Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Why Is Arabic Preferred Over Hebrew?

I just started reading "Tactical Hudna and Islamist Intolerance" by Denis MacEoin, and I just wanted to blog about the first paragraph before going any further. MacEoin writes:
The use by Westerners of the word hudna highlights an anomaly. Whenever journalists, diplomats, or commentators covering the Middle East use a non-English word, it will almost always be Arabic or perhaps Persian; seldom do they use any Hebrew words. Never has a U.S. or British newspaper, for example, used the Hebrew word for cease-fire (hafsakat esh). This is odd as Israel is the other side to these cease-fires. The majority of Arabic terms reproduced in Western language newspapers are concerned with either military topics (jihad, mujahideen, fida'iyin, shahid) or religious affairs (fatwa, mulla, ulema, ayatollah, Shari‘a, Allahu akbar). There is nothing wrong with borrowing Arabic words. However, doing so without understanding the word's nuance and historical development will render deficient any understanding of that word's true meaning.
Read the whole thing (I plan to after this post).

Come to think of it--he's right. But is it all that surprising? Just as the history is written by the victor, so too the terminology used would be that of the aggressor. Even the Arabic terms above pertaining to religious affairs have a militant context to them in the news. Hebrew words in general have not really penetrated the English vernacular. Yiddish of course is another story--and I imagine there are not too many popular Yiddish terms for military topics.

Crossposted on Soccer Dad

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