Gregory Campbell and the law of unintended consequences

Not that he cares but Gregory Campbell MP’s recent remarks about the Irish language and his contemptuous dismissal of the campaign for an Irish Language Act has had some unintended consequences from those he may have imagined.

It’s very easy to see why Gregory Campbell, drifting as he was to the margins of his party having been left out of the Executive by his leader in successive reshuffles, would want to make some grand effort to get back in the public consciousness in advance of next May’s Westminster election.   The almost forgotten MP would surely want to remind his constituents and other supporters that the Dinosaur wing of the DUP had not, in fact, become extinct.

Whatever Gregory’s aspirations or pretensions to leadership, his latest ‘toilet paper’ remarks have had the unintended consequence of re-invigorating an Irish language grassroots movement which had been reeling from cuts imposed by the cross border body, Foras na Gaeilge.

Now that Gregory has directed his ire at the Irish language community as proxies for an attack on his Executive partners, Sinn Féin, Irish speakers are preparing to fight back against this unwarranted assault on our language and culture.   First of all we would remind Gregory that the language has survived famines and attempts to suppress it by former British rulers, going back to Elizabeth 1.   The latest incumbent on the British throne, Queen Elizabeth 2, indeed has mastered the cúpla focail and demonstrated her prowess with the grace and majesty one would expect in sharp contrast to the crude efforts at parody of her ‘loyal subject’, Gregory Campbell MP MLA.

At an impromptu meeting at the Cultúrlann on Wednesday evening a large crowd of mostly young Irish speakers turned up to discuss how best to counter these latest attacks and promote the creative and exciting aspect of the Irish language community.

Meanwhile over in east Belfast, the Irish language’s most courageous advocate, Linda Ervine, is planning to directly confront the prehistoric attitudes represented by Gregory and his ilk by travelling to Stormont on Tuesday morning along with Janet Muller, CEO of the Irish language umbrella organisation POBAL, to hand a letter of complaint  regarding Gregory’s unwarranted and unrepresentative comments re Gaeilge, to all the parties on the steps of Parliament Buildings.

I wonder too whether Gregory’s primitive views have percolated to the ‘mainland’ where political parties, apart perhaps from UKIP and the BNP, would surely baulk at entering any sort of post electoral alliance with a party whose views on diversity, cultural, linguistic, sexual and religious, are so out of step with mainstream views in modern Britain.  The DUP’s kingmaking aspirations may be doomed rather sooner than Peter Robinson may have thought after his leadership speech last week, thanks to Gregory’s comments.  And perhaps that’s what it’s all about.  Was it just one more ill-fated leadership conspiracy within the personally ambitious ranks of the DUP in which our hero attempts to oust the current regime through an illthought political manoeuvre.

Unionist politicians have for a long time complained that the Irish language has been politicised by Sinn Féin – and sometimes with justification.   In this instant they themselves are playing politics with the language.   The Irish language is as much a part of British heritage as it is of Irish heritage, it’s the same language, different accent, as that spoken across Sruth na Maoile/the Straits of Moyle in Scotland’s Highlands and Islands.   There Gaidhlig is as non sectarian and as non political as sliced pan.




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  • Am Ghobsmacht

    “In this instant they themselves are playing politics with the language”. Absolutely, treating the Irish language as ‘the enemy’ is a short term strategy that just makes them look bitter and irrational.

    I’d love to know what proper Scots think of the belittling of Gaelic by their ‘Ulster Scots’ cousins?

    “The Irish language is as much a part of British heritage as it is of Irish heritage, it’s the same language, different accent, as that spoken across Sruth na Maoile/the Straits of Moyle in Scotland’s Highlands and Islands”

    I’m not sure what there is in the way of pan-Gaelic co-operation but focusing on it might help change a few viewpoints at grass roots level.

  • Paul Gallagher

    Lucky you said “There Gaidhlig is as non-sectarian and as non-political as sliced pan” and not a sliced plain. In our house the round end of the slice of plain is called the ‘protestant’ end. Don’t ask me why!

  • Ernekid

    Maybe Foras na Gaelige could approach the Scottish Government and the Scottish Language bodies and work together on a joint Irish and Scottish promotion of languages.

    There’s a British and Irish Council session today on the Isle of Man, I wonder if languages is on the agenda?

  • Practically_Family

    I don’t think Gregory or the wider party give a flying one to be honest. His remarks raised a “yeeooo!” from those that enjoy “yeeeooo!”-ing locally. And it’s not as if the debacle has been a big reveal of attitudes within the party generally, if the Tories need DUP support come election day, there will be an appropriate courtship. With curried yogurt and a can of Coke on the menu if necessary.

  • John O’Connor

    Well written article. While I confess to finding the initial incident amusing – we really should be a bit less sensitive – Gregory made a fool of himself and his party by digging himself into a very narrow hole last weekend.

  • chrisjones2

    But is it used as another Trojan Horse?

  • Sp12

    “In the end you can always do a deal with an Ulsterman, but it’s not the way to run a modern, sophisticated society.”

  • Practically_Family

    It may well be the way to run a society though.

    As opposed to snarking at the people who run it during PMQs.

    I see very little chance of the Tories pissing on their chips with the DUP and throwing away (probably) nine cheap seats in Westminster over a bit of name calling in the peasant lands to the far North West.

    My worry, and it is a genuine worry, is exactly his far the Tories will go to secure that support if it looks as if it might be needed.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    The end at the top, perhaps?

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Hi AG! “the Irish language as ‘the enemy’ is a short term strategy that just makes them look bitter and irrational.” It also makes them look as silly as the auld women in “Father Ted” who hated the Greeks because they invented “Gayness” (or “Janus” depending on your sound reproduction).

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Hi John, boring but true, “the price of freedom is constant vigilence.” Funny today, perhaps, but only a few generations ago you were beaten at school if anything but English come out of your mouth. And as Churchill (not my favorite person, as any regular reader will know, but…) once said : “the further back you can look, the further forward you can see.”

  • SeaanUiNeill

    “Knowledge was divided among the Scots, like bread in a besieged town, to every man a mouthful, to no man a bellyful.”

    Dr Johnson (1709 – 1784).

  • Practically_Family

    Quite, but as a counterpoint may I offer “Gregory annoyed the fenians… YEEEOOO!”?

    The original article and many of the points raised in comment, overthink the entire case. I reckon that the number of DUP votes lost over curried yoghurt is less than or equal to the number that SF will lose for Gerry calling the DUP, sorry, I mean bigots, “bastards”.

    As for outside entities, they are long past the stage where they expect anything but grunts from the local swine.

  • barnshee

    Try and work out why

    “Gaidhlig is as non-sectarian and as non-political as sliced pan” ”

    “The Irish language is as much a part of British heritage as it is of Irish heritage”

    Not in NI it ain`t
    (Another tirade on behalf of the Irish Language “Industry” that wants an even bigger handout to waste more taxpayers money like its familiar “Ulster Scots”)

  • Dan

    Morrison let slip it was a Trojan horse a couple of decades (or was it more) ago …. .
    .every word spoken in Irish is another bullet in the freedom struggle….

  • Séamus

    Foras na Gaeilge and Bòrd na Gàidhlig do have a joint project, Colmcille.

  • Thomas Girvan

    Unfortunately, in this place, what passes for politics, is based upon scoring petty political points.
    When they decided to take the flag down at the City Hall, and stop the Orangemen walking along that stretch of the Crumlin Road it was always going to have “unintended consequences”.
    Did those who abandoned consensus politics not realise that there would be a backlash?
    We are in a downward spiral.
    It is as it was during the troubles, tit for tat, except that the bullets have been replaced by “culture”!

  • Robin Keogh

    What Gregs comments have shown up if nothing else, is that the DUP objection to the language on the grounds that SF have politicised it and/or the costly element of promoting it; is nothing more than a smokescreen attempting to hide the truth. Greg and his ilk in the DUP no more believe their own tripe in this regard than they believe the Queen is Catholic. The simple fact of it all – as if anyone had to point it out – is that the DUP will do everything and anything it can to stop the Irish language and culture from growing in the North and reaching ‘parity of esteem’. They know that the language is spoken and supported by tens of thousands of people all over the Island, they also know that it is perfectly reasonable in any society to try protect a distinct part of that regions history, they are fully aware that efforts to protect the language are an important part appreciating cultural heritage. We would gasp if the French attempted to dump their fine Paintings on the basis that it was out of step with modern Art, we would be horrified if the English attempted to pull down Tower Bridge on the basis that it didnt fit in with its modern surroundings, and we would be shocked if the Italians pilled down their leaning tower because of the high cost of maintaining it. Simply put, there are so many members of the DUP who are still stuck in an Anti – Irish fog, who mourn the loss of the days of prejudice and are sick at the love and respect in which the Irish are held globally. Greg does nothing more than encourage me and people like me to push harder and work smarter towards the day that we can wipe that smug grin off his face forever.

  • Robin Keogh

    Well they better suit up because it is only going to get worse

  • Robin Keogh

    Barn, SF aside is there any part of you that understands how important it is for a country and a people to try their best to rescue what for them is a hugely significant part of their culture? Would you really support the banning of the OO or other cultural groups and organisations on the basis that they cost the state financially?

  • barnshee

    “Knowledge was divided among the Scots, like bread in a besieged town, to every man a mouthful, to no man a bellyful.”

    Because their bellies were already full?

    ” oats: ‘a grain, which in England is generally given to horses, but in Scotland supports the people”

    The same Dr Johnson

  • barnshee

    I wonder who is paying for this jolly
    (Its a rhetorical question I know the answer)

  • streetlegal

    Mr Campbell’s intervention has put real pressure on Sinn Fein at the negotiations. Make no mistake that their failure to secure the Irish Language Act is a major issue. So it has now come back up to the top of the Sinn Fein agenda in this current round of negotiations. If they cannot get it through this time, it will be seen as a humiliation of the first order for Martin McGuinness.

  • Kevin Breslin

    How about replacing “unintended consequences” with “unintended inertia” because that’s what he’s done, just added more inertia to the political system here. I agree that some Unionists are politicising the Irish Language a lot more by complaining about it, than Sinn Féin do by simply thanking a speaker, but it’s their choice to add that inertia to their own political goals. We also get this paranoia about a cultural war, as if there if there wasn’t an Orange Order, British flags flying about the place, poppies and Military commemorations people would say, you know what let’s just join the Republic … if anything loyalist flag protesters engaging in civil disobedience is the easiest propaganda Irish nationalism has.

    I lived in the Republic, I’d have no problem seeing Orange Marches in Donegal, taking a photo of myself under massive British flag they had along the Liffy during the European Presidency, or attending a Remembrance event with the British Legion, I have no problem learning about the various Anglic languagues that came here from the various accepted Englishs, to distinct other forms such as Scots, Ulster-Scots, Yola or Fingallian. There are 300,000 British people living, paying taxes, working and voting in the Republic of Ireland and that British population is rising.

    The Irish are the last European nation to be at war with British Culture, we head off to watch Liverpool, Celtic, Man Utd, Everton, we go to watch Radiohead, Ed Sheeran, The Who, Dizzy Rascal heck a lot of the UK’s most successful pop bands even have Irish members. Truth be told we Love British Culture, and Brits love things like Father Ted, The Script, U2 and so on. To destroy British culture in Ireland is an 800 year job. To love Ireland does not mean to hate Britain.

    However despite all this there is a paranoid “Cultural War” when British culture is hardly under threat and when Orange Culture is actually relatively becoming more tolerated overall … see Apprentice Boys in Derry. Is this a war that is fought in some unionist politician’s heads?

    There’s no cultural war, just cultural differences

  • Barneyt

    hold on…you typically get yoghurt in curry… I wonder if I should approach Campbells Soup and see about doing a new line!! Might catch on.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Sorry I don’t know how blocking the Irish language act, then insulting Irish language speakers adds any pressure on Sinn Féin or anyone else to do a deal with the DUP on Welfare Reform, Re-balancing the Budget, Institutional Reform, Historical issues or the petite kingdom issues of flags and parades. To be honest, behaviour like that won’t even get the Ulster Unionists on board.

  • Kevin Breslin

    The word Tory comes from Irish language, how can you say it has had no effect on British culture, language or history?

  • barnshee

    “Would you really support the banning of the OO or other cultural groups and organisations on the basis that they cost the state financially?”

    To put it bluntly YES –If there is no consensus YES YES YES – (might if I was unkind add let the barstewards fund themselves and pay to clear up any mess they make).

    If there is consensus then bid for available resources by all means

    The “Irish Language Industry” (along with the Govt of ROI) failed to miss the tricks

    1 When SF politicised the language (the chucky ar la -“every bullet”boys) The Language enthusiasts should have come out along the lines ” We applaud the continued enthusiasm for the Irish Language however we would be grateful if sectional interests would refrain from using this for political advantage/ point scoring”
    Nothing lost- SF still garble in “Long Kesh” Irish but the Language enthusiasts have created clear water between them and SF and allows them to kick the feet out from under their opponents. (All this assumes the “Irish ” industry is not SF in another guise)

    2 The same approach by ROI governments could have ameliorated the “tricolour issue.” When the ” tricolour” draped IRA coffins popped up a few gentle words along the lines :-
    “I say– that`s our flag and we would rather you did not use in that fashion”

    SF could have continued to used it – but again clear water would have been established with the ROI and allowed the ROI to gain and keep the high moral ground.

    (In the same way the stupid OO should have ASKED residents “do you mind if we walk past the end of your street” If the residents said no then no–then no walk )

  • barnshee

    See above ” not in NI”

  • Kevin Breslin

    Locally more so. The Irish language “industry” and (their Indo-European cousins in Ulster Scots industry) are causing people to invest their hard earned money back into educational facilities and tourism attractions, it gives people a chance to avoid the negative vices that damage our economy such as drink, drugs, sectarianism, isolationism, depression and paranoia while teaching skills that unlock our past, increase our awareness of linguistic skills and open up a new means of communication.

  • Joe_Hoggs

    A short time after Mr. Adams made his “b***ards” remark, Ms. Gildernew hit out at Gregory Campbell following comments he made about Sinn Fein at the DUP conference on Saturday.

    Mr. Campbell poked fun at the party’s use of the Irish language by holding a yoghurt pot in the air in reference to his ‘curry my yoghurt’ outburst in the Assembly a fortnight ago.

    “All Gregory has to do is be a b***ocks,” Ms. Gildernew told the audience on Monday night.

    Following her remark, Mr. Adams turned to his party colleague and said with a smile: “I don’t feel as bad saying b***ards now you’ve said b***ocks.”

  • Kevin Breslin

    Might add there’s a Rangers supporters club in Dublin too, and Rangers have two Republic of Ireland players on their books. Linfeild have had “Irish nationalists” and Southern Irish on their books too of course.

  • Joe_Hoggs

    The love and respect that the Irish are held in globally? Really, even in Australia where the natives are fed up with wave after wave of Irish immigrants.

    I assume it’s only the Catholic Irish that are globally loved too?

  • Concubhar O Liathain

    Here’s a contribution from Linda Ervine which should inform those who wish to be informed….the first sentence is in Irish but the rest is in English…

  • Joe_Hoggs

    Lost interest after the first sentence as I didn’t know what was being said.

  • Niall Chapman

    Joe, The “Australians” unless aboriginal are immigrants and for the most part descended from Irish emigrants, so who gives a stuff on their opinions on immigration.
    But Robin is right, for some reason (possibly due to Irish Americas promotion of Ireland through film, Irish pubs etc) all over the world Irish people are held in high regard, and a lot of people dont even know that part of the Island is partitioned.

  • Concubhar O Liathain

    What the first sentence says and means for those of you who wish to know is:
    Táim i mo chónaí in oirthear Bhéal Feirste i gceantar atá bródúil as bheith Briotanach agus aondachtach.
    I live in east Belfast, an area which is proud of being British and unionist.

  • Concubhar O Liathain

    I think Barnshee that your narrow definition of British culture to exclude Gaelic culture doesn’t serve British culture or culture generally in NI well. Irish and Ulster Scots are part of our shared heritage and, as such, money invested in same does in most cases yield a cultural dividend far in excess of the original investment. You may not agree with that viewpoint but I think taxpayers money should be invested in culture – and the arts – as much as roads, economy, hospitals and education, according to need. I am against wasting taxpayers money but you and I have a different perspective on what consitutes waste…. If you want examples of waste look at the money being wasted by the main parties on ‘expenses’ up in Stormont.

  • delphindelphin

    Americans just love the Irish!

  • Practically_Family

    Wish to be “informed” of what though?

  • barnshee

    “a cultural dividend far in excess of the original investment”

    I`m big on money dividends– the kind that arrive in bank accounts them`s the ones for me.

    “as much as roads, economy, hospitals and education, according to need”

    And there we diverge fundamentally -my choices

    1 Health

    2 Education (it is my understanding there are endless opportunities to study Irish in this area`)

    3 The economy

    4 Law and order

    5 The environment

    Culture and the arts as far as possible self financing

    “Irish and Ulster Scots are part of our shared heritage” er no might be yours but not everyone`s hint “shared”

    “If you want examples of waste look at the money being wasted by the main parties on ‘expenses’ up in Stormont.”

    You get what you pay/vote for what I can`t understand is the surprise that gangsters have stolen What did you expect

    ( A bit like “Legs” Diamond the gangster asked why he robbed banks replied “That`s where the money is”)

  • Concubhar O Liathain

    Your response is typical of those whose lives are completely unbalanced, seeing the price of everything but the value of nothing. If it’s money you’re after, and that’s your only concern, well it’s my contention that without culture your money will soon dry up. If you can’t see that, you’re to be pitied.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    More than aware, banshee, as about 27% Scot myself, of the possible ambiguity of the quote. Bread and Scots are recent friends. When the Donegal Scots flocked to join Kirke’s small garrison at Inch Island in july 1689, they almost starved as the English suppliers had only sent bread. None of the Scots would willingly eat it, and few would eat anything other than savoury porridge.

    But this may support the good Doctor’s contention, for after all its the “bread of knowledge” that we speak of rather than the “porridge of knowledge”, although some Scots certainly know their oats.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Bless you, P_F! Sure Gregory lost very few votes, but this says a lot about those who continue to vote for him, just as the blind “Mussolini ha sempre regione” support for Gerry says a lot about his adherents. And we’re all under siege….

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Thanks, Concubhar, for posting this for the adults. Its like trying to explain the whole point of whiskey (or other adult interests) to them, but perhaps they’ll grow into it eventually.

  • Reader

    Even if the money dries up; you will continue to talk to your friends in Irish; bands will continue with the practising and playing; and painters will continue to paint.
    The culture industry will take a knock, but actual culture will carry on.

  • barnshee

    “Your response is typical of those whose lives are completely unbalanced, seeing the price of everything but the value of nothing”

    Yea- I put treating the sick and education- before pandering to sectional groupings how “unbalanced”

  • kalista63

    Concensus politics? Seriously? This from the community that took ownership of the city hall, plastering it with pathetic banners proclaiming their pathetic prejudices?

    For all of my life, unionist politicians spat the words ‘the minority’ as if they were spitting out sh#t but now they’ve lost the majority in certain places and losing it in general, they suddenly discover concensus.

    They don’t prepare for what came and they’re not preparing for what’s coming. From its inception, NI was imbalanced in favour for unionist and loyalist culture, marching where and when they wanted, not allowing the other community to march in the city until, I think it was, the 90’s.

    Captain Curry’s rant will do nothing to help matters. In fact, it makes us nationalists more determined to assert ourselves on everything that has been foisted on us in the past.

  • Robin Keogh

    Joe, the Irish are loved everywhere with little exception, just the way it is. Particularly in Australia the USA and Canada, no national day is celebrated globally on a scale like st paddys. My experience of travelling leads me to believe that unionism as presented to the world by its political leaders, is regarded in less than glowing terms, unless you are a northern nigerian evangelist or a southern states baptist racist.

  • guest

    27% is a very precise amount! How did you calculate that?

  • Thomas Girvan

    I think that is what Gerry was referring to when he referred to the “Trojan horse”.
    All that stuff about Residents’ groups didn’t just happen, it was admitted by Adams as a tactic designed by Sinn Fein.
    And for what end, to destabilise this place.
    I think most people assumed that after the GFA, we would try to move on, into normal politics.
    Some hope, they are more interested in the old tribal stuff, as well as stuffing their coffers with money swiped from the taxpayers.

  • Alan N/Ards

    I have to agree with you there. It was a pretty shocking and offensive speech. Saying that, I was even more shocked to see a so called Christian minister (Willie McCrea) laughing at his infantile speech. I’m just thankful that he didn’t feel the need to call anyone “b#stards”. Phew!

  • Cue Bono

    They don’t seem to be so popular amongst people who own bed and breakfasts around the world.

  • Robin Keogh

    Why? Are unionists known to trash their B&Bs ?

  • Cue Bono

    Not as frequently as republicans.

  • tmitch57

    Since the topic is the Irish language…I remember hearing once that the reason that the Zionists succeeded so brilliantly in reviving Hebrew as a daily living language and the Irish nationalists have largely failed is that the former were competing against several possible alternatives as the national language, whereas the Irish were competing against only one–the world’s most useful language. So now the Irish language enthusiasts and lobby can make the case for Irish as a second language against a number of competing alternatives: German, Mandarin Chinese, Spanish, and French. Good luck.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    What other languages apart from Hebrew were considered? Yiddish I presume but what else? How was it settled?

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    Interesting that David points out how potentially unionism could have delivered a few body blows to nationalism (as in ‘normalise’ Northern Ireland a bit by giving it a flag, civilising some of the rowdier marches etc) but that it all went belly-up after SF attempted to have the flag taken down permanently (but failed).

    It makes me wonder if SF recognised the threat and deliberately provoked unionists into railing against this potentially damaging strategy of making NI appeal to people of a nationalist background?

    If it was deliberate then I tip my hat to them as they succeeded wonderfully as unionism fell for it hook, lie and sinker (as usual) and now has a few more rabble rousers to ensure that it’s difficult to make NI more appealing to those of a nationalist background.

    So close, but now so far away.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Welcome, Guest! I have a fearsomely detailed family tree prepared by my grandfather in the early 1920s with the help of Francis Joseph Bigger. Even when the “wishful thinking” has been sifted out it gives me a ground level to assess the possible input of a Spanish marriage in the eighteenth century, and a twentieth centiry American marriage that brought in both Cherokee and (Sephardic) Jewish strains on top of my seventeenth century O’Neill/Planter base line. I’ll not put up the calculations, but I’ll not discount the fact that 27% looks pretty funny as an integral part of why I mentioned it!

  • Concubhar O Liathain

    Great piece Ré Gregory and his lack of wit by Donald Clarke in today’s Irish Times: “Irish-language speakers have every right to be offended by the implication of both remarks. It’s one thing to insult a political colleague. It’s quite another to ridicule the backbone of an entire culture. Those who value the still freshly minted institution that is the Assembly will regret Campbell’s contempt for reasoned debate.
    None of this would matter so much if the initial attack were not so utterly witless. I hereby accuse the member for East Londonderry of sullying the good name of political invective. There is nothing quite so delicious as a well-timed, perfectly honed verbal evisceration. When politicians get it right, even their opponents finds themselves rocking back in a state of oxymoronically appalled admiration.”

  • Bridog Gallagher

    Diddums….poor joe are you feeling left out…it is subtitled or are you not prepared to risk having your antiquated prejudices challenged? Afraid you might have to think a bit?

  • chrisjones2

    “to rescue what for them is a hugely significant part of their culture? ”

    Ireland has been independent for 100 years. If it ain’t rescued by now perhaqps its time to switch the Life Support off

  • Robin Keogh

    Ireland is not independent or are u having trouble with your geography?

  • Robin Keogh

    I think u are deluding yourself if u truly believe that residents groups destabilise the place. Its perfectly normal to form residents groups in urban societies and their raison d etre normally revolves around agiitating for the rights of local communities, who as it happens vote for politicians to also agitate for their rights. There is no grand conspiracy, smply a reflection of modern community politics.

  • Reader

    It’s not physical geography, it’s political geography. As the Irish constitution states, “the name of the State is Éire, or, in the English language, Ireland”.
    You could send a note to the southerners pointing out that they were being a bit presumptuous; but I get the impression that they are happy with the terminology, and aren’t going to change it for the sake of a few nordies on both sides.

  • Joe_Hoggs

    I didn’t think I would need to clarify my position as I assumed most would get my “humour” but I was just playing off what Concubhar said in the original post about only the “first sentence being in Irish”. As stated before I support the preservation of the Irish language.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Quite a few Israelis know Arabic, but that has political reasons.