'Swine flu' name offensive, says Israeli health official

Pigs, April 28, 2009, Colombia

"We should call this Mexican flu and not swine flu," Israeli deputy health minister Yakov Litzman -- an ultra-Orthodox Jew -- said April 27. He stated that the reference to pigs is offensive to Jews and Muslims, whose respective religions prohibit consumption of pork. Pork producers -- likely worried about their product's image -- also have reservations about the name "swine flu."

Of course, Mexicans probably find "Mexican flu" offensive, but the name does seem to fit with the tradition of naming flu pandemics after the places where they were originally identified. On the other hand, there's debate about whether the current swine flu even originated in Mexico. "It was a human who brought this to Mexico," the Mexican ambassador to China told the New York Times, saying that the person was from someplace in "Eurasia." (The virus contains part of a swine flu virus of Eurasian origin.)

Meanwhile, "North American influenza" is the name suggested by the World Organisation for Animal Health. Additionally, "H1N1 virus" was the term used by U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano at an April 28 news conference. They avoided using "swine flu" because they didn't want to mislead people into thinking they could get the illness by eating pork.

Whatever you want to call it, check out FP's latest photo essay, "Pig Panic," about the true "Spring Break Gone Wrong."



The Obama administration's end run around Hamas restrictions

Hamas, in the eyes of the United States government, is a terrorist organization. It is illegal for the Palestinian Islamist party to receive American aid because it fails to meet three criteria established by U.S. law: it refuses to acknowledge Israel, renounce violence, or abide by previous Israeli-Palestinian agreements. In the event of the formation of a coalition government between Fatah and Hamas in the Palestinian Authority, this fact would prevent American aid from being delivered to the PA. To sidestep this problem, Secretary of State Clinton pressed Congress last week to amend a law, in order to keep money flowing to the PA should there be a reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas.

The Obama administration’s plan would allow the PA to receive American aid as long as the Hamas members of the coalition government met America’s three criteria, even if Hamas as an organization did not. Clinton noted that the United States continues to provide aid to the Lebanese government, despite the fact that Hezbollah is a member. She argued that cutting all of America’s financial strings to the PA would deprive it of the ability to affect a gradual change in Hamas’s behavior.

In addition to an ethical dilemma, this scheme also presents a bevy of political ones. Opinions of Democratic and Republican members of Congress have ranged from skeptical to hostile, with one Republican Congressmen describing it as similar to supporting a government “that only has a few Nazis in it.” An anonymous Israeli political source stated that the proposal was “painful and worrying.”

Obama deserves credit for bravery in putting forth a plan which will inevitably be portrayed as benefiting Hamas, an organization easily and deservedly vilified. However, the widening rift between the rival Palestinian factions makes the question of a unity government purely hypothetical, and suggests that Obama’s plan will have a greater impact in Washington and Jerusalem than it ever will in Ramallah.