breaking the Silence, a few Israeli soldiers are alarmed by their own troops’ behavior. The group cites the testimony of two officers who complained before a military court that during an operation last March in Hares village, soldiers herded 150 male villagers, some as young as 14, into a schoolyard in the middle of the night, where they were kept bound, blindfolded and beaten over the course of more than 12 hours.

But Khalid Quzman, a defense lawyer at the Israeli military courts, says, “We don’t complain anymore because it’s a waste of time.” More than 600 complaints of torture and ill treatment were filed between 2001 and 2008, he says, “and not a single criminal investigation was ever carried out.”

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How Arabic is Like Parseltongue

I seriously cannot believe this never occurred to me before. I mean, I’ve been annoyed that there seem to be no language classes at Hogwarts–not only do students there not even learn the English they need to hold down a job, but they don’t even consider the importance of learning foreign languages so they can travel the world acquiring useful spells and potion recipes–but I didn’t realize until today that Parseltongue in the Harry Potter universe is very similar to Arabic here.

Parseltongue is the language of snakes, and the wizarding world considers it a sign of a dark wizard. At first I thought maybe Parseltongue is only the language that snakes use to speak to humans, not to other snakes. But at one point Harry overhears a snake talking to himself.

When Harry speaks to a snake in Parseltongue in front of his classmates, they assume on the face of it that he was telling the snake to attack. This reminds me so much of the “joke” answers I keep seeing on Yahoo Answers, that go something like this:

Question: How do I say, “I love you, mom” in Arabic?

Answer from some ass: “Blow urself up ur virgins r waiting.”

Possibly because Parseltongue can only be learned with great difficulty, Harry conveniently receives the ability from his early encounter with Lord Voldemort. It would make logical sense for Parseltongue to be difficult for a native English-speaker to learn, since only a witch with patience and determination would stick with studying it until reaching fluency.

Why on earth should we assume the entire snake species is up to no good, though? The issue is not addressed.

هل انت بخير يا اخي؟ الحمدلله بخير و انت؟

هل انت بخير يا اخي؟ الحمدلله بخير و انت؟


Filed under animals, arab, arabian, arabic, arabist, beasts, language, movies and shows

Ooooh, Exotic

Kathleen Parker, whose name means “pure,” wrote an op-ed this week in the Washington Post. It kind of had something to do with the events in Iran, but not that much. Mostly it’s bad stereotypes about how ‘they’ oppress ‘their women’ more than we do. Really, there’s very little substance to her article, it kind of reads like one of my more mediocre blog posts, and I wouldn’t ordinarily blog about something like this if she hadn’t gone and played the exotic name card.

It starts with this:

There’s a “new” old name suddenly in circulation that is both filled with ancient history and ripe with a revolutionary spirit for today’s game-changing events.


Well known to Muslims, Fatima az-Zahra was one of four daughters of the prophet Muhammad. Today, Zahra is also the name of two important, outspoken women of Iran.

And ends with this:

In Arabic, Zahra means “The Shining One.”

In English, we’d call that a beacon.

First off, Zahra is one of the most common names in Iran, possibly the number one name for girls, so it’s hardly a coincidence that there are two Iranian women named Zahra in the news right now. Let’s see how this would play:

There’s a “new” old name suddenly in circulation that is both filled with ancient history and ripe with a revolutionary spirit for today’s game-changing events.


Well known to Americans, Guinevere was the tragic wife of the ill-fated King Arthur. Today, Jennifer is also the name of two important, outspoken women of the United States.

And “ancient history”? We’re only talking about 1400 years ago more or less, not something lost in the mists of time. This is not a “‘new’ old” name at all, nor is it suddenly in circulation. Unless by “in circulation” you mean vaguely on the radar of a typical apathetic American who has no Persian acquaintances.

Here’s another Zahra who has been in the news. Why not mention this Iranian Zahra?

In 2006, Ebrahimi became the centre of an Iranian sex tape scandal when a videotape of a woman having sex with a man was leaked to the internet and released on DVD. She subsequently became the subject of an official investigation handled by Tehran’s hard-line chief prosecutor, Saeed Mortazavi, and may face fines, public lashing or worse for her violation of Iran’s morality laws.

The unnamed man on the tape, who is suspected of releasing it, reportedly fled to Armenia but was subsequently returned to Iran and charged with breach of public morality laws

In an exclusive interview with the Guardian, Zahra Amir Ebrahimi denied being the woman in the film and dismissed it as a fake made by a vengeful former fiancé who used studio techniques to form a montage of incriminating images designed to destroy her career.

Rumors of an attempted suicide were also denied by Zahra with a public message: “I just want to tell my country’s people I am alive. I am thinking about the strength of Iranian women and will defend the respect of the girls and women of my nation.”

Plus, Arabic has a word for “beacon,” and it’s not Zahra.


Filed under arabic, arabist, names

Happy Father’s Day

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Smear Machine Fail

Please check out this post at

It is a right-wing email forward which begins with a tale told in outrage of a little Iranian boy who was caught stealing bread and sentenced to lose (or “loose”–what would a right-wing forward be without misspelling?) the use of his arm by crushing. Then in has a series of photos starting with a very casual-looking group of folks in civilian clothing looking on while the boy lies down in the street, extending his arm in front of the car’s left front tire. In the third and fourth photos the boy is gritting his teeth as the car passes over, and in the fifth and sixth photos his face is blocked by the tire. The we get the caption, “Spread this example of peace and love of Islam to your friends!!”

What monsters those Muslims are! Except what the pictures really depict is the act of some street performers. It’s on Snopes (the Urban Legends Reference Page), but since their site is kind of annoying, here’s a link to the same info at

Comments: The preceding images are apparently authentic — they were published as such in 2005 on the Iranian news Web site Peyke Iran, at any rate — but the accompanying caption doesn’t jibe with the original report and was clearly fabricated after the fact.

According to a Peyke Iran spokesperson who corrected the record last November in a note posted on Little Green Footballs, the young boy whose arm was run over was not being punished for a crime. He was part of a “Maareke giry” or street magic act and allegedly performed the stunt for money (note the gentleman speaking into a microphone in image #1). The seventh and eighth pictures in the series, which appear to show the child shaken but otherwise unharmed after the ordeal, were omitted from the email flier but can still be viewed on (where all the images are attributed to photographer Siamak Yari).

You can also vote there on whether you thought it was plausible that these photos depicted an act of Islamic justice. is in Farsi and I don’t read Farsi, so I can’t find the photos to link you to them.

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Vintage Yellow Journalism

I just found this post from 2007 over at the Undercover Black Man blog. It’s amazing. A whole bunch of newspaper headlines from around the turn of the last century, all dealing with giant negroes.
It’s a must read, simply mind-boggling. Attack of the Giant Negroes.

And I thought today’s media were being ridiculous about Arabs and Muslims.

Gather round, dear readers, and you will hear of a time when “giant negroes” roamed the earth. These giants committed shocking crimes. Newspapers from sea to shining sea documented their foul deeds.

Especially the New York Times.

The Times first acknowledged the existence of these fearsome creatures on August 5, 1897. The headline was “Insane Negro Giant in Newark.”

Over the next four decades, the New York Times provided all the news that was fit to print about “giant negroes.” Articles with headlines such as these:

“Giant Negro Attacks Police.” [Sept. 24, 1900]

“Negro Giant Guilty.” [July 28, 1905]

“Armed Negro Giant Goes Mad on Liner.” [May 15, 1916]

This is just a small sample. It’s really amazing.

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Racism in the Military

The online magazine Salon has an article about neo-Nazis in the US military. This link is to page three of the article, which deals specifically with racism against Arabs.

[The FBI] found multiple examples of white supremacist recruitment among active military, including a period in 2003 when six active duty soldiers at Fort Riley, members of the Aryan Nation, were recruiting their Army colleagues and even serving as the Aryan Nation’s point of contact for the state of Kansas.

One white supremacist soldier, James Douglas Ross, a military intelligence officer stationed at Fort Bragg, was given a bad conduct discharge from the Army when he was caught trying to mail a submachine gun from Iraq to his father’s home in Spokane, Wash. Military police found a cache of white supremacist paraphernalia and several weapons hidden behind ceiling tiles in Ross’ military quarters. After his discharge, a Spokane County deputy sheriff saw Ross passing out fliers for the neo-Nazi National Alliance.

Rooting out extremists is difficult because racism pervades the military, according to soldiers. They say troops throughout the Middle East use derogatory terms like “hajji” or “sand nigger” to define Arab insurgents and often the Arab population itself.

Racism was rampant,” recalls vet Michael Prysner, who served in Iraq in 2003 and 2004 as part of the 173rd Airborne Brigade. “All of command, everywhere, it was completely ingrained in the consciousness of every soldier. I’ve heard top generals refer to the Iraq people as ‘hajjis.’ The anti-Arab racism came from the brass. It came from the top. And everything was justified because they weren’t considered people.”

Another vet, Michael Totten, who served in Iraq with the 101st Airborne in 2003 and 2004, says, “It wouldn’t stand out if you said ‘sand niggers,’ even if you aren’t a neo-Nazi.” Totten says his perspective has changed in the intervening years, but “at the time, I used the words ‘sand nigger.’ I didn’t consider ‘hajji’ to be derogatory.”

Geoffrey Millard, an organizer for Iraq Veterans Against the War, served in Iraq for 13 months, beginning in 2004, as part of the 42nd Infantry Division. He recalls Gen. George Casey, who served as the commander in Iraq from 2004 to 2007, addressing a briefing he attended in the summer of 2005 at Forward Operating Base, outside Tikrit. “As he walked past, he was talking about some incident that had just happened, and he was talking about how ‘these stupid fucking hajjis couldn’t figure shit out.’ And I’m just like, Are you kidding me? This is Gen. Casey, the highest-ranking guy in Iraq, referring to the Iraqi people as ‘fucking hajjis.'” (A spokesperson for Casey, now the Army Chief of Staff, said the general “did not make this statement.”)

“The military is attractive to white supremacists,” Millard says, “because the war itself is racist.”

Update: meant to include this in the original post. Of course you probably noticed before I did the irony of kicking out good soldiers for being homosexual while recruiting extremists. But I imagine there are units and commanders who turn a blind eye to homosexuality, so that’s something.


Filed under arab, arabist, bigoted idiots, domestic terrorism, Our glorious war in Iraq

Iraq in Confederations Cup

The Confederations Cup is underway in South Africa and I was pleasantly surprised to find that US television is actually covering it. I watched the full game between Iraq and South Africa. I won’t give the score here because I’m not a regular sports fan and I don’t know what the etiquette is on giving away the score of a game.

The sportscasters mentioned that the field wasn’t in very good condition. At least once it tripped up a player. And the for the entire game people were blowing on these air horns they had; I don’t know how they found the energy or lung power to do it, but it sure made it annoying to watch the game with sound on.

The World Cup is one year away and will also be played in South Africa.

Here’s a picture from 2007, posted because it is cute. Iraqi players Younis Mahmoud (R) and Hawar Mohammed (L).

And here’s what Younis Mahmoud looks like without his nose squished:

Aw, he’s so patriotic he tattooed Iraq onto his arm.

I noticed during today’s game that the Iraqi players had their first names instead of their last names on the back of their jerseys. This doesn’t entirely surprise me because I’ve seen a phone book from the Arab world that was alphabetical by first name, but I am a little surprised because I thought FIFA would have a last-name-only rule.
Iraq’s next games are on Wednesday against Spain and Saturday against New Zealand. ESPN2 is supposed to carry them.

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Filed under arab, iraq soccer

A Couple of Links to Stories

Not a The Onion headline: White Supremacists Worried About Movement’s Image.

“The responsible white separatist community condemns this,” John de Nugent, a self-described white separatist, told the Washington Post. “It makes us look bad.”

Imbecile finds a way to blame Muslims because an elderly white racist hater convicted felon shot and killed a black security guard at the Holocaust Museum:

Meanwhile, columnist Debbie Schlussel blamed the attacks on her usual scapegoat: Muslims. “It’s guys with names like Mohammed and Ahmed on our own American streets who make Mr. Von Brunn far more at ease in 2009 than he was even in 1999 to attack places associated with the Jews,” she said. “They created the comfort zone for James W. Brunn to engage in today’s shooting.”


NY Assemblyman Dov Hikind and his followers feel that the Holocaust was “uniquely Jewish” and therefore the five million other people who were killed should not be mentioned at Holocaust Memorial Park.

Hikind said even though 5 million people from other groups — including gays, the disabled and Jehovah’s Witnesses — were killed along with 6 million Jewish people during the Holocaust, the memorial in Sheepshead Bay should be for Jews only.

“To include these other groups diminishes their memory,” said Hikind, as he stood next to his 89-year-old mother, Frieda. He said he is not against a memorial to honor the other groups — as long as it is somewhere else.

He made his remarks after city officials approved a bid to have markers honoring homosexuals, Jehovah’s Witnesses, the disabled, political prisoners and Roma and Sinti Gypsies, who were also persecuted and killed by the Nazis.

What about the Poles?*

This morning, Mayor Bloomberg commented on the issues, saying, “It wasn’t only the Jews that were massacred.”

Bloomberg also said that “diversity [at the memorial] is something we want emphasized — not deemphasized.”


On August 22, 1939, a few days before the official start of World War II, Hitler authorized his commanders, with these infamous words, to kill “without pity or mercy, all men, women, and children of Polish descent or language. Only in this way can we obtain the living space [lebensraum] we need”.

Heinrich Himmler echoed Hitler’s decree: “All Poles will disappear from the world…. It is essential that the great German people should consider it as its major task to destroy all Poles.”

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On Blogging Pseudonymously

There has been much discussion on other blogs in the past few days about yet another jerk outing a pseudonymous blogger in a fit of pique. Of the posts and comments I’ve read so far, I like this one best:

I find the objections to pseudonymous blogging from flagrant pseuds hilarious, and will only address them by pointing and laughing.

I have encountered a number of people who use only RL names online and are uncomfortable with people who use pseuds, but this attitude is baffling to me. Pseuds have an extremely long history for fiction writers and political writers, and I see no reason the “nom de net” shouldn’t be accepted seemlessly in those fields.

More generally, objecting to pseuds puts you on the losing side of a generation gap. As my children grew up and started going online, I carefully instructed them in the construction of suitable pseuds and in basic techniques of internet compartmentization. For young people in general and women in particular, pseudonymity online is a matter of basic security. Objecting to it marks you as a clueless fogey, or at least as highly privileged.

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