From the Archives: What’s in a name?

This post has already been read 63 times!

What’s in a name?
In the Middle East, people really get riled up over names
By Ray Hanania
Originally Published: 04.17.07, 16:25 YnetNews.com Israel Opinion

Names mean a lot to some people. In Sweden, a couple recently wanted to call their new born daughter “Metallica,” which is the name of a popular heavy metal rock group, but the government said no.

I know that people in the Middle East really get riled up over names, too. The whole Arab-Israeli conflict boils down to whether or not the strip of land along the Mediterranean coast should be called Palestine or Israel.

For a long time, Israelis wouldn’t allow anyone to call Palestinians “Palestinians.” They were just “Arabs,” and still are according to some government practices. I once wrote that Assyrians are “Arab” and received more than 300 e-mails complaining that I had committed a mortal sin.

Assyrians may live in the Middle East, speak Arabic and eat Arabian food, but they are NOT Arab, they protested. I argued they should let it be, pointing out that “Hanania” is the name of a famous Assyrian, Shadrach, a friend of Daniel’s, who was tossed into the lion’s den. They wrote back, Assyrians are not Chaldeans.

A few years ago, the National Geographic Magazine labeled the gulf waters that begin at the intersection of Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Iran as “The Arabian Gulf.” That upset the Iranians who have been calling the waters the Persian Gulf for years.

Americans love Persian food, but most don’t even know that Persia is another word for “Iranians.” Americans hate Iranians. Always have and always will, because Americans are a proud people and never “run.””These colors don’t run,” is the popular American bumper sticker that pictures the red, white and blue of the American flag in defending the war in Iraq.

‘The Zionist entity’

Of course, The Iranians blamed the controversy on the “Jewish controlled media,” on “Zionism” and especially on the “Zionist Entity,” which is the term they use to refer to a word that is practically illegal to say in Iran, “Israel.” I never understood that whole thing about not calling Israel “Israel” and calling it the Zionist Entity instead.

“Entity” is a powerful word. I mean, when you are an entity, you are basically an official corporate structure with many benefits. If the Arabs wanted to undermine Israel, they would call it by its name, Israel. “Down with the Zionist Entity” doesn’t have the same impact as saying “Down with Israel.”

Names also have an important weight in terms of conflicts, especially the names of leaders. For example, look at the names of the Israeli leaders. Howard Squadron. Abraham Foxman. Chaim “the Wiseman” Weisman. All the names suggest power. Perspicuity. Intelligence. Strength. Jeez. Squadron is the word you use for a military unit that assaults a target.

Now look at the Arab leaders’ names. Hose-me Mubarak. That’s been done. Bash-my-ass Assad. (I just thought he was an “Ass”-Syrian.) And, Momar Ga-Daffy. No wonder the Arabs keep losing wars with Israel.

Even our missiles are goofy. The Israelis have a missile called “Jericho,” which is supposed to carry weapons that are nuclear, a name that doesn’t exist in official Israeli lexicon. The Iraqi missile fired by Saddam Hussein was called a “Scud,” which rhymed with “dud!”

The Hamas missiles, which are not really missiles at all but pop-bottle rockets fired for absolutely no purpose but homage to Allah,

are called “Qassam Rockets.” No creativity at all. At least not like the Iranians, who are not even Arab either. The Iranians even named the missile they fired at Israel “Khaibar,” which has a dual meaning. Khaibar was the name of an ancient town inhabited by Jews that the Prophet Mohammed tried to convert to Islam. Mohammed ordered the Khaibar Jews to leave or be massacred. We know the story.

My name is Raymond. People who meet me say, “You look like an Arab. Talk like an Arab. Eat like an Arab. But you don’t sound like an Arab.”Well, my mom is from Bethlehem and when she came to this country, she couldn’t speak any English at all. After delivering me in the hospital, all she could hear were the words coming out of the intercom system above her head, “Dr. Raymond. Dr. Raymond.”

Fortunately, my dad could speak English. He was from Jerusalem. He had the word “Doctor” dropped from my birth certificate. You know Arab moms. They want their sons to grow up to be doctors or grocery store owners.

Of course, my dad was tough. He never called me by my name. When he wanted to say something to me, he’d turn to my mom and yell, “Shu hadtha, ihbal?” (What’s that, idiot?) For the first 15 years of my life, I thought my name was Ihbal. And my brother, who was older and was always out driving the family car late, was called, “Jesus Christ.”

Of course, I have a sister, too. Her name growing up was “Habeela.”We even thought we had another brother. Maybe dad was married to a second wife? Dad would always yell to the heavens, “Wannick ya Rubbeee?” (Where are you Ya Rubbee?) “Who’s Ya Rubbee?” I asked my brother. “You?” … “No,” my brother said. “I’m Jesus Christ. How about you?” “Not me,” I said. “I’m Ihbal. Linda?” Nah, we both nodded, “She’s Habeela. “We never did meet “Ya Rubbee.”

Ray Hanania is an award winning Palestinian American columnist, author and standup comedian. He can be reached at www.hanania.com

This post has already been read 63 times!

Ray Hanania

Ray Hanania is an award winning former Chicago City Hall reporter and Columnist who began writing in 1975 when he published The Middle Eastern Voice newspaper in Chicago (1975-1977). He covered Chicago City Hall from 1976 through 1992 (Mayor Daley to Mayor Daley) and has expanded to writing for newspapers around the world focussed on Middle East and American politics.

Hanania loves to write about American Arabs in politics, and focuses on Arab life in America.

Currently, he writes weekly columns on Middle East and American Arab issues for the Arab News in Saudi Arabia at www.ArabNews.com. He writes on American politics for the Des Plaines Valley News, Southwest News-Herald, The Regional News newspaper and the Reporter Newspapers. He also writes for the online websites TheArabDailyNews.com and NewsAmericaNetwork.com (Illinois News Network at IllinoisNewsNetwork.com).

Palestinian, American Arab and Christian, Hanania’s parents originate from Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Hanania began in journalism as an activist publishing Chicago’s first English-language American Arab Newspaper “The Middle Eastern Voice” from 1975 through 1977. In 1976, he was hired by the Chicago community newspaper The Southtown Economist (Daily Southtown) and in 1985 was hired by the Chicago Sun-Times and covered Chicago City Hall for both. In 1993, he launched the “The Villager” Newspapers which covered 12 Southwest Chicagoland suburban regions. In 2004, he published “The National Arab American Times” monthly newspaper which was distributed through 12,500 Middle East ethnic food stores in 48 American States.

Hanania is the recipient of four (4) Chicago Headline Club “Peter Lisagor Awards” for Column writing. In November 2006, he was named “Best Ethnic American Columnist” by the New American Media;In 2009, he received the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award for Writing from the Society of Professional Journalists. He is the recipient of the MT Mehdi Courage in Journalism Award. Hanania has also received two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild, and in 1990 was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.

Hanania’s writings have been published in newspapers around the world. Formerly syndicated by Creators Syndicate, Hanania also has written news, features and Opinion Columns for Al Jazeera English, the Jerusalem Post, YNetNews.com, Arab News, Saudi Gazette, Newsday in New York, the Orlando Sentinel, the Houston Chronicle, The Daily Star, the News of the World, the Daily Yomimuri in Tokyo, Chicago Magazine, the Arlington Heights Daily Herald, and Aramco Magazine. His political columns are published in the Southwest News-Herald and Des Plaines Valley News, Regional News and Palos Reporter newspapers in Chicagoland. Hanania is the President/CEO of Urban Strategies Group media and public affairs consulting which has clients in Illinois, Florida, Michigan and Washington D.C.

Hanania is Palestinian Christian from prominent Bethlehem and Jerusalem families. His wife and son are Jewish and he performs standup comedy lampooning Arab-Jewish relations, advocating for peace based on non-violence, mutual recognition and Two-States.

His Facebook Page is Facebook.com/rghanania

Email him at: RGHanania@gmail.com