Mark LeVine: Obama: Getting 'Poned' Bibi Style

Roundup: Historians' Take

[Mark LeVine is a professor of history at UC Irvine and senior visiting researcher at the Centre for Middle Eastern Studies at Lund University in Sweden. His most recent books are Heavy Metal Islam (Random House) and Impossible Peace: Israel/Palestine Since 1989 (Zed Books).]

If you don't have a child between 7 and 13 years old, you're probably furrowing your brow right now, wondering what the word "pone" could possibly mean.

It hasn't made it into respectable dictionaries yet; but it's taken over the elementary schoolyards and playgrounds where I live. And there's no better word to describe how well Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has played the Obama administration.

According to urban lore, "pone" was coined by young fans of the boy band the Jonas Brothers (who recently rocked Abu Dhabi in what was surely one of the stranger concerts in human history). In reality, the term comes from a common misspelling of the word "owned" as "pwned" in text and chat messages. It roughly translates into adult-speak as being completely "owning" by an opponent in a sport or game, to the point of humiliation. ("You got totally poned, dude," is a common refrain around my house after a particularly one-sided basketball).

Considering the President's well known skills on the hardwood, it's doubtful Netanyahu could 'pone' Obama in a game of one-on-one basketball. But on the field of diplomacy the Israeli continues to school his American opponent - and have no doubt about it, the US and Israel might be close "allies," but Obama is being treated as little better than an opponent to be vanquished rather than a patron to be respected....

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