Stop calling him ‘Bibi’

Israel/Palestine
on 58 Comments

Netanyahu
Israeli P.M. Netanyahu, from his twitter feed

The media should stop calling Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by his nickname, Bibi.

A nickname humanizes a politician. It makes them seem more affectionate. Very few if any politicians are referred to by their nicknames. Do the media call Prime Minister Cameron David? Do they say, Francois, the president of France? They don’t.

When Joe Biden repeatedly called Netanyahu Bibi last night in the debate, yes it bothers me, because our politicians are way too soft on Israel. But Biden is namedropping in that way because the mainstream press calls him that. And that’s the real issue here: when you see discussions on TV or in the press, Netanyahu is often referred to by his nickname.

Stop and think if he had an English nickname. Let’s call him Ricky– and every time Netanyahu came up, he was called “Ricky.”  ”Ricky says Israel wants peace in the Middle East…. Ricky says Israel is just protecting itself in Gaza… Ricky says let’s be very careful of Iran developing a bomb.” Do you see how absurd that sounds? No one would call him Ricky, and if they did it it would tone down what he really stands for and what he really is.

Does Mahmoud Ahmadinejad have a nickname? He may well have one for all we know. But the mainstream press wouldn’t use it, because it would serve the same purpose, to humanize and minimize. When Ahmadinejad is a very bad man too.

This is not a conspiracy. But it is evidence of unconscious bias on the part of the media. Because Bibi, to an English speaker, sounds a little childish. “Bibi” makes him out to be more benign than he actually is. He’s not benign. And when they call him Bibi– and again this is all unconscious and inadvertent– it gives the impression that this is a goofy guy who holds up a Wile E Coyote picture of a bomb at the U.N.; he seems a little bit of a bumbler;  he seems the equivalent in the political sphere of those two thieves who were foiled by Macaulay Culkin in Home Alone —  bad but inept and goofy.

Instead of a liar who presides over a nuclear powered colonial state that people are killed for opposing, where thousands are imprisoned and many of them, according to international human rights agencies, are tortured, and where the death of Rachel Corrie, a 23-year-old innocent young woman, was recently whitewashed.

Now it’s not that the mainstream press should call him insulting names. They shouldn’t. And partly this is because he has a  long last name, and it may be too difficult to say Netanyahu all the time. 

But they shouldn’t say “Bibi” and shouldn’t say “Bibi Netanyahu.” There’s a mainstream convention that you call people by their names. Let’s stick with it: he’s “Netanyahu,” or “Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.”

About James North

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58 Responses

  1. Egbert
    October 12, 2012, 11:53 am

    I will always think of this whatever he is called by others. The death-ray stare is captured perfectly.

  2. Woody Tanaka
    October 12, 2012, 11:55 am

    I agree. Hopefully, he’ll soon be called “the defendant.” As in, “will the defendant please enter a plea.” And “the defendant is hereby sentenced to life imprisonment.”

    • German Lefty
      October 12, 2012, 1:34 pm

      @ Woody Tanaka
      Hopefully, he’ll soon be called “the defendant.” As in, “will the defendant please enter a plea.” And “the defendant is hereby sentenced to life imprisonment.”
      Ha, ha. Very good. I agree.

      @ James North
      Because Bibi, to an English speaker, sounds a little childish.
      Not just to English speakers.

  3. Tzombo
    October 12, 2012, 12:42 pm

    THIS! I keep telling everyone that. This is not a freaking toy you just bought, this is a very dangerous man.

  4. Dexter
    October 12, 2012, 12:52 pm

    I completely agree! Calling this criminal by his “cute” little nickname is sickening…imagine if we called Hitler “Dolphie.”

    People on this website do it often. Please stop.

    • ColinWright
      October 12, 2012, 4:26 pm

      Dexter says: “…I completely agree! Calling this criminal by his “cute” little nickname is sickening…imagine if we called Hitler “Dolphie.”…”

      Oh I dunno. Sounds kind of interesting. Rewrite all world history along these lines.

      ‘But when Nap heard about it, he said ‘no way is Alex going to get away with that. I’ve got to show him who’s the big dog around here…’ ‘

  5. pabelmont
    October 12, 2012, 1:36 pm

    I prefer N’yahu on nyahu to Bibi tho I’ve probably used Bibi.
    But this article is Absolutely Right! No-one should humanize him.

    BTW, do people have characterizations for politicians they don’t like, for instance,
    “the absurd XXX” “the megalomaniac XXX” ? If such a thing can be said to be WIDELY used in the USA’s MS, maybe we could startt using it for NYAHU.

  6. Annie Robbins
    October 12, 2012, 1:46 pm

    thank you james, i completely agree. it’s a pain in the butt but i make the time to spell out netanyahu. he’s not doe-eyed bambi’s husband.

    • ColinWright
      October 12, 2012, 2:37 pm

      Annie Robbins says: “thank you james, i completely agree. it’s a pain in the butt but i make the time to spell out netanyahu. he’s not doe-eyed bambi’s husband.”

      You do realize Bambi is a boy? Or are you being even more progressive than you intended?

  7. Chu
    October 12, 2012, 2:12 pm

    You have to wonder what type of friends they have in Washington, when king Bibi embarrassed Obama in the oval office years ago and then embarrassed Biden with the settlement flop in Israel thereafter.

    The entire craven exchange in last nights debate was sickening. Ryan says Obama was engaged in a talk show when the Israeli leader was in town, then Biden says Bibi’s been my friend for 37 years. Both of these hucksters really want the pile of cash that comes with befriending Zionists. And who can blame them in pay to play politics. In Washington, money speaks louder than principles.

  8. ColinWright
    October 12, 2012, 2:34 pm

    A word’s meaning is in the ear of the hearer.

    To me, ‘bibi’ connotes nothing good, warm, or human at all. it connotes Netanyahu and the individuals who actually like him. It’s a term of contempt.

    • marc b.
      October 12, 2012, 3:07 pm

      A word’s meaning is in the ear of the hearer.

      it’s not just that, though. the act of naming is significant, regardless of the name. see the bible on this point, for example. even if you don’t associate ‘bibi’ with cartoonish cuddliness and incompetence, the fact that he is given a ‘new’ name in the diminutive mitigates his responsibility.

      i sensed a similar situation with the repeated use of the shortened ‘queda’ to refer to ‘al-queda’, even though it was being used by the usual species of terrorism experts. the diminutive ‘queda’ tipped their hand a bit too overtly, suggesting a reciprocol, beneficial familiarity of sorts. i don’t hear it much anymore. or maybe i’ve just stopped listening.

  9. Chu
    October 12, 2012, 2:45 pm
  10. GJB
    October 12, 2012, 4:02 pm

    “Bibi” – conjures up the image of the sort of character who would employ a bizarre, cartoon like picture of a bomb to plead his case to a distinguished group of world dignitaries. But then again, that would never happen in real life …

  11. ColinWright
    October 12, 2012, 4:08 pm

    Another ‘gotta stick it somewhere.’ This is about Bibi-stop-calling-him-Bibi anyway:

    ” Netanyahu told Assad: I’m ready to discuss Golan withdrawal, if you cut Iran, Hezbollah ties
    Through indirect talk mediated by the U.S., the PM was ready in 2010 to discuss Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights. The talks were abandoned in 2011, however, with the outbreak of revolt in Syria…” — Haaretz

    That’s the best Netanyahu can do for ‘Bibi — man of peace’?

    First, it’s the ol’ ‘you do it, and we’ll think about it’ shtick. That one’s getting a bit old.

    Second, it’s that old ‘we woulda back in 1953 if only…’ routine. What deal you would have made with Assad is about as relevant as what deal you would have made with Nebuchadnezzar. To say he’s still in power is stretching a point. Why don’t you tell us about what you’re prepared to do with people who are around now — or is that going to result in an awkward silence?

    • Woody Tanaka
      October 12, 2012, 5:41 pm

      The chutzbah of this guy is amazing. If you give us what we want, we’ll discuss what you want. It’s the same joke he’s been pulling with the Palestinians. Disgusting toad this man is.

  12. Taxi
    October 12, 2012, 4:26 pm

    Hey while we’re at it, why even bother with ‘Natanyahu’ – it’s not his real surname anyway.

    What the hell is his real surname again, before his father changed it? His father who hailed from eastern europe, changed his surname soon as he arrived in Palestine, then proceeded to terrorize, murder and maim the natives till he himself died a few years ago.

    • Woody Tanaka
      October 12, 2012, 5:46 pm

      “Hey while we’re at it, why even bother with ‘Natanyahu’ – it’s not his real surname anyway.”

      I disagree. His evil nutcase little troll of a father changed it before this clown was born. So it’s his real surname.

      • ColinWright
        October 12, 2012, 7:06 pm

        Woody Tanaka says: ““Hey while we’re at it, why even bother with ‘Natanyahu’ – it’s not his real surname anyway.”

        I disagree. His evil nutcase little troll of a father changed it before this clown was born. So it’s his real surname.”

        On the other hand, a lot of these people changed their names from the distressingly Eastern European original to something that made it sound like Israel was actually a reasonable proposition with actual Israelis ‘n stuff. Netanyahu’s father went with ‘Benzion Netanyahu’ which I assume means ‘Nutjob son of Zion’ or something to that effect.

        It’s implicitly conceding some validity to the claim to use the new name. It would be pedantic, but to insist on calling Netanyahu ‘Mileikowsky’ would make the point that he’s actually some sort of Eastern European with no more claim to Palestine than you or I would have.

      • Woody Tanaka
        October 14, 2012, 10:11 am

        I won’t argue that rhetorical benefit of using “Mileikowsky” (I don’t know how effective it would be…); I was merely noting the fact that the man’s name was always “Netanyahu.”

      • radkelt
        October 13, 2012, 1:46 am

        I wish this were’nt an issue. People, change thier names for
        various reasons. African Americans wished to disassociate
        themselves from identidy with former slave owners, most
        here wished to appear more “American” thus Vassilios
        became Basil, Mc became MaC, etc. However in this instance when the intent apparently is to bolster a claim of an unbroken 2000/3000 year “ownership” it deserves to be substantiated by facts.

      • eGuard
        October 14, 2012, 5:54 am

        It may be his real surname from before birth.

        But, in a similar case, wouldn’t world history have been saved a lot of trouble were the greet “Heil Schicklgruber!” ?

      • Woody Tanaka
        October 14, 2012, 10:17 am

        “It may be his real surname from before birth.”

        Nonsense. Before he was born he didn’t exist, so he couldn’t have a surname. His paternal family line had that surname but it was never his surname.

        “But, in a similar case, wouldn’t world history have been saved a lot of trouble were the greet “Heil Schicklgruber!” ?”

        If Alois Hitler never changed his name, I’d imagine not much would have changed. His son would have either changed it to something else a la Stalin (my guess is “Wolf” or something from Wagner) or the Greeting would have been “Heil Fuehrer.”

      • Miss Costello
        October 15, 2012, 6:57 am

        “His paternal family line had that surname but it was never his surname”.

        With respect, Woody, surely the fact his father changed his surname at birth /whenever, doesn’t alter the fact it’s NOT his inherited bloodline name – and all the deed poll certificates in the world won’t make it so.
        Calling a leopard a monkey wont take away the spots. Changing the name of a criminal doesn’t make them a saint. There’s a lot to be said for a concentrated online effort to start addressing this man by his ORIGINAL birth name, which would act as a constant public reminder of who he REALLY is and where he FACTUALLY came from. In other words, a blatant imposter, with neither moral or legal basis to claim Palestine as his ‘homeland’ -which carries about as much clout as Pussy Riot claiming to be Mother Theresa.

      • Woody Tanaka
        October 15, 2012, 11:11 am

        Miss Costello,

        “doesn’t alter the fact it’s NOT his inherited bloodline name”

        And what, pray tell, is an “inherited bloodline name”? We don’t have that concept here in the Western world. People are usually are given their father’s name or both parents names, and they change surnames all the time.

        Benjamin Netanyahu has a surname. As per custom, at the time of his birth, his surname was that of his father. His father’s name, at the time, was Netanyahu, although he was born with a different one.

        “There’s a lot to be said for a concentrated online effort to start addressing this man by his ORIGINAL birth name”

        His original birth name is Netanyahu. His father’s wasn’t, but his was.

        “In other words, a blatant imposter, with neither moral or legal basis to claim Palestine as his ‘homeland’”

        Benjamin Netanyahu was born there. That gives him a moral and legal basis to claim the land as his homeland. (Of course, it does not give him any right to impose an ethnoreligious aparthied state.)

      • Miss Costello
        October 15, 2012, 11:50 am

        Never think we were on the same side, would you? What a deeply unpleasant, completely uncalled for response.

      • Woody Tanaka
        October 15, 2012, 12:59 pm

        “What a deeply unpleasant, completely uncalled for response.”

        What are you talking about? Nothing in my response was even mildly unpleasant. You have your view; I have mine. If you don’t want to hear other people’s responses, then posting on a discussion board is probably a bad choice.

      • hophmi
        October 15, 2012, 1:47 pm

        ” In other words, a blatant imposter, with neither moral or legal basis to claim Palestine as his ‘homeland’”

        Excuse me. Netanyahu was born in Tel Aviv. He’s not an imposter.

      • andrew r
        October 15, 2012, 2:33 pm

        “If Alois Hitler never changed his name, I’d imagine not much would have changed.”

        And if Hitler had been admitted to that art school, the greeting would’ve changed to ‘Heil Heydrich’ (?)

      • Woody Tanaka
        October 16, 2012, 11:04 am

        “And if Hitler had been admitted to that art school, the greeting would’ve changed to ‘Heil Heydrich’ (?)”

        No, it Hitler had not gone into politics, the NSDAP would not have acquired power, if it even existed at all after the early 1920s. Hitler was an irreplaceable force in that party. And Heydrich?? How would he have replaced Hitler? He was too young. He was like 15 when the war ended.

      • Hostage
        October 15, 2012, 12:24 pm

        I disagree. His evil nutcase little troll of a father changed it before this clown was born. So it’s his real surname.

        Okay, but didn’t “this clown” change his own name to “Benjamin Nitay” when he attended MIT? Just asking;-) link to youtube.com

      • Woody Tanaka
        October 15, 2012, 12:54 pm

        “Okay, but didn’t “this clown” change his own name to “Benjamin Nitay” when he attended MIT?”

        Sure. And if you want to go around calling him Nitay, then that’s legit. I don’t see any reason to suggest that “Netanyahu” was not his “real name.”

  13. Keith
    October 12, 2012, 4:39 pm

    JAMES NORTH- “Very few if any politicians are referred to by their nicknames.”

    Jack Kennedy, Dick Nixon, Jimmy Carter, Ronnie Reagan, Bill Clinton, Al Gore,…. You are right, it is extremely rare and distasteful. I’m sure you never referred to Clinton and Gore as other than William and Albert. Me neither.

    • Donald
      October 12, 2012, 7:00 pm

      Yeah, and all those folks were Americans and using their nicknames humanized them to some degree. Even when abusing Nixon as “Tricky Dick”, that’s the sort of wording you’d use about someone who plays dirty tricks in a political campaign, not someone responsible for millions of tons of bombs dropped on Southeast Asia, and hundreds of thousands of civilian deaths.

      “Bibi” is a name that is occasionally used contemptuously, but more often it is a way of humanizing him, making him one of us, a Western politician, not an evil war criminal. (In mainstream circles those are two non-overlapping circles on a Venn diagram.) I suppose one might use a diminutive to make fun of a war criminal, but that’s not how it is usually done with Netanyahu.

      • ColinWright
        October 12, 2012, 7:12 pm

        Donald says: ‘Bibi” is a name that is occasionally used contemptuously, but more often it is a way of humanizing him, making him one of us, a Western politician, not an evil war criminal. ‘

        No fear. A word inevitably acquires the connotations of what it refers to. Witness the progression from ‘idiot’ to ‘mentally handicapped’ to ‘special.’ It is now derogatory to describe a child as ‘special.’

        Similarly with ‘appeasement.’ Until it didn’t work out so well with Hitler, ‘appeasement’ was actually a good thing.

        So ‘Bibi’ already has vile connotations for me. It should eventually have them for any decent person.

    • Antidote
      October 18, 2012, 1:43 pm

      Not to mention “Teddy” Roosevelt

      link to columbiaspectator.com

  14. MichaelSmith
    October 12, 2012, 4:58 pm

    I don’t know whether Biden’s really aware that it’s a nickname when he uses it. Certainly he must have heard him called Benjamin or Binyamin, but you can never tell what politicians retain and how they process it.

    As with any nickname, there’s a thin line between affection and contempt. It’s a little ironic that “habibi” should be an Arabic term of affection, though.

  15. Taxi
    October 12, 2012, 5:02 pm

    Actually George Bush jnr had nicknames for all his misfit posse. For instance, he called Karl Rove ‘turd blossom’. Turd blossom is a Texan term for a flower that grows from a pile of cow dung. But ‘turd worm’ woulda been more appropriate and even more homoerotic. Turd worm is a Taxi term for a politician shoving his face in a stinking pile of lobby money.

  16. bobsmith
    October 12, 2012, 5:29 pm

    When Joey started in with the nickname-dropping, I was surprised he didn’t also refer to his running mate as Barry, his opponent as Pauly, and the moderator as Patsy.

  17. casaananda
    October 12, 2012, 5:30 pm

    God, he’s an ugly son of a bitch.

    • ColinWright
      October 12, 2012, 7:16 pm

      casaadanda says: “God, he’s an ugly son of a bitch.”

      Technically, I’d say his features are kind of cute and cuddly. If he wasn’t so old, you’d pinch his adorable little cheeks.

      It’s just that look of the guy who’s about to do you out of your two thousand dollar deposit peering out that makes him look ugly.

    • Chu
      October 15, 2012, 1:07 pm

      He always reminded me of Fred Flintston with that square forehead.
      His nutcase wife has an even better nickname, search her on google and her nickname autofills.

      • Taxi
        October 15, 2012, 1:35 pm

        I wonder if she’ll try and steal the exact same prime ministerial silverware again when her husband’s term in office ends?

      • Chu
        October 15, 2012, 2:11 pm

        I think she’s past that one… She’s moved on to ripping off people that work for her. Like her maid that she settled with in court in September 2012. It was alleged that she didn’t pay her for social benefits required under law, paid her less than minimum wage, and made her work extra hours including Saturdays, as her maid is Shabbat-observant.
        Imagine Obama shortchanging his staff like this.

  18. libra
    October 12, 2012, 5:38 pm

    James North: Stop and think if he had an English nickname. Let’s call him Ricky– and every time Netanyahu came up, he was called “Ricky.”

    Let’s be honest here, if he was Richard he’d be a Dick.

  19. dbroncos
    October 12, 2012, 10:14 pm

    In the VP debate Biden started with the Bibi nonsense. It began with him saying something like, “I’ve known my good friend Bibi for a long time and…” Rediculous. A mockery of American independence and objectivity.

  20. upsidedownism
    October 13, 2012, 6:19 am

    why all this focus on the prime minister’s cute first name? Everybody already knows that American politicians love to call him ‘bibi’ to affirm their love for zionism and aipac.

    It is his second name, and the way in which he uses it, which demonstrates both the man and the zionist ideology he espouses are nothing but frauds.

    The netanyahus changed their name from Mileikowsky. There is nothing wrong with that. Your father could have changed his name to ‘Presley’, if he wanted to, and he could have named you ‘Elvis’ when you were born. Nothing wrong with that either.

    What would be creepy, however, is if you started pretending that you were the real Elvis Presley, the singer. If you collected presley memorabilia, and showed to it people as if it were yours, would be so strange that people would rightly assume you were deranged.

    But this is exactly what the prime minister does. He collects stuff from an ancient family called the Netanyahus, and displays it to visitors, telling them it comes from his ancestors in Israel. What a creep.

  21. Miss Costello
    October 13, 2012, 8:45 am

    I can think of a few names I’d like to call him ( and do, frequently) but none of them suitable for publication.

  22. Walid
    October 13, 2012, 1:04 pm

    “Does Mahmoud Ahmadinejad have a nickname? ” (James North)

    It’s a slow Saturday so for what it’s worth… the proper way of writing his name is Mahmoud Ahmadi Nejad. His first and middle names, Mahmoud and Ahmad have the same root. Mahmoud means “praised” (to God) and Ahmad means “most highly praised”. The name “Mohamed” is also of the same root. Ahmad is also the name of his father and one of the names of the Prophet. Nejad is a suffix that means “descendant of”. But Mahmoud Ahmadi Nejad has no direct link to the Prophet through his father Ahmad as his “descendant of Ahmad” name implies, but he does have one through his mother, Khanom, a Sayyideh believed to be a descendant of the Prophet.

    Like with Netanyahu, Mahmoud Ahmadi Nejad is not his original name. It was changed from Sabaghian to Ahmadi Nejad when he was 4 and the family moved from Aradan, a carpet-making village to Teheran. The original name means “dye master” and it was changed to avoid discrimination in Teheran.

    I have no idea what would be his nickname in Farsi, but in Arabic for Mahmoud and Ahmad as well as Mohamed, one of the affectionate nicknames is “Hamoudi”.

    Someone like Nima should say what’s the nickname for Mahmoud in Farsi.

  23. eljay
    October 14, 2012, 1:15 am

    Whether he’s Bibi or Benjamin Netanyahu, he’s a hateful and immoral Zio-supremacist. The deeds – not the (nick)name – are what matter.

  24. Theo
    October 14, 2012, 12:37 pm

    Yes, Bibi, however would you like to be called Nini?

  25. Vacy
    October 14, 2012, 3:37 pm

    In East Timor the word for goat is bibi..

  26. hophmi
    October 15, 2012, 11:54 am

    I happen to agree on this one. The man should be referred to as Prime Minister. He’s a sitting head of state, and elected officials should be observing diplomatic protocol.

    • Woody Tanaka
      October 15, 2012, 12:59 pm

      “and elected officials should be observing diplomatic protocol.”

      We’re not talking about elected officials. We’re talking about the media. The media should just call him “Netanyahu.”

      • hophmi
        October 15, 2012, 1:45 pm

        I don’t see reportage calling him Bibi.

        If you’re thinking of op-ed columnists, then I disagree. If you’re Maureen Dowd, you’re going to use nicknames. Sarkozy, for instances, was Sarko. Mayor Giuliani was Rudy.

      • Woody Tanaka
        October 15, 2012, 2:29 pm

        “I don’t see reportage calling him Bibi.”

        They you need to open your eyes. Read the NY Post or the Daily News whenever that criminal in at the UN and it’s “Bibi this” and “Bibi that,” taliking about what fifth columnists among our elected officials are falling over themselves to meet this walking pig etc.

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