December 11, 2019

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  • Arab in NYC: So many lines, so little time

    Cartoon by Carlos Latuff.

    BY ALI HAZZAH

    A few days ago, I was sitting with some friends in my favorite qahwa, somewhere in Little Egypt, Astoria, NY, watching TV.

    Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu was giving his now famous Wile E. Coyote speech.  It was clear that Bibi wanted to either scare the pants off his audience — or have them die laughing, as we say in Egypt — from his latest presentation of the coming Armageddon.

    Frankly, the volume was a bit low, so it was impossible to hear everything he was saying in that almost, but not quite American accent of his, especially with Umm Kulthoum’s Inta Omri drowning him out on the speaker system, not to mention all the insensitive insults that my Arab brothers and sisters were hurling at the television screen, during this historic event.

    “Nittin’!”

    “Furniture salesman!”

    “How impolite — and so unnecessary!,” I thought to myself, given how hard comb-over Bibi has been trying, these past few years, to find a partner in peace, during what he and other Israeli politicians invariably refer to  as the so-called peace process, when being interviewed by gullible news show hosts on American television — yes, the very same peace process that those ungrateful Palestinians rudely call the kobri to nowhere.

    Now we were all of course completely mesmerized by Bibi, as Arab-Americans always are, when he visits NY, which, alas, is not frequent enough.  Our trance state only deepened, after he whipped out that absurd childlike drawing of a round, black bomba with a lit fuse, in the middle of his magnificent speech, and started talking about a red line that he wants the world in general, and President Obama in particular, to draw around Iran.

    “Look at that!” screamed my aniconist friend, Hussein, who drives a broken-down gypsy cab for a living and is really not very sophisticated, unlike Bibi, when it comes to international politics.  “It looks exactly like one of those Kurt Westergaard cartoons!”

    “No, no, ya  Sihs,” I said, trying to calm the poor fellow down.  “He is talking about Iran, nothing else.”

    “What is he saying?”

    “A red line in the sand around those Shia troublemakers.”

    “A red lie?”

    “Line.  A red line,” I said.

    “What about it?”

    “The world needs one.”

    “Don’t the Israelis already have this line?”

    “Of course.  They have a blue line between them and Lebanon.”

    “Shu blue line?” said a dapper middle-aged man, whom everyone calls El Beiruti, looking offended, and staring at us with hard Levantine eyes.

    “I thought that was on the Golan Heights,” said Hussein, ignoring him.

    “No, ya habibi.  That one is the purple line, which is of course not to be confused with the green line.”

    “What is that?”

    “That’s the one no-one talks about anymore.”

    “Why?”

    I sighed at the unbelievable ignorance of this lowly taxi driver, who was not an intellectual student of history, like the rest of the Egyptians in the qahwa.

    “Because of the facts on the ground, naturally.”

    “You mean the boots on the ground?”

    “No, that was Iraq.  Completely different story, and ancient history now, although of course with lines parallel to this,” I said, cleverly evoking Blondie’s One Way or Another, with that marvelous I’m-gonna-getcha-getcha-getcha lyric, that I first heard as a young man, and which I thought Bibi ought to belt out, much like John McCain once sang a Beach Boys song.

    “I see,” said Hussein, clearly not grasping my shisha-induced cleverness.  He frowned imperceptibly at the image of President Abbas, frothing at the mouth in the audience, as Bibi continued lecturing the General Assembly.

    “So many lines, so little time,” he finally said, looking away.

    There was nothing else to add.

    Bibi droned on the television, as we sat in the qahwa, and it got darker outside.  Talk about Looney Tunes.


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