I'm about to leave for a five-week trip seeing East Africa (Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda and Uganda), but I wanted to post a link to an execrable op-ed about learning Arabic in the Washington Post by Joel Pollak.
I sent out a hasty letter to the editor, which reads as follows:
Joel Pollak complains that there isn’t enough of an Israeli perspective in Arabic language classes. He then goes on to describe “West Beirut,” a gem of Lebanese cinema that recounts a love story between a Muslim boy and a Christian girl, as a film that casts Christians as “the prime bad guys in Lebanon’s civil war.” Obviously Pollak’s Arabic has not progressed far enough to have understood the movie.
He then assures us that he refused to talk about Abdel Nassar in class. In French courses, one learns about Napoleon as a grand statesman, not a brutal imperial dictator. Likewise in Arabic classes, as well as in much of the third world, Nasser was seen as a hero.
One of the points of language courses is to better understand the culture of the speakers of that language. Since Pollak would obviously prefer to learn about Israeli and Jewish history, one can only assume that mistakenly signed up for Arabic lessons when he was actually looking to learn Hebrew.
In other news, there's this nasty piece calling for collective punishment. I'd have more to say about this last one, except that I'm in a hurry.
I don't know what the internet situation is going to be like in any of the places where I'll be over the next month or so, but I can't imagine that posting will be any slower than it has been in the last month or two. Which means that I'll do my best to step it up considerably.