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Israel’s Twofold Problem: Who Cussed Bibi, and How to Say Chickenshit in Hebrew

obama eating chicken

Jeffrey Goldberg yesterday opened his Atlantic essay, The Crisis in U.S.-Israel Relations Is Officially Here, with the following golden quote:

The other day I was talking to a senior Obama administration official about the foreign leader who seems to frustrate the White House and the State Department the most. “The thing about Bibi is, he’s a chickenshit, ” this official said, referring to the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, by his nickname.

Goldberg used this quote not to illustrate how uncivilized White House senior officials could be and how much they need a refresher in whatever finishing school gave them their diploma, but rather to show that the gloves are off between the Obama and Netanyahu Administrations.

“By next year, the Obama administration may actually withdraw diplomatic cover for Israel at the United Nations, ” Goldberg warns, “but even before that, both sides are expecting a showdown over Iran, should an agreement be reached about the future of its nuclear program.”

Mind you, Netanyahu has earned the nickname, which may never go away, because he failed to be an enthusiastic participant in the two-state solution to which he committed, at least verbally.

Of course, being more energetic in the peace process would have been Netanyahu’s political suicide, with half his party already accusing him of harboring leftist aspirations, to the point where he had to fire a deputy minister, Danny Danon, who also happens to be the Likud chairman and has been harassing the PM from that vantage point.

John Podhoretz Tweeted in response: Bibi Netanyahu was in Sayeret Matkal (IDF special forces). I wonder what division the person who called him a “chickenshit” served in. We, too, would love to know who the cusser was, if only to examine their respective acts courage over the years. Even if they’re really, really young.

All of Israel’s media were delighted with the story, because cussing White House senior officials are always a good story. But they faced a communication problem which threatened to lose in translation the entire slur. Simply put: there’s no Hebrew parallel to Chickenshit.

Walla chose to go with Coward.

Haaretz went with Miserable Coward.

Channel 10 News decided, for some reason, to go with Coward, Braggart, Opaque and Arrogant.

Really? For Chickenshit?

Channel 2 News settled for Coward and Bluffer.

Israel Radio went with Worthless Coward.

With all of that in mind, it was particularly amusing to follow the reactions from Israeli politicians to the insult.

Of course, Israeli politicians lined up for or against Netanyahu and the White House based on their already well known positions. And so the left wing, Socialist-leaning parties bemoaned the loss of favor from the United States (statements which could get you kicked out of the politburo only few decades ago) while the right wing parties stood on their hind legs to protest the Obama imperialism.

By the way, we Google-translated Chickenshit into Hebrew and received Pedantic, which is outright wrong. When we split the word, we got Khara Off, which means, well, chicken shit.

Finally, Webster’s defines Chickenshit as petty, insignificant, lacking courage, manliness, or effectiveness. We found online the first appearance of the word in 1947, in Calder Willingham‘s End as Man xvi. 192 “You’re both acting like chicken-shits. We win a batch of money—you’re afraid to take it.”

You’re both acting like chickenshits – how prophetic can you get, right?



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