Middle East Research and Information Project: Critical Coverage of the Middle East Since 1971

Intifada Chic We’re not really sure what this tells us about the present state of the Israeli Jewish psyche, almost two years into the intifada, but here are some of the designer T-shirts being sold these days in Jerusalem:

  • “Intifada Busters,” depicting a Palestinian, his face wrapped in a kaffiya and a rock in his hand, with a circle and diagonal bar superimposed.
  • “I Got Stoned in the West Bank.”
  • “I Got Stoned in Mea Shearim” (an ultra-religious Jewish neighborhood in West Jerusalem).
  • Spooky figures looming over a tombstone bearing the inscription: “Beirut, Tunis, Entebbe, Damascus, Berlin,” and a logo that reads: “Israeli Special Forces: Mess with Us Anywhere and You’re Chopped Liver.”
  • “Torah — It’s the Real Thing.”
  • And at Palestinian shops in the Old City, a picture of an Israeli army tank and the logo “Peace through Superior Fire-Power.”

What’s In a Name? According to the Israeli press, a group of soldiers in an Israeli regular army unit serving in the Ramallah area acquired such a reputation for viciousness toward Palestinians that their fellow soldiers nicknamed them the “Mengele group,” after the infamous Nazi doctor. General Amram Mitzna, the West Bank commander whose own fine record in combatting the intifada has now earned him a year’s leave of absence at Harvard University, ordered an investigation which found that the unit had not carried out any “irregular acts.” The military censors subsequently allowed the media to publicize a similar story suppressed for over a year: another especially brutal army unit had come to be called the “Auschwitz company.”

Mindless Once Again As so often happens when he tackles the Middle East, A.M. Rosenthal once again achieved self-parody in his “On My Mind” column in the New York Times of July 7, 1989. This fearless scourge of Soviet prison conditions reported on his recent visit to the Israeli prison camp in the Negev desert, known to Palestinians as Ansar III. Rosenthal pronounced the food decent and explained that the camp’s location permits its lucky inmates to avoid the dankness and darkness that plague prisons elsewhere. Only the practice of administrative detention seemed to disturb him a bit. The official Israeli claim that administrative detainees cannot be put on trial because the PLO would simply murder anyone who testifies against them was “probably true,” Rosenthal wrote, utterly ignorant of the fact that nearly all of the Palestinians who do make it to court are convicted either on the basis of coerced confessions (no recantations allowed) or of secret testimony by Israeli security agents. In any case, Rosenthal’s real concern was not so much administrative detention itself as his fear that without a trial the “real leaders of the intifada, behind the rock-throwing children the world sees on television,” will always see themselves as victims rather than the criminals they actually are.

Cellmates The infighting that paralyzed the Sudanese government of Prime Minister Sadiq al-Mahdi before it was overthrown in July continues in prison. One former minister demanded that his ex-colleagues who hailed from the country’s southern provinces be transferred to another section of the prison. When mounting bitterness threatened to erupt in violence among the former ministers, prison authorities told them they were free to segregate themselves voluntarily.

Islamic Bombs In Pakistan the security police have arrested the author of a book which challenges official claims that the country’s nuclear program is purely peaceful in purpose. The book, which stated that Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto has given Pakistani scientists orders to develop a nuclear bomb, was banned and all copies confiscated. The author, a prominent newspaper publisher linked to Bhutto’s opposition, was accused of “giving the impression that the policy of the government in relation to a sensitive and vital national project is contrary to that which is publicly stated by the Government of Pakistan.”

The Prophet Made Me Do It Iran’s population, currently over 50 million, is growing by 2.5 million a year. Ali Khamenei — then Iran’s president and now Ayatollah Khomeini’s replacement — stated in June that while large families may have been necessary for the spread of Islam in its early years, this was no longer the case. In a sermon after Friday prayers, he said that he would neither “reject nor insist on” birth control, but told those who favored large families that they should not cite Islam as justification. The Prophet Muhammad may have encouraged his followers to have more children, “but this does not mean that for the rest of history every Muslim family is obliged to have 8, 10, 12 kids. Don’t make an excuse out of the prophet if you want to have more children.”

How Do You Say “Wayne Gretzky” in Arabic? Ice hockey seems to be the latest rage in the United Arab Emirates. The princes have built four luxurious new stadiums — presumably with reliable air-conditioning systems — and sent well-funded scouts to West Germany to recruit teams to vie for the Al-Ain Cup. Among the invitees is SV Beyreuth, a first league team. (If the price was right, perhaps Beyreuth’s Richard Wagner Festival chorus would be willing to come along to provide intermission entertainment.)

How to cite this article:

Al Miskin "Mediations," Middle East Report 161 (November/December 1989).
Cancel