The Manchurian Textbook
MA in Arab Studies, Georgetown ’74
I know firsthand that learning Arabic is a time-consuming, difficult task. That’s why I’m so impressed that Harvard Law student Joel Pollak has the time not only to study Arabic in the Georgetown-produced Al-Kitaab textbook, but to uncover its propagandic nature.
He doesn’t like Al-Kitaab for a lot of reasons, but mainly he’s mad because it has a story about a depressed girl and talks about Egyptian president Gamal Nasser. Pollak took his distaste for Nasser so far that he became, as we say in Arabic, a prick:
The accompanying lesson describes the highlights of Nasser’s career, including the nationalization of the Suez Canal and the formation of the United Arab Republic. No mention is made of Egypt’s defeat in the Six-Day War or of Nasser’s brutal, repressive rule. In my class, we were asked to recite a passage about Nasser to practice our vocalization. (I refused.)
When Neal Pollak finds himself in a memory hole, he keeps on digging.