Monday, April 7, 2008

I do research at the Center for Public Diplomacy, and I have just started a project on Hizballah’s public diplomacy strategy. The first thing that struck me was- why is this organization called “Hizballah” in English? For that matter, why is Al-Qaeda “al-Qaeda”? It bothers me that the English translation is used for some organizations (like the IDF) but not for others. A recent article in the LATimes by Rabih Alameddine captured my frustration, as he lamented that by calling God “Allah” when speaking about Islam it is inferred that Muslims pray to some special, separate deity unrelated to the “God” of English Christianity or Judaism. By referring to Hizballah as such (and not as the “Party of God”), what does the Western media accomplish, I wonder? After a bombing in Algeria sometime ago, CNN attributed the strike to “Al Qaeda in the Maghreb”. So does that mean the organization known as “al-Qaeda” working in the Maghreb, or is that a part of “al-Qaeda” based in the Maghreb, or is that a separate organization called “The Base in the Maghreb”? By translating only certain words, the meaning is confused, and the viewer merely ends up scared of some Arabic concept or word he cannot comprehend. Compared to “7amas” or “7izb Allah”, “IDF” is downright friendly.

Besides that initial misgiving about the project’s name, the word on Hizballah has been informative, especially my research about Hizballah’s videogame diplomacy, involving the production of slick, Western-style computer games about the historic resistance against Israel. Even when discussing videogames, Western articles’ bias came through. For some reason, it is okay for Western games to target Arabs, but it is a shock when it comes the other way.

Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev responded by saying: ''It should come as a surprise to no one that Hezbollah teaches children that hatred and violence are positive attributes.'' (

Where is the Israeli anger when Activision releases a videogame involving American soldiers shooting up Arab villages (like I had the chance to play when I was younger), or the 2005 “Assault on Iran” title? Apparently, only the other side has “hatred or violence”. Fox, meanwhile, calls the game part of a trend of Islamogaming- why, is this a game about praying now? Though I suppose in Fox’s mind praying and shooting people is basically the same for Muslims, they’ll both land you a spot with virgins anyways.

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