in post

27 July 2021

In the "Middle East"

“Middle East”, (like the previous favourite, “Near East” as well as “Far East”) is a contemptible name that expresses the Eurocentric outlook of those who coined it. In that sense, it resembles the American word "Midwest". (If Los Angeles was the capital, maybe Chicago would be in the Mideast, like Cairo.)

West(ern) Asia is a better term, and is what people in other parts of Asia usually call it. Though perhaps people who live in parts of Siberia and Kazakhstan may object, and "South West Asia" would serve us better.

Then there is a question of whether there is justification for terms like MENA (Middle East - North Africa) or WANA (West Asia - North Africa). When one looks at the definition given to MENA by various UN agencies Wikipedia, we can see that Palestine is usually included, whereas Israel is more often excluded, though the rationale is usually economic. A UN agency or any world body, naturally has the prerogative to lump nations together in its programmes in whatever way it finds useful.

There is also the term, “the Arab world”, which usually means countries that are part of the Arab League. It does not include some countries that are usually included under MENA or WANA, such as Turkey and Iran, and also leaves out countries where Arabic is an official language like Israel, Somalia, Chad and Eritrea. But somehow, it seems more correct for example, to lump Tunisia together with Lebanon in "the Arab world", than to place them together in something called MENA or WANA. The latter pretend to be geographical terms, but are actually contrived, when the meaning is cultural rather than geographic.


Arab is a linguistic or cultural definition, pretending to be an ethnic definition. In the Bible, there is hardly any mention of Arabs. At that time, individual tribes, like Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, were referenced. A Berber living in Southern Libya has little to do with a Marsh Arab in Southern Iraq. The two will find it difficult to converse, and are both genetically and culturally distinct. But they still have enough in common to be classified together as Arabs.


Jew, as a definition is even worse than Arab. Arabs at least share a common language and broadly, a common culture. Jews can renounce all religious faith, but still remain Jewish. They can live in the Amazonas or China, have any concoction of genes, or speak any language on earth, but, as long as they claim some distant Jewish ancestry, they will be warmly accepted into the Jewish fold. And if a Jew comes to Israel from a family that has lived for a thousand years in Morocco, looks like a Berber and speaks Arabic, as soon as she comes to Israel she will instantly be regarded as a Jew, and not, heaven forbid, as an Arab.

American exceptionalism

Dave Winer: Something they don’t teach us in school in my country is that when we pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, we are really pledging allegiance to each other. Because that’s all there is, the people. No dear leader, no state church, just us.



I'm on the free list for “Continuing Ed” so receive his missals every couple of days. The latest one, The Insecurity Industry - by Edward Snowden - Continuing Ed — with Edward Snowden is powerfully and persuasively written.

Where Netanyahu went, NSO followed: How Israel pushed cyberweapon sales -

Paywall alert, though much quoted article.

Democrats call for possible action against NSO over Pegasus revelations - The Guardian

Four Democrats in Congress tell Biden administration that such firms ‘should be sanctioned, and if necessary, shut down’
Democratic lawmakers in Washington have called on the Biden administration to consider placing NSO Group on an export blacklist and said recent revelations of misuse reinforced their conviction that the “hacking-for-hire industry must be brought under control”.

Pegasus | How to find out if your phone was infected with the spyware - The Hindu

Mobile Verification Toolkit works on both iOS and Android OS. It simplifies the process of acquiring and analysing data from Android devices, and analyses records from iOS backups and filesystem dumps to identify potential traces of compromise.


Explained | Pegasus and the laws on surveillance in India - The Hindu

Mr. Gupta is of the opinion that the use of Pegasus is illegal as it constitutes unauthorised access under Section 66 of the Information Technology Act.

Section 66 prescribes punishment to anyone who gains unauthorised access to computers and “downloads, copies or extracts any data”, or “introduces or causes to be introduced any computer contaminant or computer virus,” as laid down in Section 43.

Are India’s laws on surveillance a threat to privacy? - The Hindu
Lengthy article; saving the link.

After meet with Modi, Mamata says PM should call all-party meet on Pegasus row, wants SC probe - The Print

6 Assam policemen killed in border clash with Mizoram - The Hindu

These are two Indian states!

Tunisia president accused of staging coup after suspending parliament - The Guardian

Tunisia’s president imposes month-long curfew and bans gatherings - The Guardian

Tunisians will wake on Tuesday to draconian restrictions including a nationwide curfew from 7pm to 6am, and a ban on gatherings of more than three people in public places.

Billionaire tycoon named as Lebanese PM as economic crisis bites - The Guardian

As Lebanon has crumbled, its leaders have faced a growing threat of sanctions from France and the EU. European leaders do not see the return of Miqati as the breakthrough that was demanded. However, senior officials said they would reserve judgment until Miqati named a ministerial line-up.

I'll bet China will step in.

Doyen of particle physics Steven Weinberg passes away - The Hindu
I thought this was interesting:

Prof. Weinberg was a rationalist and spoke against irrational anti-science ideas without hesitation. He wrote the book Facing Up: Science and its Cultural Adversaries, exposing the harm done by irrational and religious ideas. In now, oft-quoted remarks, he said: “With or without religion, good people can behave well and bad people can do evil; but for good people to do evil — that takes religion. Religion is an insult to human dignity. Without it you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things”.

He was a self-declared atheist and firmly committed to science and expressed his view on religion and God fearlessly: “Science does not make it impossible to believe in God, it just makes it possible not to believe in God.”