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Israel convicts a Palestinian poet, NYC writers gather in solidarity

On Thursday Palestinian poet and photographer Dareen Tatour was convicted by an Israeli court of incitement to violence and support for a terror organization, ending a years-long legal battle that began with Tatour posting a poem on Facebook entitled “Resist, my people, resist them.”

First arrested in October of 2015, Tatour was one of the earliest targets of Israel’s cybercrime unit, and its controversial predictive policing strategy of scanning social media posts for language perceived to be a threat against the state. In the years since, a rapidly increasing number of Palestinians–many of them teenagers–have been arrested over statements made online, often for little more than using the word “martyr” on Facebook.

In Tatour’s case, she spent much of the past three years on house arrest, as Israeli prosecutors argued that her calls to “resist the settlers’ robbery” and “not succumb to the ‘peaceful solution’” amounted to a violent threat against the state. That position has been condemned by free speech advocates like PEN International, and by over 300 writers, including Alice Walker, Claudia Rankine, and Naomi Klein, in an online petition circulated by Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP).

While prohibited from accessing the internet or using a cell phone, Tatour has maintained a line to the outside world through letters and her poetry. “Despite all this I have continued to write and I have touched the meaning of freedom,” she wrote, days before the verdict, in a letter addressed to JVP members. “Ideas have wings that no one can bind . . . My words have been able to cross distances and traverse borders until they reached to you.”

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Ayelet Gundar-Goshen recommends the best of Contemporary Israeli Fiction

Do you think Israel’s fiction must engage with her politics?

I think Israel is a very political country. We are in the middle of a huge conflict zone and we have two thousand years of history of very difficult politics. I don’t think it is possible to write anything in Israel without referring to politics, and if you were to decide to write something without referring to politics, then that in itself is a political decision. I don’t mean to say that fiction has to limit itself only to the current conflict. Writing is a political act, but it’s much wider than everyday politics: it’s a political act because it deals with morals, with people, with power and knowledge.

It goes without saying that the political situation is immensely complex. Have you found that Israeli fiction engages with all sides of the debate?

Most of the writers I know are left-wing, while the majority of people in Israel vote for the right-wing Netanyahu. So there is a gap here between literature and the political map.

Where does that gap come from?

I think literature is a humanistic act. While writing a novel, you have to put yourself into the shoes of ‘the other’. Once you try to write from a different perspective, you cannot remain blind to the needs of other people or other nations.

So writing literature is fundamentally a left-wing activity?

I’m not saying that all writers are left-wing, but I do think there is something humanistic about the very idea that human life is important enough for us to sit down and write about it for pages and pages. Of course there are fascist novels in the history of literature, but I think there’s something in writing fiction that forces you to look where you don’t usually look – otherwise it would make bad literature. Maybe that’s why, if you write about the conflict, you can’t just say: ok we’re right and that’s it, you have to start asking questions. I see myself as an Israeli patriot—I believe Israel has every right to exist—but I can’t ignore Palestinian rights as well.

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Translating Eli Eliahu’s Difficult Efficiency

“When you read an article or news brief, once you have read the words, they fall away and die, like carcasses on the roadside,” he has said. “But in poetry, the fourth line stands connected to the first, and all the words likewise stand connected to each other.”

“I like simple writing, straightforward and uncomplicated, and I try to write like that,” Eli Eliahu said, upon receiving Israel’s Matanel Prize in 2013. His work is characterized by this lack of pretension, and it lingers as much on the unsaid as it does on what is spoken aloud. In his poems, not is as present as what is; part of the challenge of translating his work is to catch the rhythm of the no, as it recurs in his poems, and convey it as seamlessly and easily as he is able to do in Modern Hebrew.

Eliahu grew up in Ramat Gan, a suburb of Tel Aviv, but his roots are further east than Israel’s central coast, the narrow strip of land where he was born, went to university, and still resides. Eliahu is from an Iraqi Jewish family—his father was born in Baghdad—and the Mizrahi experience in Israel informs many of his poems. “Mizrahi” is a broad but important term in Israeli culture; literally translated as “Eastern,” it refers to Jews who immigrated to Israel mostly from Arab lands (and many Mizrahi families previously spoke Arabic as their primary language) but also includes Jews from Iran, India, Turkey, Central Asia, and other places. Israeli culture has traditionally been dominated by Ashkenazi Jews, and a sense of second-class status became fundamental to Mizrahi identity. Eliahu told the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, “When you are a member of an Mizrahi family and you look at the peak of Hebrew poetry and see only people from Europe—who belong to another culture, who speak a little differently, who came from a different home from you—you feel a bit like you do at the cinema, seeing only blond people with blue eyes.”

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Book Review: The Parachute Paradox unrolls Palestinian artist Steve Sabella’s quest for a sense of identity

By Joseph Dana

The number of books about Israel and Palestine published every year can feel oppressive to the average reader. Coupled with the constant stream of news, it is clear that there is untappable desire for discussion about the conflict. Yet, new books tend follow the same patterns in terms of approach, construction and content. An in-depth history of one stage of the conflict, a compelling argument to achieve peace or, perhaps, a convincing strategy to challenge the status quo. On rare occasions, an original narrative of the conflict, imbued with honesty and sensitivity, is published.

Steve Sabella’s memoir, The Parachute Paradox, is one such narrative, but it has flown under the mainstream radar. That might have something to do with its author and the unorthodox style of the book. Sabella is an artist from Jerusalem. His art, which has garnered him acclaim from Berlin to Dubai, wrestles with notions of identity in Palestine.

The Parachute Paradox is devoid of the pretension normally associated with conflict memoirs. Sabella doesn’t have anything to prove with his story. As he describes his upbringing in Jerusalem’s Old City and what life was like for his Christian family, Sabella is having a conversation with himself as much as with the reader. He floats between Palestine and Israel, but life in the seam creates more identity problems than it solves. Read more

Source: The National


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Israel Bans Arab-Jewish Romance Novel in Schools Over Fears of Race-Mixing

GaderHayaIn a move one might expect from an Education Minister who’s said such things as “when Palestinians were climbing trees, we already had a Jewish state” and “I’ve killed lots of Arabs in my life, and there’s no problem with that,” Israel has banned an Arab-Jewish romance novel from schools for “threatening Jewish identity.” Or put more simply, it banned the book over fears that it encourages race-mixing.

The novel, Dorit Rabinyan’s Gader Haya, tells the story of an Israeli woman and Palestinian man who fall in love. The work was recommended for advanced literature curriculums by both the official in in charge of literature instruction in secular state schools and “a professional committee of academics and educators, at the request of a number of teachers,” according to Haaretz.

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European Literature Days 2015 to be held in Vietnam

The 5th European Literature Days will be kicked off here with a series of readings, workshops, a concert and an exhibition on May 7: Vietnam.net

The events will be held at cultural institutions serving under the embassies of Denmark, Germany, France, and Great Britain, as well as Italy, Israel, Poland, and Sweden.

Recently published Vietnamese translations of European literature will be presented. These include the newly printed Trial by Czech-born Jewish author Franz Kafka, who wrote his novels in German. Continue reading


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Why Israel isn’t keen on Arabic literature

The Jerusalem International Writers Fest was held mid-May, just two weeks before the Palestine Festival of Literature was staged all across historic Palestine. At the Jerusalem festival, there was no apparent recognition of Arabic literature, despite the city’s large (~34%) Arab population. How can that be? asks blogger “Arablit”: Your Middle East

At the opening ceremony of the Jerusalem International Writers Festival, author Dror Mishani decried this lack:

More and more, Hebrew literature is being created from itself, within itself, contrary to the way that it has been created over the centuries – with too little dialogue with foreign literatures – and even turning its back to languages and literatures around and inside it. Continue reading


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Israel: Supreme Court has dealt blow to freedom of speech

Artists have received a castrating message to the effect that anyone who identifies as a subject or a muse of a work is liable to block its publication: Haaretz

In a ruling handed down last month, the Supreme Court rejected a writer’s appeal of a district court decision, which included a ban against the publication and distribution of his novel. In effect, the court ordered that the book be shelved, after it had already been published, printed and even sold in hundreds of copies. Continue reading


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I Am The Almond Tree by Michelle Cohen Corasanti

michelleCC

 

At age sixteen, I wanted nothing more than to leave my home in Utica, New York for some place, any place that would offer freedom and adventure. My parents, liberal, strongly Zionist Jews, were more than protective; the line between mothering and smothering, had become intolerable. Finally they agreed to send me to Israel to study Judaism and Hebrew with our rabbi’s perfectly well behaved and obedient daughter Miriam. I was sixteen-years-old and it was the summer of 1982.

Other than the blue-and-white tin Jewish National Fund sedakah box my family kept in the kitchen and the money we gave to plant trees in Israel, all I knew was that after the Holocaust, the Jews found a land without a people for a people without a land and made the desert bloom. In retrospect, the sedakah box and the tree planting were a very smart way to create Jewish attachment to Israel. We saw the box every day in the kitchen and were reminded that Israel and our fate were the same. Planting trees was also brilliant, reinforcing the idea that Palestine was a barren land before the Jews arrived. Continue reading


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Israel: Protecting “The People’s” literature?

On February 6, Israel’s “Law for the Protection of Literature and Authors in Israel” went into effect, having been passed by the Knesset last July 31. The title alone should puzzle and worry freedom-loving people. Other than protect the freedom of expression, how does a government “protect literature” in a society where consumers have no restrictions on what they read? Why do Israeli authors need protection that is specifically different from that of other citizens and professionals? Why does the government of Israel, which ranks among the top 5 countries in the world for titles published per capita, need to “fix” a literary situation that is… pretty good as it is? Does any free society, especially that of the People of the Book, need a law to promote literature and protect authors? Or must we protect ourselves from the “protection” of cultural elites? What problem did this law supposedly correct? Continue reading