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World Association of International Studies

Post How "Free" Are Non-Jews in Israel? Response to Luciano Dondero
Created by John Eipper on 10/30/18 5:00 AM

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How "Free" Are Non-Jews in Israel? Response to Luciano Dondero (Soraya Sepahpour-Ulrich, USA, 10/30/18 5:00 am)

I am never surprised to see that any criticism of Israel is responded to with deflection. Instead of responding to facts, the finger is pointed at "others."

Luciano Dondero (October 29th) must surely understand that while pictures may paint a thousand words, compiling a set of pictures and presenting them as evidence of the fair treatment of Arabs by Israel is not the whole picture. There are plenty of other pictures which depict the morbid mistreatment of Palestinians--Christian, Muslim, and Druze.

Luciano presented a picture of an Arab/Muslim in the IDF. Desperation is a strange thing. I suggest he read the story of Muslim recruits (10 in all as of 2013). I believe reading the link will be helpful in understanding the Muslim/Arab motivation for joining, and that of the Israelis for recruiting them: https://www.jpost.com/Israel-News/Two-Druze-officers-leave-IDF-over-nation-state-law-563834

Up until recently, Christians were forbidden from joining the IDF. http://www.israeltoday.co.il/Default.aspx?tabid=178&nid=24570

The Druze are not treated any better: https://www.jpost.com/Israel-News/Two-Druze-officers-leave-IDF-over-nation-state-law-563834

I am not clear what the woman posed in an IDF uniform is supposed to tell us about Israel. Nor do I understand the presentation of a 1999 "Arab-Israeli" beauty queen, or women voting. We are to look at these pictures and think women are free in Israel?

Further, I fail to understand Luciano's definition of "free." Isn't that a value judgment?  Again, one could go back and forth on what "free" is and compare to other Arab states--as Luciano has done here. But does Luciano want to defend Israel on the basis of it being better than other Arab nations? As the former IDF Deputy Chief of Staff Yair Golan said last year: "Morality is you compared to you. You compared to your standards, not to those around you." http://www.timesofisrael.com/outgoing-general-defends-controversial-holocaust-remembrance-day-speech/

Luciano wrote: "The second image shows a map of ethnic cleansing in Northern Africa and in the Arab countries surrounding Israel. As the figures indicate, most Jews were expelled from those countries. By contrast, the Arab population in Israel has grown over ten-fold."

What is the source of this map? We are not children who should be taught and informed by pictures. Why not provide the source for the information?

For thousands of years, Jews have been expelled from various countries. No doubt. I would love to find a decent book which lays out why this has been the case and why there has always been this horrific prejudice against Jews around the world, Africa, Europe, Middle East, etc. But while many Jews faced prejudice in their home countries, many chose to migrate to Palestine/Israel after the state was established.

Certainly, after the formation of the state of Israel on Palestinian land, the prejudice and suspicion of Jews was exasperated. But most Jews made a choice to go to Israel. Isn't this the whole point of Aliyah? (See for example Operation Magic Carpet, later named Operation Messiah's Coming.)

And why would they want to go to Israel? For decades, the United States has been sending huge sums of money to Israel.  A person living in Israel has a much higher standard of living than those living in America--thanks to American generosity. Imagine how much better off they are when they leave their home countries of Sudan, Ethiopia, Saudi Arabia, etc., for what they see as a haven.

Two points worth mentioning here--Israel has excellent relations with the countries stated in Luciano's map. And, American policymakers control these nations while they put Israel before America both in aid and in political cover.

Luciano wrote: "As the figures indicate, most Jews were expelled from those countries. By contrast, the Arab population in Israel has grown over ten-fold."

What is his source for this graph? I am very curious to know, as it clearly shows that Jews from other countries have occupied Palestinian land--certainly to the detriment of the Palestinians.

Luciano's picture indicates that in 1948 Palestinian Arabs numbered 150,000 versus today's 1,640,000. What odd, inaccurate numbers! If one looks at historic numbers, the population of non-Jews in 1948 was 1,319,000 versus a Jewish population of 650,000 http://palestineisraelpopulation.blogspot.com/

As of 2018, Palestine's population stands at 5,096,457 http://worldpopulationreview.com/countries/palestine-population/ . I believe the 10-fold increase refers to Jews, at least, according to the Jewish Virtual Library https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/latest-population-statistics-for-israel

Luciano then insults the Iranian Jews by writing: "I suspect that the community of Jews there is treated more like chimpanzees in a zoo." Well, Luciano, your suspicions are wrong and indicate your prejudice towards non-Ashkenazi/white Jews and not the realities in Iran.

Even though Israel attempted to bribe Iranian Jews into leaving their home, they refused. Some people just don't sell out. In spite of daily threats from Israel and the US, the sanctions imposed on Iran, they refuse to sell their identity for money. If I were Luciano, I would extend an apology to the Iranian Jews. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2007/jul/12/israel.iran

As for homosexuals being killed--regurgitating an old, inaccurate story does not make facts. And does not exonerate Israel from its crimes. It is an old tactic that no longer works. Any time Israel is criticized, the inevitable reaction is "look at Iran." What a sad way to justify crimes.

Luciano, and indeed the Forum may be interested in knowing that the United States toyed with the idea of a "gay bomb." In other words, the nation leading the way to promoting gays, trans-genders etc. thought of homosexuality as a weapon to be used in wartime. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/4174519.stm

JE comments:  How is Israel's standard of living higher than that of the US?  Numbers slice up in countless ways, but the per capita GDP in Israel is $40,000, vs $59,000 in the US.  Israel's cost of living is also among the highest in the developed world.

A spelling question for Soraya:  you write "Moslem" in your WAIS submissions, but the accepted journalistic form is "Muslim."  I make the edit for publication.  Style manuals write that Moslem is outdated and possibly offensive, akin to "Peking" or even "Negro."  Is "Moslem" common among Iranians writing in English?

A thought exercise for the WAISitudes:  Would you rather be a Jew in Iran, or a Muslim in Israel?

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  • Muslim vs Moslem (Soraya Sepahpour-Ulrich, USA 11/02/18 4:13 AM)
    John Eipper asked me on October 30th:

    "You [Soraya] write 'Moslem' in your WAIS submissions, but the accepted journalistic form is 'Muslim.' I make the edit for publication. Style manuals write that Moslem is outdated and possibly offensive, akin to 'Peking' or even 'Negro.' Is 'Moslem' common among Iranians writing in English?"

    I am not sure which style manual would possibly state such a thing (unless it is funded by Arabs?), but it very inaccurate, and simply wrong to say the use of "Moslem"spelt with an ‘o' is offensive!

    Iranians and Arabs speak different languages. It is all a matter of pronunciation. Ditto the name Mohammad. Arabs write Muhammad, Iranians write Mohammad (and I believe Turks end the name with a T and not a D). I even had an exchange with a "devout" Arab who told me that writing Mohammad with an ‘o' instead of a ‘u' is an insult to the Prophet. I think the poor chap lacked intelligence, and no understanding of the faith he followed!

    The same people who write Mohammad with a U also write Moslem with a U (and vice versa of course).  Arab money has great influence in the West--they contribute huge sums to American universities.  See for example the money pored into MIT and Harvard: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/mar/30/elite-universities-selling-themselves-mit-harvard-saudi-arabia-mohammed-bin-salman

    In addition to their buying power to influence the media, it does not surprise me that there should be such a misunderstanding--or misinformation. If I were a betting person, I would bet that when the former Shah was on the throne, the "accepted journalistic" spelling would have been Moslem!

    There are two many important issues going on in our world and it would be petty of me to ask that JE does not edit the spelling in favor of Arabic spelling, but as editor, that is his prerogative . That said, I would very much appreciate knowing which style manuals have so misinformed JE.

    JE comments:  There are two issues here--how one is "supposed to" spell the word, and how these accepted norms got that way.

    For the former, the sources are myriad.  A few years ago Rupert Murdoch created controversy by tweeting "Moslem" instead of "Muslim":


    For its part, Merriam-Webster on-line describes "Moslem" as old-fashioned, increasingly rare, and sometimes offensive.  (I don't want WAIS to offend.)


    But why?  Soraya raises the important question of possible Arab influence, which could also explain Quran taking over from Koran, as well as the Prophet's modern spelling:  Muhammad.  From the Western perspective, Islam is an "Arabic" religion, and the two vastly different realities (language and religion) are often used interchangeably.

    In Detroit we have many Muslims.  There are Moslems too, but they belong to the local chapter of the Shriners--those fez-wearing, tiny-car-driving pillars of every US town:


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    • Unpacking "Muslim" and "Moslem" (A. J. Cave, USA 11/09/18 12:19 PM)
      The thread about Moslem vs Muslim reminded me of the old days of SPAISing at WAIS, when we used to discuss the spelling, transliteration and pronunciation of (some) words.

      In a nutshell, "Muslim" now is the more neutral and gentrified Anglo-American version of the Arabic loanword "Moslem," which remains in use, mostly in more politicized discourse, as well as in other languages. Moslem is closer to the Arabic pronunciation (with O and S), whereas Muslim is pronounced with a long a sound (Maaslem).

      Here is a fuller discussion:

      In principle, I agree that the role of the editor is to edit a post, and that editing is objective or subjective (or a little of both) depending on the editor. I am always thankful when major booboos in my posts are fixed before they hit the ‘Web.

      In this case, however, the difference between Moslem and Muslim in Anglo-American context, is not a simple one-for-one substitution of modern for obsolete. Words are like living cells in the body of a language, and these words are alive and well in different parts of that body. Use of one or the other, especially in a setting like WAIS, signals ideological, political and theological, as well as historical and lingual markers of the writer. If WAISers are using these two words interchangeably, I would get to their differences in a New York minute, after my usual disclaimer.

      I am neither a scholar nor know much about Arabic and Turkish languages, outside of the basics. I know a little more about the Persian language and its history, as well as the history of Islam, since Arabs and Islam have had a direct impact on old Persia and modern Iran--now known as the Islamic Republic of Iran.

      First, and most importantly, we are talking about the transliteration of an Arabic loanword in Anglo-American languages. Other languages have their own version of the word; some follow the Anglo-American version, but most don't.

      I looked at these two terms a while back and there were a lot more references online, but when I checked again couple of days ago, most have been updated and revised-from Moslem to Muslim--so, I would write this as my opinion, since I don't have time for an in-depth research at the library. The topic would make a good research project for some graduate student.

      It is common for transliteration of loanwords in English to improve over time, as we become more familiar with foreign cultures and their languages. Arabic words are no exception. The question here, however, is not a simple and straightforward transliteration of an Arabic word, but old and lingering views about Islam as a religion.

      The religion has always been called "Islam" (s and short a) by the Arabs, dating as far back as to the early days of its formation (revelation, but mostly a monotheistic movement not a religion yet). In the early years (during or after 622 CE), before the period of expansion by conquest, the Arab-Muslims referred to themselves as mu'menins (or mu'minins in Arabic, meaning believers), as evident in the Constitution of Medina (also called, Charter of Medina, dastur_e al-Madinah in Arabic)--an early Islamic document that has survived in secondary Arabic literary sources. Not a constitution, like the US Constitution, or a charter, like the Charter of the UN, it is a document called "kitab" in Arabic, which defines the roles and responsibilities of the tribes of Medina and the followers of the Prophet Muhammad who had arrived from Mecca, as well as his local supporters. The reference to "the believers" could have been inclusive of all those covered and co-existed by this treaty. In later sources, that Arabic self-identification becomes "We, the Moslems..." as a marker of members of a religion. We don't know when the shift from mu'menins to Moslems happened. It could have been after the massive conquests transformed the Arab-Muslim identity as somehow different (and perhaps superior) to other non-Arabian "believers."

      Strictly speaking, (masculine) "Moslem," or (feminine) "Moslemah," pronounced with o and s, is closest to the Arabic pronunciation of the word, but pronounced with o and z (instead of s), it is offensive to Arabs.

      Arabic and Persian are entirely different languages, from different families. "Moslem" written in Persian alphabet is an Arabic loanword in the (new) Persian language (divided to Old Persian, Middle Persian, and Persian) as well. The Persian word that refers to a "Moslem" is Mussalmaan (short a followed by long a)or Mussalmoon (short a followed by long o). There is no gender in Persian language, and Iranians do not refer to themselves as "Moslems" or alternatively "Muslims."

      As a side note, Farsi is the Arabized form of Parsi (due to lack of the phoneme p in Arabic). A majority of Iranians I know reject the term Farsi for Persian language. We use "Persian language."

      (I am simplifying here): Arab-Muslims were generally referred to as "Saracens," meaning easterners, or simply as heathens or pagans, by the Christian westerners, as Arab conquest turned westward. The re-engagement of the West with Arab-Muslims (after the Crusades of the Middle Ages) was in context of searching for the Biblical lands and people. The term Saracens was replaced by the Turkish? "Mahometans," as the Europeans crossed the Ottoman Empire to get to the Biblical lands. Mahometan was replaced by the Arabic "Mohammedans" as the British and French worked on breaking the Ottoman Empire in early 20th century. I don't know exactly when "Mohammedans" became "Moslems." In her books written prior to her death in 1926, the incomparable British Arabist Gertrude Bell (the white woman of the desert), referred to "Moslems" as Mohammedans. In her biography Gertrude Bell written by her relatives and printed in 1940, the transliterated loanword "Moslem" had already found its way into British language: From introduction by Ronald Bodley: "... One must remember that attitude towards the ‘infidel' of the Moslem who has that ineradicable certainty that the only people who are worthy of respect and can have any hope of future salvation are the followers of Mohammed..."

      Around the same timeline, the British transliteration of "Moslem" is a part of the American language. In Arabs, Oil and History: The Story of Middle East (1949) Kermit Roosevelt wrote: "... the Middle East may offer the most promising ground for Occident and Orient to meet and understand each other. If one world is to become a reality, there must be not only Russians and Americans in it; there must be 250 million Moslems, 250 million Hindus, 450 million Buddhists and Confucianists, together with Shintoists, Taoists, Zoroastrians, and others..."

      How did "Moslem" became "Muslim" in Anglo-American language? I can't say for sure, since lots of online sources have already been revised by the well-meaning editors. I am just guessing by looking at the list of religious organizations and political lobby groups formed by Arab-Americans in the 20th century. My guess is that it has a lot to do with the history of Islam in the US and the founding of the Black Muslim movement in 1930-later, Nation of Islam (NOI), in Detroit.

      Arab-Muslim immigration to the US started around 1914, mostly settling in and around Detroit. After the passage of Johnson-Reed Immigration Act in 1921, the first issue of The Moslem Sunrise Quarterly was published to counter misrepresentation of Islam in the press. To start differentiating themselves from the political NOI, the newly arrived Arab immigrants might have moved to a slightly different transliteration of Moslem, like Muslim, substituting o and e with u and I, which sound almost the same. In 1939, Islamic Mission Society was founded in New York and published Islamic Sunrise magazine. Most Muslim organizations used the term "Islamic" until 1990, when American Muslim Council (AMC) lobby group was formed in Washington, DC. Former President Obama, a Congregationalist, called himself the son of a lapsed Muslim.

      Spelling of the name Mohammad to Muhammad (and other variations with o and u) might have followed the same path.

      So, "Muslim" now is the more neutral Anglo-American version of "Moslem," which also remains in use, mostly in more politicized discourse, as well as in other languages.

      JE comments:  Remember "Hindoo"?  It was the common spelling in the 19th century, but now it offends.  Not sure how, but it does.  "Philology" is also old-fashioned, but let me reclaim the word.  A. J., you've given us philology at its very best.  I'm both newly enlightened and convinced to stick with Muslim.

      WAISers of the Oldish School may not remember our SpAIS days.  I just re-read my 2009 April Fools post (link below), and I'm struck by how forgotten the Spice Girls are today.  (See my joke about not knowing what to call female SpAISers.  My 19-year-old students wouldn't grasp the sophomoric humor.)


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      • Muslim-Moslem, Sunni-Shia (Tor Guimaraes, USA 11/13/18 2:06 PM)

        Following this interesting discussion on Moslem versus Muslim name-calling, I wondered if the Sunni versus Shiite split has any relationship to it?

        JE comments:  I've been chewing on this for a couple of days.  My first thought was to draw attention to the thirteen + centuries from the Sunni-Shia split (632) to the rise of "Muslim" over "Moslem" in the 1960s-'70s.  But might there be an indirect connection, with the passing of hegemony from a Persian-influenced to an Arabic-influenced spelling?  Perhaps this "SpAIS" puzzle may indeed boil down to the struggle for dominance between Shiite Persians and Sunni Arabs.  This possibility was first suggested by Soraya Sepahpour-Ulrich.

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