American defense concerns have always given weapons names that fit their function. For example, fighters such as the F-15, F-16 and F-18 were appropriately given names such as 'Eagle', 'Fighting Falcon,' and 'Hornet,' while the black-painted, radar-evading F-117 stealth bomber was dubbed the 'Nighthawk'.
As silly as these names can get, (Why not a Dayhawk? When is the Chickenhawk coming? etc..) you can see the cultural logic behind their specificity. They're meant to convey that such war machines embody the fierce, agile, even predatory qualities that define the brave birds that the aircraft were named after.
Hence the curious naming of the new 'Masada' assault rifle by it's manufacturer, Magpul Industries. Named after one of the first recorded incidents of mass suicide (in which 960 Jews besieged by Roman troops took their lives) the complexity of the rifle's title represents a fairly serious break with convention.
As though anticipating criticisms over having chosen such a potentially controversial name, in a PDF brochure for the weapon posted to Wikipedia, Magpul maintains that the company is neither "Jewish or Israeli backed," but that it has always found the story of Masada to be "a bold example of defiance."
If you want to get a sense of what informs so many American estimations of Israeli military prowess, you won't find a more revealing signifier. One people's loss is another's defiance. Or, one could conjecture that such takes on Israelis say more about American desires than what they think about Jewry.
In January, the Masada was licensed to the larger American arms manufacturer Bushmaster, who have since retitled it the Adaptive Combat Rifle.
From an unpublished conversation with a Jewish magazine editor
We have a terrible disjuncture at present, where the critical coverage that we increasingly rely on in this country comes from progressive sources that aren’t as discriminating in their approach to the Middle East as they should be. Being rightly committed to criticizing imperialism and colonialism, they frequently make the mistake of seeing all of the disparate crises afflicting the region as being different versions of the same political problem. It’s like saying that all Jews or Arabs are identical.
Take a look at how the occupation of Iraq has impacted a lot of progressive reporting on Israel: As the occupation has worsened, it has increasingly conditioned a way of covering the country that has assimilated Israel's conflict with the Palestinians with the situation created by the Americans in Iraq. The problem is that if this is the general disposition of the left press in covering the region, it therefore makes it difficult to explain the very real differences that distinguish the Iraqi refugee crisis from the Palestinian, Kurdish, or Armenian refugee crises which preceded it.
The Middle East is a very big place. Even within the space of short distances, such as that which exists between Gaza and Ramallah, the cultural and political distinctions can be extraordinary. The irony is that this is partially a product of territorial divisions first introduced by Europeans to the area. We ought to encourage the journalists we work with to strike a better balance between understanding the Middle Eastern experience of the West with the domestic differences that the outside world seems so oblivious towards.
The mental health ploy had worked. She'd just gotten excused from her army service, and had come to the United States to go to art school. Standing in the kitchen of my old Richmond district apartment, K. [her pseudonym] sampled two versions of hummus: one from Trader Joe's, the other from a local Armenian deli. "Oy, they're horrible," she exclaimed. "However hard they try, Americans cannot make hummus."
Thus, the perennial refrain of most Israelis living in the Bay Area. And its true. In nearly every instance, American hummus is consistently terrible. Either there's not enough tahina (or any), or for some reason, ingredients such as mayonnaise, cream and salt are present. Even the so-called 'organic' versions are offensive, oftentimes sporting vegetable flavorings. Imagine an exotic wheat paste sprinkled with paprika. That's what it tastes like.
Though my Israeli house guest is long gone from San Francisco (she now lives in NYC), we finally have a restaurant where the hummus is competitive with the best that the Middle East has to offer. As good as anything I've had at Yafo's Abu Hassan, or Akko's Hummus Said, this hole in the wall, run by several wonderful guys from Jerusalem, has made the Bay Area a better place to live.
Located in the heart of SF's Mission district, the unsurprisingly titled Old Jerusalem, serves another dish of equal significance: Salat Turki. A standard at most Israeli fast food places, try and find it in the US, and you'll be totally disappointed. Though its not listed on the menu, it is indeed available, and it absolutely kills. A fifteen minute walk from our house, Jennifer and I eat at OJ at least once a week.
"Never trust an Israeli's judgement of Arab food," a Kuwaiti graduate student friend once joked to me as we inhaled Turkish coffee together in Toronto. "They're all one-dimensional orientalists." I thought about these hilarious, stinging words as a Lebanese colleague of mine worked his way through the hummus the other night during an editorial meeting we held at the restaurant.
"Bloody hell," he blustered as he dipped a thick piece of pita into the hummus. "This stuff is so good, you'd think they started this place just for us."