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Netanyahu and self-consciousness

May 22, 2012

The brief window of time during which a rainbow passes across the kitchen counter while I eat breakfast isn’t long enough to read an entire feature-length magazine article. But between Monday and today, I slowly worked my way through the latest issue of TIME magazine’s cover story on Benjamin Netanyahu.

Here’s Bibi with the rainbow:

TIME magazine cover featuring Benjamin Netanyahu

I don’t read much American media coverage of Israel apart from catching headlines from the New York Times and reading about big stories to get additional perspective. For day to day stuff, I prefer to stick to Israeli papers for Israeli news. While not earth-shattering or particularly enlightening for people who regularly keep up with what’s happening in Israel, this magazine article was informative and relatively neutral. If you’re interested in a concise, general overview of the complexity of Israeli demographics and domestic politics, it’s especially relevant.

Rather than discuss said politics, I’d rather share what crossed my mind as I was reading about Netanyahu’s take on the peace process. The article reminded me of the handful of times I’ve come to an impasse during political discussions with Israelis over what to call President Mahmoud Abbas. Like most Americans, I call him Abbas. Israelis call him Abu Mazen, as does most everyone else in the Middle East. I feel awkward calling him Abu Mazen when he comes up in conversation with Israelis, the same way I feel awkward when a British person asks “Where’s your flat?” and I answer with either “My… flat… is nearby” or “My HOUSE [emphasis and self-consciousness mine and mine alone] is over there.” But for the sake of communication, I try not to feel like a complete idiot when superficially adopting the lingo of whomever I’m speaking to without giving the impression that I don’t recognize how silly it is to say “flat” when I’m an American who’s never lived in the U.K. or how disingenuous it is to say “Abu Mazen” when I’m not even allowed to have an Israeli passport.

And then once again, the rainbow dropped off the edge of the counter and it was time to get back to work.

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