The accents of the Israeli team

For many, following all the ins and outs of the Israeli-Palestinian saga can be confusing.  Hamas did that, the Israeli army did that.  They started the war. No, they started the war.  They broke the ceasefire.  No, they broke the ceasefire.  Hummus belongs to them. No, it belongs to them.

It is all very overwhelming.  One thing, however, is glaringly clear.  American journalists seem to have a much easier time having conversations with Israeli officials than they do with their Palestinian counterparts.  The reason is obvious.  All of Israel’s official mouthpieces speak perfect unaccented English.  And why wouldn’t they?  After all, they are not from Israel.

Peter Lerner is the foreign press spokesperson for the Israel Defense Forces.  He was born in London in 1973.  He immigrated to Israel in 1985.  Hebrew, one of the two official languages of Israel (yes, Arabic is an official language too, because Israel is a democracy), is his second language.  You might have wondered why Peter Lerner sounds more like a spokesperson for the Queen than he does for Israel.  Why wouldn’t he? He is, after all, a foreigner in the land of Israel.

Dore Gold is a diplomat who has served in many Israeli governments.  He was once Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations.  He is currently the president of an Israeli think tank in Jerusalem.  He was born in Connecticut, attended high school in Massachusetts, and earned a BA, MA, and PhD from Columbia University in New York City.  He has appeared on television numerous times during Israel’s latest offensive defending and explaining the policies of the Netanyahu government.  As you might expect, his English is perfect.  Mr. Gold lives in Jerusalem.  He might even live in a house that once belonged to Palestinians.  Of course, I don’t know that for sure, but trust me, in Jerusalem, it’s a safe bet.  You might have wondered why Dore Gold sounds like a Yankees fan.  Why wouldn’t he? He is, after all, a foreigner in the land of Israel.

Mark Regev is the official spokesman of the Netanyahu government.  In 1960, he was born in Australia, where he grew up and finished college.  He immigrated to Israel at the age of 22, when he began his graduate studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.  He has remained in his adopted homeland ever since.  Hebrew is also his second language.  You might have wondered why the official Israeli spokesman sounds like Crocodile Dundee.  Why wouldn’t he? He is, after all, a foreigner in the land of Israel.

Michael Oren was most recently Israel’s ambassador to the United States.  He was born in upstate New York.  He earned his MA and PhD from Princeton University in New Jersey.  He immigrated to Israel in his mid-twenties. He has lectured at dozens of American campuses.  He articulately defends Israeli policies on American televisions across our great country.  Well, he is usually articulate, if you don’t count his recent interview on MSNBC when he suddenly (and quite conveniently) couldn’t hear Andrea Mitchell when she asked him about reports that Israel had eavesdropped on John Kerry last year.  But even when he flusters and fumbles, he speaks eloquent East Coast English.  You might have wondered why Michael Oren sounds like an American university professor.  Why wouldn’t he? He is, after all, a foreigner in the land of Israel.

Micky Rosenfeld is the Israeli police spokesperson to the foreign press.  He speaks English flawlessly.  That’s because he is English.  Yup, he was born in England and grew up there.  He is blond and blue-eyed.  There’s nothing wrong with that, of course.  He grew up with Duran Duran, the English Premiere League, and bland food.  The garlicky cuisine of his new homeland must have come as a bit of a shock to him.  You might have wondered why Micky Rosenfeld sounds like Piers Morgan.  Why wouldn’t he? He is, after all, a foreigner in the land of Israel.

Ron Dermer is Israel’s current ambassador to the United States of America. He has been all over CNN in recent weeks.  He attended the University of Pennsylvania before moving to Israel is his twenties.  He was born in 1971 in Miami Beach, where both his father and brother were once the mayor there.  He is one of Netanyahu’s closest advisers, writing many of his speeches, in English I assume.  He is highly educated, yet for some reason he still sounds obnoxious and rude during just about every interview.  You might have wondered why Ron Dermer sounds like a whiny kid from Florida. Why wouldn’t he? He is, after all, a foreigner in the land of Israel.

Now I don’t really mind that all of these Israeli messengers speak perfect English in American, Australian, and British accents.  However, I do mind that with all that Western education they still can’t pronounce “Hamas.”  They insist on continuing to say “Khamas.”  This is just offensive.  Hamas is already frightening enough with its crappy rockets, ancient rifles, and hooded militants.  Do they really have to add that chilling “kha” sound?  Do they do that with all “h” sounds?  It would make some nursery rhymes seem just downright scary.  “Khumpty Dumpty sat on a wall” just sounds alarming.  C’mon guys. It’s “Hamas,” like “happy.”  Just think that.  Hamas. Happy. Hamas. Happy. See, it works.

In any case, this is the cast of characters acting as Israel’s cheerleaders to the American public.  Justifying racial supremacy, ethnic cleansing, and indiscriminate bombing campaigns definitely sounds better when it’s done in an accent we can all relate to.  But I’m sure every American listening to them still wonders why all these Israelis sound like the next door neighbor.  Why wouldn’t they?  They are, after all, foreigners in the land of Israel.  Foreign colonist settlers.

About Amer Zahr 181 Articles
Amer Zahr is a Palestinian American comedian, writer, professor and speaker living in Dearborn, Michigan. He is also the editor of "The Civil Arab."


  1. Thank you for showing me just what a wonderful melting pot Israel is. With people from all over the world. Well spoken educated people. I also checked and found that Israel has Arab members in its government and Christians, Arab muslems, and so called Palestinian Arabs ( to differ from Palestinian Jew)** fighting in the IDF.
    **Since Jews were the ones orginally called Palestinians and the use of the term used now is a fairly recient invention.**

    • Why say “the so called Palestinian Arabs?” They are Palestinian Arabs. And they call themselves Filasteen, as per the original pronunciation. You do know that it was Herodotus who first transcribed the place name in Greek with an initial p- instead of the native initial f-. Since the Romans imitated the Greeks, the Latin name Palaestina came to be used in those countries influenced by the Romans. The father of Revisionist Zionism himself, the Odessa native Vladimir “Ze’ev” Jabotinsky, refers to the natives as “Palestinian” or “Palestine Arabs” in his famous essay about the colonization of Palestine “On the Iron Wall” (1923). He wisely predicted that the natives would never submit to having their land taken away without a fight: “There can be no voluntary agreement between ourselves and the Palestine Arabs. Not now, nor in the prospective future. I say this with such conviction, not because I want to hurt the moderate Zionists. I do not believe that they will be hurt. Except for those who were born blind, they realised long ago that it is utterly impossible to obtain the voluntary consent of the Palestine Arabs for converting Palestine from an Arab country into a country with a Jewish majority.”

    • Joy, you failed to mention that the “wonderful melting pot Israel is” seems to accept only “kosher food”. Non Jews need not apply!

      • The reason why there are Arabs in the Knesset is because they are the descendants of the Palestinians who did not flee in 1948. The Zionists have no choice but to allow them to live in their now occupied homeland. The Christians happen to be Palestinian Christians, which tells you that Palestinians do not have one religion as do the Jews, so there goes the “melting pot” idea there. Irene Farris is right, as non-Jews cannot claim a home in Israel. It is supposed to a “Jewish state,” remember? A Palestinian refugee cannot even enter Israel to visit his old home. If a Palestinian citizen of Israel wants to marry a Palestinian living in the West Bank or Gaza, then he or she will have to move to the West Bank or Gaza in order to live with the non-Israeli spouse. Some melting pot!

  2. Interesting that Palestinians find Diaspora-accents so odious. Israel will be happy to know they no longer find it acceptable to “return.”

  3. You forgot Bibi and his Philadephia accent – of course, he was actually born in Israel but spent much of his childhood – and young adulthood – in the US.

    • Yes. Unlike modern spoken Arabic, modern spoken Hebrew doesn’t distinguish between خ / כ and ح / ח. This is mainly because European Jews can’t say ح / ח properly (which is not actually an English ‘h’ but rather something more like the sound you make when fogging up a mirror), so the next closest sound (for Hebrew speakers) is خ / כ / kh. So yes, throughout Israel people say khummus instead of Hummus, and khamas instead of Hamas. Except, that is, for really old-school Jewish immigrants or refugees from Arab countries (especially Yemen, Iraq and Morocco). They never lost the ability to pronounce ح / ח properly, but it’s considered sort of an ‘Arab’ thing, so they’ve been socialized not to do it (or at least not pass it onto their kids–this may be changing, however).

  4. Amazing article. I’m glad someone pointed it out that way; really funny reading it too! As if their foreign accents weren’t enough to justify their taking over a land that is not theirs

    • Arabic has three “h”s, ح, خ, and ه. The first is properly “kh” (or “ch”). The second is a deep-throat “h” which is missing in most languages. The third is the “h” other languages are used to.

      For the record, I’ve never heard hummus pronounced khummus. This Khamas business always puzzled me. Maybe it’s an attempt to copy the Arabic deep-throat ح, but hummus in Arabic also begins with that, and not the softer Arabic ه.

      My guess is that it sounds like the Hebrew word for “violence” or “rapacity” or “cruelty”, חָמָס. (In Hebrew Hamas is spelled חמאס).

      המאס, with the soft and not deep-throated “h” simply connotes something displeasing, unwanted, maybe even despicable.

      • It’s as simple as the fact that modern Hebrew has lost the ح / ח sound. It’s always replaced by a خ (kh). Most Israelis couldn’t say it differently if they tried (which they don’t–they think it’s right).

  5. This is so blatantly obvious. Why do we never hear from Avigdor Lieberman? If Israel is such a magical “melting pot,” surely there are more ethnicities welcomed than just those emigrating from Anglophone countries, like Michael Scott Bornstein, who was so uncomfortable withe his real name that he changed it to Oren?

  6. “Foreign colonist settlers”. Well said brother. Joy really? Magical melting pot? Palestinians are a “recent invention”? Educate yourself and remove those blinders, sister.

  7. Seriously, isn’t that how you pronounce Hamas?
    (And yes, hummus is pronounced khummus in Israel & halwa is khalva. Nothing sinister about the sound.)

  8. I am furious every time I see Mark Regev aka Mark Freiberg of Melbourne Australia. I grew up in Victoria where Jews have full rights in a nation where church and state are separate. How dare he go to another country and become a spokesperson for a state based on one dominant religion? And be the chief apologist for their ruthless ethnic cleansing?
    Yep, for sure, bring him back prosecute him under Australia’s new anti terror laws, and lock him up for at least 20 years for his crimes against humanity.


  10. Just a suggestion: The point of this article was very unclear until I got to the end. You should put the thesis at the very top because I, as well as others, will have a hard time following what you’re saying since your main point/argument were not made clear from the beginning.

  11. Whereever they may come from, thy are a bunch of invaders who need to realise that palestine, filistine, palaestine is not theirs and they need to buy a one-way ticket back to Australia, America, South Africa. America would be a good destination. After all they are deeply in love with each other, I’m pretty sure, they’ll give them a piece of land in their vast continent – perhaps somewhere near Guantanamo Bay in case they decide to cause havoc.

  12. You only have to look at their faces to know what and how they are thinking. HUMMUS IS NOT A MISTAKE. They say it that way to intice the palestinians to response. As an Australian living in Egypt you get to know how the middle east operates and the devils inside!

  13. Native Palestinian can not return to Palestine, but these people above are welcome citizen, no it is not an APARTHEID state, it is the only democracy in the middle east that legalize discrimination

  14. I find it amusing when people claim that Jews were originally called Palestinians! Is this the last attempt to justify the illegal stealing of the Palestinian land by immigrants from the US and elsewhere who just could not fit in their home countries? The fact that all these guys are immigrants to Israel proves the point about how Israel is an invading foreign object. Think about it logically: 1- most of the Israeli population is immigrants from elsewhere. 2- Looking at the map, Israel looks like an unnatural object in the middle of a middle eastern population. 3- Israel is the only country between all it’s surrounding neighbors that speak a different language.

    Why does Israel continue to force itself in an area where it is not welcome?

  15. It’s NOT indiscriminate bombing! Israel carefully and accurately targets, hospitals, schools and children for extermination. They have the technology. It’s called Genocide.

  16. Considering the depravity of the Spokespersons/israhell tools ~ their venom is strictly for the continuation of the phony promised land and nothing more ~ all the good jooze would die for Israhell … i read an article yesterday that parallels this one on Immigrants and this was about the Israhelli Wermacht H like in KHumms ~ hundreds even thousands of US and European volunteers to serve in the dreaded Israhelli Wermacht for 18 month tours ~ like being in the IDF Delta Force ~ or the CIA ~ just born to cause hell for Palestine. Lots of good stuff in the khcomments :)

  17. Sounds to me you are a true racist and you hate people with blonde hair and blue eyes. Did you know there are Palestinians with blonde hair and blue eyes?

    This article is so horribly racist and deplorable, disgusting.

    Jews were targeted by Hitler for looking too “Arab.” Now Jews are targeted by racist Arabs for having the very thing they were accused by the Nazis of not having: blonde hair and blue eyes; looking too European. Damned if you do and damned if you don’t; that is if you are a Jew. Not European or white enough by Europeans, too white and privileged by everyone else.

    • Bravo Anna, you summed it up perfectly. Historically , the Palestine, led by the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, was one of Adolph Hitler’s most staunch allies. The age-old Jew hating propaganda is alive, culiltuvated and doing well in the hands of the liberal World-wide press. Really, it is just a arm of the communists, anarchist and other totalitarian fools, who are in a unholy Alliance with Muslim, extreme, supremacists!

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