Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Non-politically Correct Children book by David Faians TEN LITTLE NIGGERS עשרה כושים קטנים / דוד פאר

As part of an excellent Jewish Children book collection I acquired, I came across one title that was shockingly Non-'Politically Correct'. Titled עשרה כושים קטנים arguably translated as Ten Little Niggers, it was authored by דוד פאיאנס (David Faians) and published c1950s. The book would probably make an excellent gift to Mordechai Ben David, given his recent remarks. To be fair, when the book was written, segregation was still the norm in much of the USA and Jim Crow laws made it perfectly legal.

This was a period in history when Israel was going out of their way to keep on good terms with it's newly found friends in Africa, and it is rather suprising that such a book would be published. In this same period, the children song כושי כלב קט Kushi Kelev Kat, was censored from Israeli Radio.

The book contains a blatant mathematical error. It illustrates in pictures and verse the story of ten little niggers who went for a stroll, one was lost, and nine remained, one was blown by the wind, eight remained.... and at the end it states : "כושי אחד נשאר אז/ עצוב היה נורא/ שמע דפיקה בדלת/ חזרו העשרה"! One nigger remained, it was terribly sad, he then heard a knock on the door, and all ten returned! We somehow ended with 11, when we started with just 10.


  1. Strongly protestingMarch 24, 2017 at 2:55 PM

    With all due respect to Mr. Mizrahi, for his great knowledge in his field, etc., I take strong exception to this post.

    To translate the Hebrew word כושים as 'niggers' is incorrect. Properly it can be translated as blacks, negroes, or Ethiopians. I don't know why you instead choose instead to translate it in such a negative way.

    חכמים הזהרו בדבריכם

    1. I think it would be agreeable that today it is generally accepted as a derogatory term, and does generally translate as Niggers. When exactly it evolved in to such, is up to debate, but in general, by the 1950s, this word was very much avoided in Israel, precisely because of the implications of the translating being Niggers. See here from Wiki for example:

      בעברית הישראלית לא שימש המונח "כושי" בתחילה ככינוי פוגעני. להיפך, בשנים קודמות אף שימש לעתים ככינוי חיבה לאדם כהה עור או ג'ינג'י (לדוגמה כושי רימון). מילים אחרות עשו שימוש בצבע העור ככינוי גנאי, דוגמת המונח "שוואַרצע" (יידיש: שחור).[2] בחצי השני של המאה ה-20 הפכה המילה "כושי" לכינוי פוגעני, ולדעתו של רוביק רוזנטל היא "נחשבת למילה הגזענית הבוטה והמקוממת ביותר באוצר ביטויי הגזענות בשפה."[2]. הדבר נבע בין השאר מהזהות שנוצרה בינו לבין המונחים באנגלית "Nigger"/"Nigga" (שהיו שנים רבות כינוי גנאי) ו-"Negro" (שהייתה פעם מילה תקינה[4], אולם בשנות ה-60 של המאה ה-20, עם הצלחת מאבק השחורים בארצות הברית לשוויון זכויות, הפך לכינוי לא מקובל).[5]

      שינוי משמעותו של הכינוי "כושי" בא לידי ביטוי גם בתחום התרבות ובתחום הצרכנות: שיר הילדים "כושי כלב קט" נאסר לשידור בקול ישראל בשנות ה-50 של המאה ה-20, מחשש לפגיעה ביחסי ישראל עם מדינות אפריקה[6]. שמה של הגבינה שיוצרה בישראל ונקראה "כושי" שונה ל"אושי", וגם שמו של קרמבו, שנקרא "כושי" בראשית הפצתו בארץ ישראל, שונה.

    2. True to his general form, the blogger here gave a sophisticated response. However, it is weak, and less than compelling, as it just claims that there was a change in usage of the term at a certain point, but it is not clear when exactly that occurred, beyond an extended period. Since the blogger himself doesn't know exactly when the book was published, only dating it to c1950s, it is not proper to assume the negative, and publicize a speculative conclusion, especially in such a sensationalistic way, when the book may have been published before the claimed change. Additionally, such changes do not occur uniformly overnight everywhere, so that needs to be kept in mind as well.

      I think it would be a good idea to remove this post, as it is not up to the high standards of other writings here.

      Thanks for letting me express my opinion.

    3. The author דוד פאיאנס was born in 1935, it would be reasonable to say that it was published no earlier than 1955. JNUL estimates the date as 1960. True, such changes do not occur overnight, but from the few examples I have quoted above, by the 1950s, it was clearly not accepted practice to use the term in speech, let alone an entire book. I found it to be rather surprising that such a book was published during this era, apparently more surprised than you were.
      I generally would not let such things determined by the courts, but here is a decision from the Israeli Supreme Court, admittedly from a later date than the above book : הכינוי "כושי" נחשב בעיני החברה בכללותה ככינוי גנאי וכעלבון, שנועד להטיל דופי באדם בשל צבע עורו הכהה, ולסמנו כ"חריג", וכנחות ביחס לאדם בעל צבע עור בהיר. המדובר, למעשה, בביטוי גזעני, שנועד להשפיל ולבזות את התובע, אך ורק בשל השתייכותו לעדה האתיופית ובשל היותו בעל צבע עור כהה, ומשכך הוא נופל בגדר החלופה הרביעית של הגדרת "לשון הרע" שבסעיף 1 לחוק (ביטוי שנועד "לבזות אדם בשל גזעו, מוצאו, דתו, מקום מגוריו, מינו או נטייתו המינית").
      א (י-ם) 7878/05 אבי צגאי נגד איגנה אבי אבשלום, ניתן ב-11.1.07

  2. לעניות דעתיMarch 27, 2017 at 8:26 PM

    "The book contains a blatant mathematical error...... at the end it states חזרו העשרה"! .......We somehow ended with 11, when we started with just 10."

    1) If you claim that the language in the book is so out of order, it is such a surprise if the math is as well?

    2) Actually, I don't see it as such a problem. לעניות דעתי I think it could be understood as meaning that the missing ones (whatever number they were) returned, and therefore חזרו העשרה, the original set/number/group of ten had returned.

    1. 1. I would venture to say that you can be a racist and still know your math well.
      2. Quite a stretch but I admire your giving him the benefit of the doubt, wouldn't it be more correct to state חזרו לעשרה?

  3. It is interesting that the English Wikipedia actually agrees with me that the term is not equivalent to what you translate it as (

  4. When I grew up the early 60s in a house with an Israeli mother, the term Kushi was used freely, while my mother, also an English speaker NEVER used the N word. While publicity is a motivating factor in promoting a product or site, using a questionable translation which is derogatory and insulting which may eventually disparage Jews is not particularly commendable. Nor is the ingenious placing of "10 little N_" in the headline, thus drawing attention to this inciteful and misleading article. In addition, your comments that " by the 1950s, it was clearly not accepted practice to use the term in speech, let alone an entire book" is not at all proven by your wiki quote " בחצי השני של המאה ה-20 הפכה המילה "כושי" לכינוי פוגעני"
    1955 is the beginning of the 2nd half of the 20th century so the position is weak. On top of that you bring a court ruling from 2007, OVER FIFTY years later to attempt to prove that this word was considered derogatory in 1955? Sorry, but your proofs are as weak as your hypothesis.

    1. Undoubtedly you are correct, language evolves and is still evolving, and this period would be somewhere along the phase of the word being deemed derogatory. The intent was to point out something I found rather surprising, not a moral critique of Israeli society. I don't think your mother's behavior would settle this matter either.
      The translation to Niggers, I think we can agree is valid regardless of period, in the English language as well, this word was in the phase of evolving.