Sunday, December 07, 2008

Downtown Arabic Politics

This morning I was in a Downtown neighborhood of Manhattan, NYC, when I walked into a convenience store to buy a bag of potato chips. The guy behind the counter was not behind the counter at the moment — he was moving boxes around in the store — so I started looking at the Arabic newspaper lying there.

I took Arabic for a year in college, and even though I forgot most of what I learned, I can still sound out words and recognize a few of them.

So the [Arab immigrant] shopkeeper came over and told me that it's an Arabic newspaper, and then I said that I knew that already, and can read a little of it. He was sort of surprised that people study Arabic in college, but also asked me if I've ever been to Israel. I told him that I studied there for two years, and then he asked me whether I thought there are problems there. So I said "yeah, definitely — everyone keeps on fighting each other." I also told him that knowing Arabic didn't help me so much in Israel, except to know when the street-signs were misspelled.

He then started to give me his take on Middle-Eastern politics:
Sometimes the Falastinians are very stupid. It doesn't matter whether you're Falastinian or Israeeli, or Muslim or Jewish* — all that matters is that you are straight [=honest]. But the main reason they hate Israeel is because they're jealous* of the standard of living. That's why people in the Arab world hate Amreeka, too — they're jealous*. Even when I go there, they give me nasty looks because I even though I'm also Arab, I live in Amreeka and they're jealous* of me too.

*he actually pronounced these words Gooish and gealous, with a /g/ sound, seemingly because he was 'hypercorrecting' the fact that English /g/ sounds are usually borrowed into Arabic as "zh" or "dj" (since most Arabic dialects lack a "g" sound).

3 Comments:

Blogger The back of the hill said...

Arabs are a pleasure to talk to about the Middle-East compared to the non-Arab pro-Palestinians. Reason being that Arabs are cynical about Arabs. Nice white suburbanites are all moony over the poor oppressed Palestinians, and just infuriated by those bad, bad, bad! Jews.

Arabs are often wrong - but in a much more complex way and with more nuance than starry-eyed idealists or convinced ideologues.

12/08/2008 6:12 PM  
Blogger BZ said...

Or maybe he was Egyptian, where the jim is pronounced gim?

12/11/2008 10:48 PM  
Blogger Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...

BZ:

that also makes sense

12/13/2008 9:20 PM  

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