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The non-Arabic speaker’s guide to appreciating Abbas’ colorful speech at the UN

Jerusalem24 – When Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas took to the pulpit in front of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) on 23 September, a speech that began as any other delivered by Abbas at the UN quickly took a flowery turn.

“Our trust in achieving peace based on justice and international law is, unfortunately, regressing due to the Israeli occupation’s policies. Do you want to kill what’s left of hope in our hearts?” Abbas queried.

Seemingly unencumbered by diplomatic considerations, Abbas leveled several biting criticisms both at Israel and the UN – which, it says, “protects” Israel from accountability and punishment.

“Israel is an apartheid system. Even if they don’t like it, I’m still going to say it.”

Over the course of 48 minutes – by far the longest address by a world leader at the UNGA’s 77th session – Abbas gave free flow to words of frustration, scolding, and contempt, peppered by Palestinian idioms that UN interpreters audibly struggled to render for their international audience.

Making liberal use of hand motions, and often going off-script, Abbas used his 48 minutes to narrate 75 years of Palestinian history since 1947, beginning with the occupation of Historic Palestine; the number of Palestinian villages destroyed by Zionist gangs (a full list of which he said he would provide to world leaders and attendees); the hundreds of UN resolutions passed and vetoed over the years; the aging Oslo accords; Israel’s repeated violations of UN resolutions; and the daily and ongoing violations against the Palestinian people.

We listed here some of the idioms and sayings quoted by Abbas, and broke down their meaning in context.

اكسر أو اخزق عيني مرة وحدة / Ikhzaq aw iksar ayouni mara wahadeh

The translation: Poke or break my eye once

The meaning:  Used to ask someone to be honest for once, and not live up to someone’s poor expectations of them; an invitation to reap the benefit of the doubt.

The context: Abbas was enumerating the number of Resolutions issued on Palestine and Israel by the various UN bodies.

“Various United Nations commissions have issued hundreds of resolutions and none were implemented. 754 were issued by the General Assembly, 97 by the Security Council, and 96 by the Human Rights Council. None were implemented. How? Why? Poke and break our eye once and tell us that you did, in fact, implement one of these resolutions.”

ازبلونا / Izbiluna

The translation: Throw us in the trash

The meaning: Used to emphasize that someone or a group of people don’t care about you.

The context: For all of the ire he directed at the UN and its resolutions, Abbas made the surprise announcement that he had submitted an official request to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to implement Resolution 181 adopted by the General Assembly in 1947 (the “partition plan” which gave birth to Israel), which forms the basis for a two-state solution.

Abbas also said that he viewed as a “positive matter” that US President Joe Biden, Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid, and other world leaders “favor” the two-state solution – although he also affirmed that Israel “has and still is, through its current policies, which are premeditated and deliberate, destroying the two-state solution. This proves unequivocally that Israel does not believe in peace. It believes in imposing the status quo by force and aggression.”

“Just try to implement one of these resolutions. We want you to implement Resolution 181, that you adopted! Resolution 181, that divided Palestine. Even though it’s an unfair resolution, we accepted it, along with Resolution 194 – since these two resolutions were the conditions for Israel’s acceptance as a member state in the UN. Or are you going to throw us in the trash like every other time?”

جوز فاضي / Joz fadi

The translation: Empty walnut

The meaning: Used to describe something insignificant, or describing the worth of something or someone; a good-for-nothing.

The context: Abbas emphasized that he does value the efforts of the international community. “We appreciate what the international community has done or tried to do for us, so we don’t hand you empty walnuts. But it has failed to provide safety and security to our people.”

قدس الله سره  / Qadassa Allahu sirrah

The translation: May God sanctify his soul

The meaning: A prayer to God to forgive the deceased/living and clear their soul from the effect of all wrongdoing they may have done.

The context: Abbas was talking about Resolution 2334, which reaffirmed the demand for Israel to immediately and fully cease all settlement activities in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem.

“In 2016 the United States came up with the resolution, and the resolution was adopted. Two days later, Trump came to power – may God sanctify his soul – and he canceled everything, including this resolution. He came up with the ‘ultimate deal’, and all of his projects.”

زيطة وزنبليطة / Zeeta w zanbaleeta

The translation: Chaos

The meaning: A situation that involves a lot of chaos, with a lot of frenetic activity that is difficult to process; a three-ring circus.

The context: Abbas was confirming that the State of Palestine will continue in its pursuit to join international bodies. “We’re an observer member in the UN. All of this zeeta w zanbaleeta… and we’re still an observer member.”

لا ناقصنا إيد ولا رجل / La naqisna eed wala rijel

The translation: We’re not missing a hand or leg

The meaning: Used when trying to emphasize that someone is no different than another, so they can do and/or receive things like others.

The context: Prior to Abbas’ address, the State of Palestine officially renewed its request for full membership in the UN.

“Palestine, an Observer State in this Organization for 10 years now, has proved that it qualifies for full membership. You have all recognized this,” said Abbas, citing contributions that include chairing the G-77 + China developing countries coalition.

Abbas queried, “What do we lack? We’re not missing a hand or leg. What are we missing in order to become a member state with a full membership?”

Drawing on a commonly-leveled accusation at the UN that it “unfairly singles out Israel” in issuing resolution after resolution against it, Abbas asserted: “We are the exception. We are the only ones in the world to whom double standards are being applied.”

Nadeen Alshaer

Alshaer is a Palestinian journalist, a Birzeit University graduate with a B.A. in TV and Radio Broadcasting Journalism. Alshaer has 6 years of experience in journalism. She currently works as a reporter, editor and presenter/producer for PBC-Palestine TV and Jerusalem24 radio. She’s a UN and Kelley School of Business alumna.

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