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submitted 2 weeks ago by DolphinMath@slrpnk.net to c/world@lemmy.world

Reading too much into the language seems, at this point, to be less of a danger than reading too little into it.

This week, Israel released an appalling video featuring five female Israeli soldiers taken captive at Nahal Oz military base on October 7. Fearful and bloody, the women beg for their lives while Hamas fighters mill around and alternately threaten to kill them and compliment their appearance. The captors call the women “sabaya,” which Israel translated as “women who can get pregnant.” Almost immediately, others disputed the translation and said sabaya referred merely to “female captives” and included no reference to their fertility. “The Arabic word sabaya doesn’t have sexual connotations,” the Al Jazeera journalist Laila Al-Arian wrote in a post on X, taking exception to a Washington Post article that said that it did. She said the Israeli translation was “playing on racist and orientalist tropes about Arabs and Muslims.”

These are real women and victims of ongoing war crimes, so it does seem excessively lurid to suggest, without direct evidence, that they have been raped in captivity for the past several months. (“Eight months,” the Israelis noted, allowing readers to do the gestational math. “Think of what that means for these young women.”) But to assert that sabaya is devoid of sexual connotation reflects ignorance, at best. The word is well attested in classical sources and refers to female captives; the choice of a classical term over a modern one implies a fondness for classical modes of war, which codified sexual violence at scale. Just as concubine and comfort woman carry the befoulments of their historic use, sabaya is straightforwardly associated with what we moderns call rape. Anyone who uses sabaya in modern Gaza or Raqqah can be assumed to have specific and disgusting reasons to want to revive it.

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[-] Sami@lemmy.zip 83 points 2 weeks ago* (last edited 2 weeks ago)

This is just straight up racist propaganda. No other way to describe it

sabaya is straightforwardly associated with what we moderns call rape

Absolutely factually incorrect. Sabaya is the plural of sabiye which means young woman/girl. The masculine form is sabi which means boy or shab for young man (not exactly symmetric like use of guy vs girl in english). Zero sexual connotation and used in everyday language in levantine arabic.

[-] ralphio@lemmy.world 39 points 2 weeks ago

Yep. And the subheading I really have a problem with.

Reading too much into the language seems, at this point, to be less of a danger than reading too little into it.

The implication being that it's low stakes to make this accusation without solid evidence. In reality the whole justification from the West for the state of affairs between Israel and Palestine is that Arabs are a bunch of backwards savages, and this extends to the way the West has acted throughout the Middle East.

[-] wewbull@feddit.uk 22 points 2 weeks ago

Honestly, the use of the word "moderns" is enough to tell you it's a racist interpretation.

[-] xmunk@sh.itjust.works 13 points 2 weeks ago

Isn't Sabaya just like Senorita where they indicate an unmarried young woman? Or, like, Miss?

[-] Sami@lemmy.zip 14 points 2 weeks ago

Pretty much yes. (Ma)demoiselle vs madame are also used due to french influence over the region for singular use but sabaya is what you would use for a group of younger women with neswein being the alternative for older/married women.

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[-] Aidinthel@reddthat.com 66 points 2 weeks ago

it does seem excessively lurid to suggest, without direct evidence, that they have been raped in captivity for the past several months

But you're just going to do it anyway?

[-] FlyingSquid@lemmy.world 46 points 2 weeks ago

Yes, we all know Hamas is bad.

That justifies nothing Israel has done in this war.

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[-] Mrkawfee@lemmy.world 40 points 2 weeks ago

Racist Zionist propaganda.

[-] porous_grey_matter@lemmy.ml 13 points 2 weeks ago

Not to mention projection

[-] zephyreks@lemmy.ml 3 points 2 weeks ago

but but but my MBFC rating!!111!

[-] footoro@sh.itjust.works 26 points 2 weeks ago

I’m just going to copy & paste my response from an earlier post:

Never thought knowing Palestinian Arabic could become so useful. Sabaya is a very normal word to use for youngish women. Maybe in high Arabic it is a more specific term but in every day language no one in their right mind would think about anything related to pregnancy, that’s just ridiculous. Maybe it’s implied, just like it’s implied in “girl” or “young woman”, but that’s just a very desperate attempt to make it sound more than it actually is.

More background:

In Fusha (high Arabic) there are allegedly like 50 different names for a camel depending on what it’s up to. E.g. it has a different name when it’s drinking, sitting, pregnant, young, old, … very similar to cattle terminology in English: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_cattle_terminology

Why I’m mentioning this isn’t because I want to equate women to cattle (please don’t read this out of my comment, that’s not at all what I’m saying just to be very clear). I’m saying it because Arabic is a very rich and complex language. I really don’t know much about Fusha but it can very well be that sabaya means something more specific there in terms of what kind of women these sabaya are exactly. Anyway, even if that were the case in every day language no one would actually try to specifically mention that some woman is capable of getting pregnant.

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[-] Maeve@kbin.social 14 points 2 weeks ago

Even Google translated it to "girls".

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this post was submitted on 27 May 2024
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