Israel is the Opium of the People and Other Taboos

new york
“Why aren’t you as an Arab lady writing about Gaza?”
“Where are your columns about Gaza?”
“Say the Israelis are wrong!”

The messages started to arrive soon after Israel’s bombardment of Gaza killed close to 300 Palestinians. Implicit was the pressure to toe the party line, Hamas is good, Israel is bad. Say it, say it! Or else you’re not Arab enough, you’re not Muslim enough, you’re not enough.

But what to say about a conflict that for more than 60 years now has fed Arab and Israeli senses of victimhood and their respective demands to stop everything else we’re doing and pay attention to their fights because what’s the slaughter of anyone else – be they in Darfur, Congo or anywhere else – compared to their often avoidable bloodletting?

Hasn’t it all been said before? Has nothing been learned?

And then the suicide cyclist in Iraq made me snap and I had to write, not to take sides but to lament the moral bankruptcy that is born from the amnesia rife in the Middle East.

On Sunday, a man on a bicycle blew himself up in the middle of an anti-Israel demonstration in the Iraqi city of Mosul. The technique legitimized and blessed by clerics throughout the Arab world as a weapon against Israel had gone haywire and was used against Arabs protesting Israel’s bombardment of Gaza.

That twisted and morbid full circle completed on the streets of Mosul can be captured only by paraphrasing Karl Marx – Israel is the opium of the people.

What else explains the collective amnesia on display this weekend in the Middle East?

Has Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni forgotten already that just last year she was close to ousting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert for his handling of Israel’s 2006 war on Lebanon launched under very similar circumstances to those that preceded the bombardment of Gaza? And yet there she was making the rounds of U.S. Sunday news shows to explain why Israel had to act against the Muslim militant Hamas movement in power in Gaza.

Does Israel want to make heroes of Hamas in the way it did Hizbollah? What has been achieved from the blockade of Gaza except for suffering of civilians whose leaders care for them as little as Israel does?

Talking about Hizbollah and unwise leaders, has Hassan Nasrallah forgotten that while he rails against Egypt for aiding the blockade of Gaza that he lives in a country, Lebanon, keeps generations of Palestinian refugees in camps that serve as virtual jails?

And the demonstrators in Jordan and Lebanon? Who reminds them that in 1970, Jordan killed tens of thousands as it tried to control Palestinian groups based there, forcing the Palestine Liberation Army into Lebanon where in 1982, the Phalangists, Christian Lebanese militiamen, slaughtered 3,000 Palestinian refugees in the Sabra and Shatila camp?

Not a single Phalangist has been held accountable for that massacre. An Israeli state inquiry in 1983 found Ariel Sharon, then defense minister, indirectly responsible for the killings at the refugee camps during Israel’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon. But don’t hold your breath for an Arab inquiry. It is Israel that gives sense to our victimhood. The horrors we visit upon each other are irrelevant.

It is difficult to criticize Palestinians when so many have died this weekend but the Hamas rulers of Gaza are just the latest of their leaders to fail them. For those of us who long to separate religion from politics, Hamas has given the truth to the fear that Islamists care more about facing down Israel than taking care of their people. The Palestinians of Gaza are victims equally of Hamas and Israel.

Where was the anger when two Palestinian schoolgirls were killed in Gaza when Hamas rockets meant for Israel misfired, just a day before Israel’s bombardment?

As for my country of birth, Egypt, President Hosni Mubarak, in power for more than 27 years, has presided over a disastrous policy that on the one hand maintains a 1979 peace treaty his predecessor Anwar Sadat signed with Israel and on the other unleashes state-owned media fury at Israel that has fanned a near-hysterical hatred for the country among ordinary Egyptians.

Yes, Israel’s occupation of Arab land angers Egyptians but there is absolutely no space in Egyptian media, culture or intellectual circles for discussing Israel as anything but an enemy. And neither is there an attempt to forge it.

And now Mubarak, old, tired and out of new ideas, is reaping a policy that plays all sides against each other in an attempt to make his regime indispensable.

But my question to Egyptians and others across the region incensed at Israel is where is their anger at the human rights violations, torture, and oppression in their respective countries? If such large crowds turned out onto Arab capitals every week, they could’ve toppled their dictators years ago!

It is the ultimate dishonor to the memory of Palestinians killed this weekend to call for more violence. It has failed to deliver for 60 years.

We honor the dead by smashing through the region’s amnesia until we break through to the taboos and continue to smash. Talking to Hamas? Israel should do it if it will end the violence. Focusing on internal issues in each Arab country and ignoring the opium that is Israel? Egyptians, Jordanians, Lebanese, Syrians et al should do it before their respective states fail for the sake of Palestine.

Palestinians still have no state. What a shame it would be for one Arab state after the other to fail in the name of Palestine.

_Mona Eltahawy is a columnist for Egypt’s Al Masry Al Youm and Qatar’s Al Arab. She is based in New York City. |

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Have you heard about the movement to create the Humanitarion Lion award for Cannes? If not, check out the short video above to learn more about this potentially wonderful award. The premise: Agencies have a year to create a great idea that somehow helps the world, sponsorships are made available, and the winner’s idea gets the accolades and the money to make their idea come to life.

What can it be? Anything &#151 a product, movie, program, hands across America, or whatever. Contingencies: each agency entering Cannes in any category must create an idea and submit it on a one page Word document. Entry is free, though, and the award itself is worth 14 points &#151 making it the most valuable, and therefore highly sought after. Great, right?

We think so &#151 but do you? What problems could arise from such a project? We’ll let you hash it out below, but in the meantime watch the video above for more info, then hop over to the Humanitarian Lion Web site if you want more info.

The video below is in support of the idea, and puts Whopper Virgins in its place. Two birds, one virgin.

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Viacom vs. Time Warner Cable: Is Hulu to Blame?

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Say It Ain’t So, Mrs. O

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After the controversial Whooper virgins campaign,
here we are with an excellent viral video for the good cause Humanitarian Lion in Cannes showing
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Lee Skinny Jeans

Client: Lee
Skinny Jeans
Agency: Alok Nanda and Company, Mumbai, India
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Viacom Dispute Has Kids in Panic Over Losing Favorite Nick Shows

YORK, Pa. ( — No more SpongeBob? No more iCarly? Much to my children's horror, that was exactly the threatening message scrolling across the bottom of the TV screen this morning as they watched the very cute, Dora-like cartoon about a little Chinese girl, "Ni-Hao, Kai-Lan" on Nickelodeon.

AgencySpys Top Stories of 2008


Well it’s the last day of 2008, and what a year it has been. When will the years slow down, already? We guess, never. To help you remember why 2008 was so special for SuperSpy and me, check out our top 10 stories from the last 12 months (these are the ones you read most). You laughed with us, you cried because you were laughing at my foibles, and we cried for writing about things like steak tartare (also known as ground beef with capers!).

But we were glad to spend 2008 with you, and hope 2009 will bring us even closer together in our pursuit to get the inside news out to you &#151 unfettered, raw and real. Just like tartare! Happy New Year, y’all.

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Hunh. Try this quote on for size.

“Just how bad will it be? I’ve heard estimates of 30%&#15180% revenue drops over the next three months from companies that serve a variety of content (games sites, tech news, celebrity news, political news, etc.),” said Arrington. “The median pessimism point is around 50%. The people I’ve spoken with work at large public companies and small one-person blog shops. Absolutely no one I spoke with said they expect an up quarter.”

Well, that notion goes without saying. Let’s just hope we don’t revert to hellish pop-ups and all that to offset the loss. Come on people &#151 get out your spinning signs!


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New Year’s Eve Ad Countdown Begins

NEW YORK ( — A bevy of TV networks will host New Year's Eve festivities tonight — ostensibly to entertain the masses of viewers staying home or ringing in 2009 at parties — but also to wring the last few thousand dollars' worth of ad revenue out of 2008 as the last seconds of this year tick away.

Low on Marketing Cash? Get a Sign Spinner

The LA Times reported today about the first-ever sign spinning contest between a bunch of those guys you see standing outside strip malls in the summer heat holding flat signs for Quizno’s or whatever. If you haven’t seen one of these sign-spinners doing their thing, take an extra moment the next time you pass one to revel in the acrobatics.

Local business owners take note: for about $15 an hour you can hire one of these guys to entertain passersby, while at the same time pointing them toward your store. You’ll save money on a billboard and help a college kid buy beer &#151 so naturally this advertising option is a win win.

The company that claims to have pioneered the trend is called Arrow Advertising, which was started…wait for it…by guys who used to stand on corners doing the same job as a sign post.

Click continued to see another spinning clip.

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Rexona Toys

To end the year on a fun note, here’s a silly but cute spot for Rexona.
Happy New Year and thanks a lot for visiting The Ad Mad!

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Will Freezing Cold Temps Destroy Pepsis Big New Times Square Campaign?


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