Dr. Hawass & his Arabic “idiom”

The new Arabic edition of National Geographic will be hitting newsstands for the first time in 15 countries on October 1, but the celebrations have already begun in Dubai:

(From left) Editor of National Geographic Chris Johns, Executive Vice-President of National Geographic Terence Adamson, Emirati Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research Sheikh Nahayan bin Mubarak al-Nahayan, Editor in chief National Geographic Al-Rabiya Mohammed al-Hammadi. (Photo: AFP)

We note, with grave concern, that NGM-Arabic has named Zahi Hawass as one of seven experts who will serve as advisers and contributors.

Why are we troubled by this appointment? Here (once again) is Dr. Hawass in his own words:

Dr. Zahi Hawass, National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence

Further Remarks on Statements Regarding the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

In an article about Jewish history that I wrote in January for El-Sharq El-Awsat newspaper, I wrote, “It seems that the idea of killing children, old people, and women and ignoring taboos runs in the blood of the Palestinian Jews,” a statement that has been interpreted as anti-Semitic. There are two important points that I want to stress in addressing this criticism. First, I was not speaking of Jews in general. I was speaking only of the “Jews of Palestine” – the modern state of Israel. I deeply disapprove of the policies of the Israeli government with regard to Palestine, and I felt that strong language was necessary to communicate the intensity of my emotions. In addition, I was writing in Arabic for a Middle Eastern audience. The cultural gulf between the West and the Middle East is so deep that I cannot blame people for misinterpreting my statements, but I would like for everyone to know that the tone that I adopted and the words that I chose were tailored to convey my emotions to other Arabic speakers in an idiom that they would appreciate….”

If that doesn’t make your stomach churn, perhaps this will. Or this.

Such demagoguery prompts these questions for Terry Adamson and Chris Johns:

• How does such unadulterated nastiness help build what Chris called a “bridge of understanding“?
• How do you see this local “idiom” shaping the coverage of NGM-Arabic under the guidance of Dr. Hawass?
• Why is Zahi Hawass still on our Society’s payroll?

Please feel free to share your answers in the comments, below.

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