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    We can’t understand ourselves without the Arabic: Dreams in Cambridge (2009)

    In this paper I discuss the question of Jewish-Arab identity, its intergenerational differences, its different definitions in Hebrew and Arabic, and the differences in its usage in modern times and earlier periods. In Jewish-Arab identity, as in every identity, there is a mixture of self-identification and outer-identification. Whatever one’s reason for identifying as an Arab-Jew—whether related to the historical and cultural background or because one’s family identified this way prior to Zionism and immigration or in defiance of today’s national identities in Israel and the Arab world—it does not “have” to create as strong an objection as it does. However, the objection is understood when it is an outer-identification that flattens differences between historical periods, regions, or differences between the Jews of the Muslim world. In the late nineteenth century, Jewish-Arab identity was an identification with the Nahḍa movement, with the awakening of Arabic literature and language, and it sought to reweave Jewish-Arab identity, written culture, and memory into the Arab revival, or at least into the Arab literary imagination. Later, in the first half of the twentieth century, Jewish-Arab identity was an identification with local Arab nationalism in the different Arab lands, seen as a potential for a large-scale project, started by the intellectual elite, that would make Jews an integral and equal part of their societies. In the second half of the twentieth century, after 1948 and after immigration, mostly to Israel, Jewish-Arab identity was an identity that expressed criticism of both national projects, Jewish and Arab, their marginalization and nonacceptance of the Arab-Jews, and their exclusive and oppressive nature.

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  • Mahmoud Darwish: Poetry’s State of Siege

    Behar describes the cultural and literary strategy of Mahmoud Darwish, who experienced exile and migration more than once in his lifetime and who transferred the arena of the struggle to the region of memory. Denial and memory are at play in the “state of siege” and weigh on the poet’s ability to write. Behar sees the state of siege as evidence of the Israelis’ fear of Arab culture. Both besieger and besieged are trapped together in the same “state.” As Behar writes, Darwish reminds us of the common denominator shared by the Palestinians and the Israelis—the lack of a distinct, authentic culture.

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