Why I don’t read Arabic, by Ben Cohen

Ben Cohen (pictured), author of a critique of the Lebanese newspaper Al-Akhbar, responds bitingly to an Arab professor of political science berating him for not reading Arabic. Well, Ben’s mother tongue might well have been Arabic were it not for a certain anti-Jewish pogrom in Baghdad in 1941. A palpable hit, Ben.
The Propagandist via Solomonia.

“I normally don’t respond to my critics because if I did, I’d scarcely have the time to do anything else. But, as I’ll explain, I have to make an exception in the case of As’ad Abu Khalil, a Political Science Professor at California State University and the author of a rather sordid little blog called the Angry Arab News Service.

“Abu Khalil, seen here in a picture which may serve as a warning about the misuse of hair restoration products, berates me for my latest piece – published here in The Propagandist and on The Huffington Post – about Al Akhbar, a Lebanese newspaper with a Strasserite editorial line: anti-American, anti-capitalist and viciously antisemitic.

“Abu Khalil, whom I have never met and never corresponded with, wants his readers to believe that I have no knowledge of Marx’s oeuvre (dude, don’t get into that with me – I really do.) And he’s also spitting rage that a “Zionist hoodlum” like me – don’t you just love that deliciously retro, Soviet term of abuse? – should criticize an Arab newspaper when I don’t read Arabic.

“It’s that last point which has triggered my decision to respond. Abu Khalil is right. I don’t read Arabic and I’d like to explain why. In 1941, my father’s family was ethnically cleansed from Iraq in the wake of the farhud, a pogrom against Baghdad’s Jewish community instigated by similarly “angry Arabs,” allied with the Nazis and spurred on by the notorious Mufti of Jerusalem, Hajj Amin al-Husseini, which resulted in hundreds of deaths and injuries and destroyed homes. Had it not been for that event – painstakingly documented in Edwin Black’s superb book on the subject – my mother tongue would have been Arabic.

“Hence my desire to set the record straight. And now I’ll move on.”

Read post in full


  • I know this is several years late but I just want to point out a mistake in Eliyahu's comment. The Strasser bothers were never referred to as "National Bolsheviks". There is a similarity in their ideology and the ideology of the modern "National Bolshevik" movement (a fringe of a fringe to be sure). However the Strassers and those like them in the NSDAP were simply a little more left wing then the post-1934 Nazi Party; believing in the nationalization of the banks and some other industries and supplementing the German army with a "people's militia" of SA men. Still it was as red as you can get in the Nazi movement. Indeed some members of the German Communist party joined the Nazi Party after the latter came to power. They were referred to as "beefsteaks" by the mainstream Nazis; brown on the outside, red on the inside.

  • I am not sure that everybody knows what "strasserite" in Cohen's blog refers to. The Strasser brothers were German Nazis, that is, national socialists. They led a Nazi faction called "national Bolsheviks." That is, they combined Nazi Judeophobia with explicit admiration for the Communist Soviet Union. They were no doubt aware of how the Soviet Bolsheviks treated those of dissident views and social classes that were considered "reactionary." They most likely knew about the millions killed or starved to death in the First Five Year Plan. Hitler too must have known. So the Bolsheviks gave an example to the Nazis.

    Ben Cohen probably mentioned in his huffpost piece, which I will have to get to, that al-Akhbar is affiliated with Hizbullah, while taking a "leftist" stance on other issues. An al-Akhbar reporter was on hand for the show that the Hizb put on when they ambushed an Israeli soldier on the Lebanese border in August. See link:


  • Vitriolic? I see what you mean, Mary. The Jews are always to blame for their own misfortune, don't you know, even if the Farhud occurred SEVEN years before Israel was established.

    I second what you say about Arab victimhood, but interestingly enough Berbers often have a different view – like the Jews, they have been victims of Arab imperialism.

  • Cor blimey! The comments left on the propagandist site are quite vitriolic. I imagine it is quite difficult to achieve justice as a Mizrahi. Unless the Arabs aren't being praised for their "so-called" benevolence, they don't want to know.

    This Angry Arab sounds a right turnip! These guys need to feel victims, because if they didn't they'd have to face up to 1400 of imperialism and cultural cleansing.
    Keep up the good work. The truth always wins out even though I deeply worry for the safety of Israel.

    Shanghai Mary (former wife of a Berber from Setif, Kabyle)


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