New Internationalist

Letters

Issue 319

new internationalist
issue 319 - December 1999

Letters
The New Internationalist welcomes your letters. But please keep them short.
They may be edited for purposes of space or clarity.
Include a home telephone number if possible and send your letters
to the nearest editorial office or e-mail to : ni@newint.org

Passionate plea
Cover of the NI Issue 317. Congratulations on one of the best issues ever! Although it is a cliché to say so, your magazine on bananas (NI 317) really was a passionate plea which got to the core of the matter.

I worked a while in an organization for the promotion of organic agriculture in Germany which opened my eyes to the existence of this grave ecological and economic problem.

I have decided to sacrifice my copy and send it to my former colleagues. I hope they will be encouraged by the contents to step up their efforts in Germany.

Catherine Lodge
Munich, Germany

Ridiculous claims
In his letter (NI 318) Scott Ratzan fails to address our factual critique of his writings. He submitted a simply rabid and misleading opinion piece to the Wall Street Journal. In it, he stated ‘… the CJD-mad cow hypothesis turned out to be wrong. We still don’t know how humans contract CJD. But what is clear is that people don’t get it by eating meat from cows or lamb… Mad cow disease now joins the Dalkon Shield, electromagnetic fields, Alar, breast implants and other spurious health hazards.’

We defy Ratzan to cite a single peer-reviewed scientific study in the last two years which supports his claim that there is no link between mad cow disease and vCJD (or nvCJD, to use the most common designation for the new disease).

His gibberish is picked up by groups like Steve Milloy’s ‘junk science’ home page, and Elizabeth Whelan’s American Council on Science and Health, and trumpeted as ‘the truth’.

We can see why Ratzan is upset; we’d be embarrassed too if we authored such pap and it became grist for the mill of right-wing propagandists. But he should blame himself, not us, for his own ridiculous claims.

Sheldon Rampton and John Stauber
Madison, Wisconsin, US

Living in shadow
I am writing regarding the article ‘Death of a firefighter’ (‘Letter from LebanonNI 316). Also in this issue comparisons were made between treatment of the Iraqi Government and the Israeli Government by the UN, the US and Britain.

There appears to be an imbalance in the treatment of Israel compared with other nations.

Israel has occupied South Lebanon since the end of the war in 1992. It continues daily bombardments and killings in the South and recently tried to move further into Lebanon. The Hizbollah are deemed a terrorist organization but are the Israelis any better? The bombings in Beirut highlight the aggression of Israel against innocent Lebanese people yet there was no worldwide media coverage of the atrocity. Why is news like this kept from us? Israel needs to move from South Lebanon but until there is pressure from outside they will continue to be the aggressors.

In the West we are afraid to speak out against Israel in fear of being called anti-semitic. To criticize the antics of Israel is not being anti-semitic. It is time we stopped being afraid to criticize Israel. The holocaust of the Second World War will never be forgotten but we cannot always live in its shadow, afraid to speak.

Having recently returned from a year living in Lebanon, I understand that this small country will never be permitted to move into the future while it is still shackled by Israel and Syria who use it as their political playing field.

CarolAnne Quigley
Wishaw, Scotland

Racism
After reading a particularly unpleasant article on asylum seekers in the British press, I remembered a surprising omission in your otherwise excellent propaganda issue (NI 314). The connection between racism and propaganda was totally ignored.

Racism is often seen as an aberration of a minority element (ie the violent). When fighting it there is a tendency to concentrate on specific cases or groups without considering the undercurrents that maintain preconceptions, particularly within the media.

I feel a piece on this subject would have been well timed.

Austin Lloyd
People and Planet
Birmingham, England

Military preparedness
I was disappointed to read your article ‘Red Alert’ in the August issue (NI 315). It vastly overstates the military’s unpreparedness for Y2K. One particular question asks ‘Aren’t most nuclear weapons carried on submarines these days?’ As someone who served aboard a submarine for seven years, I know that a submarine is fully capable of raising its periscope without the use of computers. Also, a submarine does not ‘plummet to the ocean floor’ when it’s nuclear reactor ‘turns off’. A submarine has several methods of depth control independent of its reactor. Submarine crews constantly conduct drills for many tactical scenarios (as do all military units), including ones where the submarine must operate under degraded conditions, be they caused by battle damage, accident, sabotage, computer glitches, etc.

James Williams
Tempe, Arizona, US

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Gul Aslan’s release
I am pleased to inform readers that Gul Aslan, the journalist mentioned in ‘Ataturk’s Children’ (‘EndpieceNI 315), was released on 20 August 1999, after the piece was published. She was released without relation to the earlier amnesty of many convicts.

Gul Aslan was just one of many such political prisoners that our organization has campaigned for in Turkey. The situation continues to deteriorate. Fifty-one people who took part in a peaceful demonstration against the headscarf ban in universities in February this year face the death penalty if found guilty of ‘trying to overthrow the Turkish system’. One of those being tried is Huda Kaya, another journalist, and her three daughters. The evidence for their crimes includes the fact that one daughter was present at the demonstration in her capacity as a reporter, and the other two read out poetry in front of the Governor’s building in Malatya, where the demonstration took place. One of the poems was entitled, ‘Song of Freedom’.

The highly publicized Ocalan trial, and the tragedy of the earthquake have masked the above and many such cases from international scrutiny.

As a human-rights organization we cannot stress how important it is that those concerned give protest against abuses through a telephone call, e-mail or letter. It does work. It can get people released, and it can save lives.

Massoud Shadjareh
Islamic Human Rights Commission, London, England

Disney disgrace
I would like to congratulate you on this issue (NI 308). It exposes the raw and sheer disgusting work that people in Haiti have to put up with. I mean people complain about making only $5.00 an hour here but these people are making 42 cents at the most. This is a complete disgrace. I may only be 16 but I think it is so sad that US are exploiting people when they can clearly afford to pay them basic wages. I have never been to Disney Land and I have now made up my mind that I will never go. This has really opened my eyes.

Sophie Pouwels
Gawler East, South Australia

Poverty correction
In your Poverty issue (NI 310). the contact information for the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty is incorrect.

For the Kitchener-Waterloo chapter:
Tel: (519) 220-2159 Fax: (519) 746-4096
E-mail: kwocap@tao.ca 
Web: www.web.net/~gccwat/ocap

For the Toronto chapter:
Tel: (416) 925-6939 Fax: (416) 966-8759
E-mail: ocap@tao.ca
Web: www.tao.ca/~ocap

Kevin Smith.
Kitchener-Waterloo, ONT, Canada

The views expressed in these letters are not necessarily those of the New Internationalist

Letter from Lebanon

English attack
Reem Haddad reports on some linguistic twists and turns

photo-montage by IAN NIXON My parents, like other middle-aged couples in Lebanon, are having a hard time keeping up with the language in the country.

‘Mom,’ I told her the other day, ‘I am mdaprasseh.’

Translation: I am depressed. My mother gave me a blank look.

‘Are you speaking to me in Arabic or English?’ she asked.

Actually, both. English words are being Arabized by the hundreds and judging by the strange looks Arab tourists give us this phenomenon is only found in Lebanon.

Much to Arabic linguists’ surprise, this Arabinglisi (Arabic English) made its appearance after the end of the war when waves of Lebanese returned from the United States and the United Kingdom and, unable to speak Arabic very well, began mixing the languages together.

‘I am so angry at this new colleague at work,’ my friend told me the other day. ‘I have akkasit alleiha.’ Akkasit: Arabinglisi word meaning to put an ‘X’ on this person. Alleiha: Arabic for ‘her’. In other words, my friend will no longer speak to this unfortunate colleague.

Even gas station attendants eagerly ask if we want our cars fawwaleh (fueled). Computer scientists advise to frequently sayyiv (save), football players are urged to shawit (shoot) goals, and police warn about the dangers of dawbil (to double, or overtake) other cars.

The Lebanese have always been known for their use of foreign languages – French in particular. Everyone thinks there are too many camions (trucks) in the country, uses ascenseurs (elevators) and eats fraises (strawberries). Some French words were even Arabized like narvasit (‘enerve’ in French) or a car’s ashekmon (‘echappement’ or exhaust). But never has the country seen such an attack of English words. Strangely enough, the country’s Arabic linguists have yet to express any concern.

‘This is inevitable when dealing with English, a very popular language,’ said one expert.

DJ’s on radio stations – many of them American, British or Australian nationals – seem to have picked up on the trend and converse contentedly to the thousands of listening teenagers.

Lebanese seem to adore using French or now more commonly English words at every opportunity. Few shopkeepers put up signs in Arabic only. They either have the name of the shop translated or simply use English. But many times this results in unfortunate shop signs such as ‘Pussy Toys’ or ‘Slimy Beach’.

While the Lebanese may be revelling in their glossary of English or French words, foreigners who came to the country to learn Arabic are definitely not enjoying the phenomenon. My fiancé, for one, a British national who has lived in the country for the past five years, can still only manage a few Arabic words.

‘How can I learn it if everybody insists on speaking to me in English?’ he asks. No matter how many times he enrols in Arabic courses, the results are the same. Grocers, butchers and shopkeepers don’t give him the chance to practise his new words.

‘If anything they want to practise their English skills with me,’ said my frustrated fiancé.

After a while, foreigners figure out that the only way to learn Arabic – real Arabic – is to live in neighboring Syria for a while. Robert Tuttle, an American now residing in Lebanon, did just that and spent three years in Damascus until he mastered the language.

He left Syria with strong Arabic skills including the correct pronunciation. In Lebanon, however, he found himself only speaking English.

‘At this rate, I’m going to forget everything I learned,’ he told me.

So now, once a month for a week, Robert refuses to speak anything but Arabic.

My questions in English are duly answered in Arabic and grocers have to forgo practising their newly acquired English words on Robert.

But to survive in Lebanon, Robert will also have to learn the Arabinglisi or he’ll find himself m’angar (angry) at the Lebanese when they fail to understand his pure Arabic.

Reem Haddad is a reporter for the Daily Star in Beirut.

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