In Israel a new computer game called Intifada — developed by a Russian-born supporter of Meir Kahane who immigrated to Israel from the US after a stint in the Jewish Defense League — has become a bestseller. Players score points for successfully using tear gas, plastic bullets, rubber bullets and/or live ammunition to disperse Palestinian demonstrators throwing rocks and gasoline bombs. Unlike real life, the game’s rules penalize excessive zeal: Players lose points if, for example, they shoot to kill when only tear gas is authorized. High scorers “win” a progressively more hardline Israeli government, culminating in the installation of Kahane as defense minister, and restrictions on the use of lethal force are eased as the right gains strength. Responding to criticism, the game’s inventor told the Jerusalem Post: “When people started calling it a Nazi game, I felt I had to come forward to put the record straight…. [The Education Ministry] is turning all the children into left-wingers. The only hope for the country is if the right wing is strong.”
Excerpts from a fundraising letter sent out by Friends of the IDF (“an association for the wellbeing of the soldiers of Israel”) and signed by chairman Henry Plitt, brigadier general (retired), US Army Reserves, and vice chairman Vidal Sassoon: “Far from home and family, manning a lonely outpost or guarding a hostile border, military duty can be unbearably dreary…. For the beleaguered soldiers serving in the territories, patrolling angry Arab villages, the beginning of spring seems to encourage them somewhat. Though they are still targets for rocks, bottles, petrol bombs and human excrement, the season’s change means an end to the flooded, muddy streets and to the cold, gray weather that always added to the tension…. But while the ‘peace process’ is a major topic on the world stage, the daily struggle continues in the littered alleys. The common soldier is in the front line of that struggle, all but forgotten.”
The Jewish Telegraphic Agency reports that the State Department and the PLO have literally been inching toward one another. At the start of the “dialogue” in January, the tables at which the two negotiating teams sit — in a government-owned guest house in Tunis — were several feet apart; by the third meeting in June the tables actually touched, leading to widespread speculation about how to interpret this new furniture arrangement.
It’s official: The Oxford English Dictionary editors plan to include the Arabic word intifada in the next edition. In English (as in Hebrew and, increasingly, other languages), intifada has gained acceptance, with no need of translation, as a general term for “a protracted civil uprising.”
In Jordan, this joke accompanied the mini-intifada of last April against the unpopular government of Prime Minister Ziyad al-Rifa‘i. Al-Rifa‘i had ordered the Post Office to issue a postage stamp with his picture on it. Soon after it went on sale, he began to hear rumors that the new stamp would not stick to envelopes. The prime minister stormed into the main post office and ordered the postmaster to bring him a stamp to test. Al-Rifa‘i licked the stamp, stuck it on an envelope, and triumphantly proclaimed to the postmaster, “You see? It sticks!” “But Your Excellency,” the postmaster replied, “you’re the only one who spits on the back!”
Tunisian voters went to the polls in April in what the government billed as an exercise in democracy after decades of one-man rule by the recently deposed Habib Bourguiba. President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, running unopposed, was reelected with 99.7 percent of the vote, while the ruling party won all 141 parliamentary constituencies. Opposition parties and human rights groups reported widespread “voting irregularities.” A source close to Ben Ali said that “the president is disappointed. This is not what he wanted.”
In March the US government announced that it was paying $18,000 in compensation to the family of an Indian man killed when the fishing boat on which he was working was fired on by a US warship in the Persian Gulf. A week later the Iraqi government agreed to pay $27.35 million in compensation to the families of the 37 US sailors killed in the May 1987 Iraqi attack on the USS Stark. By this accounting, it would seem, the life of an American is worth precisely $721,189.18 more than the life of an Indian.
From Tehran, this (tongue-in-cheek?) bulletin: Among the members of the government committee in charge of censoring movies is a blind cleric, who renders judgment after listening to a movie’s soundtrack. Dissident filmmakers are exploring the possibility of reviving the silent film.
A cinema story from Baghdad: Anxious to reassure himself of his popularity, President Saddam Hussein decided one day to disguise himself and mingle with the people. He wandered into a movie theater and sat down. When a newsreel praising the beneficent and beloved leader Saddam Hussein came on, the president was astonished — and flattered — to see the entire audience stand up and applaud enthusiastically. Hussein sat in his seat beaming, until the man standing next to him poked him and said, “You’d better get up and applaud or they’ll have your ass!”