Amputated Tongue: On the Potential for Change in a Political Act of Translation
Be-lashon kruta (Amputated tongue) is a collection of Palestinian prose published by the Maktoobseries in 2019. It is the most comprehensive collection of Palestinian literature ever published in Hebrew, in terms of both quantity and the period covered. It is also the richest collection of its kind in terms of the variety of authors and the most complex in terms of translation methodology. In this article we focus on Be-lashon kruta, its place and importance within the local field of Arabic-to-Hebrew translations, and the new model that lies at its heart: a novel binational and bilingual dialogical approach to Arabic-to-Hebrew translation that addresses a number of lacunas that have accompanied this field. We first focus on the significance of Be-lashon kruta, looking at the collection’s title as both a metaphor and an indication of a broader process and attitude in which the Palestinian voice was not heard and remained unspoken in Hebrew. We then deal with the challenges of asymmetry in translation generally and in the Arabic-to-Hebrew field more particularly. We conclude with a survey of the Maktoob model of translation as an answer to these ongoing lacunas.
Arabic Language among Jews in Israel and the New Mizrahi Zionism: Between Active Knowledge and Performance
According to Command of Arabic among Israeli Jews, a report by Shenhav et al. (2015), the vast majority of the Jews in Israel neither speak nor understand the Arabic language. Proficiency in Arabic has declined dramatically with succeeding generations. While slightly more than half of the participants in the study believe that knowledge of Arabic is important, the majority of the participants also stated that its importance is security related. This bleak picture of Arabic as a vanishing language among Israeli Jews is related to the protracted ethnonational conflict, which has divided “Jews” from “Arabs.” This is in contrast to the recently expanding number of Jewish Israeli musicians, mostly of the third generation (the grandchildren) of migrants from Arab countries, who sing in Arabic and receive wide local and international exposure. In this article I examine the discrepancy between the low rates of proficiency and interest in the Arabic language and the growing number of singers and audiences in Israel who appreciate music sung in Arabic. I first summarize the findings of the report. I then examine Jewish Israeli musicians who perform in Arabic, focusing on Neta Elkayam and Ziv Yehezkel, to consider the possibilities of a cultural dialogue between Israeli musicians and local Palestinian, as well as regional, Arab audiences. I discuss the political significance of these performances, both in the context of Mizrahi identity among the third generation and in relation to local and regional Arab audiences. In the last section, I tie these musical performances to the policy of the right-wing government in Israel and the rise of a new Mizrahi Zionist discourse in relation to the Arabic language and culture. Finally, I point to the possible negative consequences of this cultural shift for Palestinians.
Gendered Temporality and Space: Women in Translation from Arabic into Hebrew
This article examines how women translators impacted the enterprise of translation from Arabic into Hebrew in the years 1876–2018. Their involvement is explored along three variables: genre, women’s literature, and Palestinian literature. The findings indicate a significant gender bias expressed by the low rates of women among authors and translators. At the same time, from 1978 onward we see a steady rise in the involvement of women in translation. Closer examination, however, reveals a more nuanced picture. Women’s impact on the enterprise of translation from Arabic into Hebrew does not end with the quantitative aspect; their power is rooted in the attempt to question the hegemonic values of the translation enterprise by questioning the male/gender and Zionist/national exclusivity of that enterprise.
The rise in the presence of women in the field of translation introduces three new trends. First, the preference of women translators for translating long works expresses an effort by women translators to position themselves in a central place in the translation enterprise. Second, the preference of women translators for translating works by Arab women is a conscious choice to raise women’s voices, which are repressed in both cultures. Third, the women translators, along with the Arab translators, contributed both to the placement of the repressed Palestinian narrative at the center of the translation field and to that narrative’s inclusion in the agenda of the translation enterprise.
Lost (and Gained) in Translation: Reflections on Translation and Translators of al-Jabarti’s Chronicles of the French Occupation of Egypt
The translation from Arabic into Hebrew of Abd al-Rahman al-Jabarti’s chronicles of the 1798–1801 French occupation of Egypt is at the center of the reflections on translations and translators in this article. The first part briefly describes approaches to translation and the challenges one faces when translating historical texts. It brings to the fore the role that translation and translators played in shaping the events described in al-Jabarti’s chronicles, as well as in the ways in which translation and translators shaped the documents al-Jabarti used as his sources. The second part of the article looks closely at Jean-Michel Venture de Paradis, the chief interpreter of the French army in Egypt and Bonaparte’s advisor during the first year of the occupation. Venture de Paradis was a professional dragoman in the French consulates at the ports of the Levant during the last decades of the eighteenth century, and his training, his writings, and his practices as dragoman demonstrate the continuities and changes in France’s policies toward and interests in the Ottoman Empire in the second half of the eighteenth century. This was the time during which the French political system was changing from the monarchy of the ancien régime to the republic that followed the Revolution.
Translations and translators, never neutral but often under-reported in the historical account, played an important role in shaping the events and how they were narrated and recorded at the time; they also shape the ways these are understood in the present.
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Palestinian Intellectuals Discuss Politics and Ethics of Translation
On a warm spring evening, a group of Arab and Palestinian intellectuals gathered in the old city of Nazareth. Invited by the Maktoob series, they discussed the issue of translating literary works from Arabic into Hebrew, while trying to provide answers to many questions that have long perplexed Palestinian authors particularly, as well as Arab authors in general. The Maktoob series seeks to deepen its understanding of this issue to develop its work method, as the questions mentioned relate to the political and cultural implications of the act of translation between these two languages, in the shadow of the continuing struggle and colonialism.
Historically, how were the policies of translation from Arabic to Hebrew formed? What efforts were made to go beyond these policies? Why did they stop? Is translating into Hebrew considered to be cultural normalization with Israel, or is it an Orientalist action? Could it be an act of resisting racism and colonialism? Is there a relationship between the previous question and what we translate and how we produce the translation?
Samir Naqqash and His Polyglotic Literature in the Age of National Partition
Against the backdrop of the national and colonial era and the rise of the monolingual national literature, this article explores Samir Naqqash’s literary work as a case study of multilingual writing in a monolingual literary reality, where there is a sharp gap between the language of the text and the expectations of the readership and its language. Through an exploration of Naqqash’s literary work, the article focuses on questions of multilingualism, translation, and literature along the borderlands of the modern Hebrew and Arabic languages and literatures. It examines the ways in which Naqqash’s work defies and resists the dominant nationalistic and monolingual trend in both Arabic and Hebrew literature and represents a unique and subversive poetic and linguistic model that blends spoken and literary languages, transcending the religious and national divide while simultaneously intersecting the different literary traditions from a wide geographical and cultural context, facing both East and West.
What Is Anticolonial Translation? The Form and Content of Binational Resistance in Maktoob
This essay examines translation as an anticolonial literary form in the context of contemporary translation theory and activist translation practices in Palestine/Israel. Analyzing the impact of colonial paradigms on language, culture, and translation, it demonstrates that Arabic-to-Hebrew translation practices have been used to both instantiate and challenge existing colonial structures. With a focus onMaktoob, the first Palestinian-Jewish translation collective, it goes on to analyze the methods used by progressive translation groups to resist racism, occupation, and colonialism and to democratize the Israeli cultural sphere over the past seventy years. It argues that Maktoob’s unique contribution to this tradition emerges from its commitment to a systemic decolonization of the processes surrounding translation. Binational, bilingual translation, the collective’s working model, combines content-based approaches with formal, linguistic, and structural innovations in translation processes. The explicit aim of this model is to erode colonial effects such as Orientalism, cultural erasure, ethnoseparatism, literary theft, and the linguistic division between Arabic and Hebrew, and to establish a model that promotes democratic cultural participation among Jews and Palestinians. The essay demonstrates the continued influence of cultural decolonization on contemporary literary production and offers new insights into what this means for translation theory and practice.
Guest Editors’ Note: From the Neoclassical to the Binational Model of Translation
Literary translation—whether a branch within comparative literature, linguistics, hermeneutics, or elsewhere in the academic disciplinary maze—has grown and developed mainly in accordance with the European neoclassical tradition. The previous issue of JLS was dedicated to the critique of the neoclassical model’s supposed transparency and impartial representation of the original source, allegedly trying to reach a “fluent” translation of the original.
To cope with translation from Arabic to Hebrew under the conditions of the present time, the Translators’ Circle in Maktoob proposes a pragmatic model of translation that transcends the comfort zone and is open to negotiation and a dialogical process of movement and wrestling in a dynamic relationship of dialogue. Although the model is fraught with practical, economic, and empirical difficulties, and is not necessarily pragmatic, it relies on the philosophy of pragmatism, according to which translation is not only a textual achievement but also action in the real world, which seeks to overcome the elements of alienation and degeneration of the individual, nationalistic portrait of translation. The translation turns from a metatext, which is placed behind the text and whose function is to explain and illuminate, into a social text, as a basis for communication and for expression of collective consciousness. In other words, and paraphrasing Ferdinand de Saussure’s notion that language should be studied in and for itself, we argue that translation is not only a thing in and for and of itself but also a communication tool, a byproduct of a comprehensive political process. To this end it expands the concept of intertextuality from hermeneutics to sociology. That is, intertextuality is not just an encounter between textual units, as is commonly the case in the fields of hermeneutics, linguistics, and literature, but also an interactive sociological mechanism based on encounter and reciprocity between people.
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