Congrès Mondial des Études sur le Moyen-Orient et l'Afrique du Nord

Barcelone, du 19 au 24 julliet 2010


Literature, Language and Identity in Israel/Palestine (132) - NOT_DEFINED activity_field_Panel

· NOT_DEFINED institution: University of Cambridge (United Kingdom)

· NOT_DEFINED organizer: Manar Makhoul

· NOT_DEFINED language: English

· NOT_DEFINED description: The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been at the centre of many research projects from different disciplines and approaches. Yet the study of national, political, and collective identities in general has ignored literature, especially the novel, as primary source for investigation. Literature, as we learn from similar research on other areas of the world, encompasses valuable ‘data’ on beliefs, hopes, fears, and convictions that it is very difficult, if not impossible, to draw from other sources or in different research methods. In recent years we witness a development of a new research in the field of Middle Eastern studies, which tries to close bridge these gaps. Specifically related to this panel, are unorthodox researchers who deal with Palestinian and Jewish/Israeli identities by incorporating interdisciplinary methods, new to Middle Eastern studies, like Postcolonialism and post-structuralist approaches. These works shed new light on our understanding of the multifaceted dynamics between politics, literature and identity. This panel will include speakers who will present a sample of these research approaches. The Palestinian nation is in a special setup, politically and culturally. Politically, it is nation who lost its battle for national independence and self-determination in 1948. Today, different Palestinian groups have different and varying means and objectives for their continuous struggle. All Palestinians continue to hold a national discourse in order to reserve their Palestinian history, culture and identity, but these discourses are differentiated in aims and objectives. Culturally, the Palestinians live in an undefined reality which is reflected in their self identification and collective identity. Throughout the years they integrated, to a certain extent, in the political, social and economical life in their different locations. The daily contact and interaction through all of these domains distinct them culturally (whither they want or willing to admit it or not) from each other; notwithstanding, they still call themselves Palestinians. Thus, the division is no longer political, as described above, it is cultural as well. Jewish identity is no less diverse and complicated than the Palestinian case. The Israeli-Jewish society is a complication of many different groups (and even ethnicities) with various power relations between them. The basic distinction in between Ashkenazim and Mizrahim (those Jews who are from Arab origin). But even the Mizrahim are constructed from Jewish groups from different origins: Iraq, Yemen, Morocco, Egypt, Syria and so on. These different groups came, and still carry, different cultural backgrounds. Their incorporation into Israeli society and politics was not homogenous either.The way these identities and cultural identities evolved over the years is at the centre of attention of the speakers of our panel. We think that the investigation of these is vital to the understanding of the Israeli and Palestinian societies culturally, but not less importantly, politically.

Chair and discussant: Dr. Anna Bernard (University of York)

Paper presenter: Almog Behar, (Tel Aviv University), “The Return into Arabic in Last Decades’ Israeli Mizrahi Hebrew Poetry”
This paper focuses on the return into the use of Arabic in the Israeli Mizrahi Hebrew Poetry of the last decades. From the time of Rabbi Sa’adiah Gaon, at the 10th century, Arabic became a prominent language of Jewish literature in many fields. Jewish poets of the Arab world wrote Hebrew poetry in the models of Arab poetry, and some of them wrote in Arabic. Later along the centuries part of Jewish Liturgical Poetry and most of Jewish women’s oral songs in the Arab world were in Judeo-Arabic. In the 20th century, especially in Iraq, Jews became part of the creation of the modern Arabic literature, and wrote in modern standard Arabic.
With the creation of the state of Israel, the majority of the Jews of the Arab world immigrated into it in the first decades that after 1948. In Israel Arabic was considered an “enemy” language, and the new immigrants were expected to leave the old language and speak only Hebrew, the national language. As a result of this, most Jews stoped talking in Arabic, and only few continued to write in Arabic. The majority of those passed away in the last few years.
In my paper I would like to focus on two Hebrew poets who were born in the Arab world and came to Israel at a young age: Amira Hess and Erez Bitton, who started to publish poetry less than 40 years ago. I would discuss their return to using Baghdadi-Judeo-Arabic and North African Judeo-Arabic, the reasons for this return, and its place in Hebrew literature. I would examine their work in relation to earlier Jewish poets in the 20th century who used both Hebrew and Arabic, one of them is the Paytan (writer of Jewish liturgy) Rabbi David Buzaglo, who was born in Morocco in the beginning of the 20th century, and came to Israel in the last 10 years of his life.

Paper presenter: Yuval Evri (Tel Aviv University), “The war of Languages – Hebrew Language between Nation to Empire”
This paper examines a major historical point of transitions and changes in early 20th century Palestine: The emergence of new, national, ethnic and religious categories raises fundamental theological, philological and collectivist questions. This paper will concentrate on the linguistic-philological axis. I will examine unique aspects in the emerging Modern Hebrew language prior to its national institutionalization and will address its connection to Imperial power.
The paper examines a historical event known in the official Zionist historiography as - "The War of Languages" which took place in 1913 in Jerusalem. This event in the Zionist narrative symbolizes the victory of the Independent National Culture over the Imperial influence. From this point of view the "The War of Languages" is marked as anti-Imperialist practice. Nationalists against representatives of the German Empire (The “Ezra” German-Jewish organization). Speciely their attempt to force the German language and culture on the Jewish modern schools in Palestine.
I want to suggest a new interpretation of the event from an Imperial perspective. Most of the modern Jewish schools in Palestine were operated by Jewish organizations that also operated in Imperial States (France, Germany and England). Most of the “Ezra” Jewish schools in Palestine in 1913 were operated in Hebrew as the only language, or bilingually - Hebrew-German. Furthermore, the "Ezra" organization which was established at the beginning of the twentieth century was a major social actor in leading the development of modern Hebrew education (together with “Alliance Française ", a Jewish organization). This indicates that the process of “renewal” of the Hebrew language in the National project in Palestine took place within networks of knowledge, management and financing working in Imperial context.

Paper presenter: Mahmoud Kayyal (Tel Aviv University), “Linguistic Interference of Hebrew in the Palestinian Literature in Israel”
This paper examines linguistic interference of Hebrew in the Palestinian literature in Israel. Such linguistic interference refers to Palestinian writers applying knowledge from Hebrew language to their written Arabic language. It can be assumed that the widespread interference of Hebrew in the spoken Arabic language in Israel, as a result of Israeli-Palestinians' integration in the Israeli society, can encourage Hebrew interference in written Arabic. In the same time the national identity of these Palestinians strengthens pure written Arabic, especially on the background of the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Consequently, linguistic interference of Hebrew in Arabic works written by Israeli-Palestinian writers has moved through three distinct stages:
Hesitancy stage (1948-1967): there was limited interference resulted from the lack of knowledge of Hebrew language and from the desire to maintain the purity of the Arabic language.
Challenge stage (1967-1982): there was increased interference, but this was most likely to challenge the dominance of the Hebrew language and its political discourse.
Bilingualism stage (after 1982): the interference has become more complex and sophisticated as a result of increased skillfulness of the Hebrew language.
Finally, it should be noted that this phenomenon of Hebrew interference in written Arabic is no longer limited to the Israeli-Palestinian literature, but also emerging in the writings of Palestinian writers from the diaspora and the West Bank and Gaza Strip, who mainly reflect the lingual situation under the Israeli occupation. So, maybe it is not exaggerating if we say that Hebrew interference has become one of the hallmarks of the Palestinian literature in general.

Paper presenter: Lital Levy, (Princeton University), “Hebrew, Arabic, and What's In-Between: Language as Symbol in Mizrahi Literature”
This paper investigates representations of language (Hebrew, Arabic, Aramaic, and Judeo-Arabic) in contemporary literature produced by Mizrahi authors in Israel. Its premise is that in Mizrahi writing produced from the 1980s to the present, many authors utilize language not just as an instrument of expression but as a symbolic domain in which they contest the hegemony of Israeli Hebrew. I will investigate this topic through readings of both prose and poetry.

Paper presenter: Manar H. Makhoul (University of Cambridge), “Palestinian Identity in Israel between 1967 and 1987”
This paper focuses on the evolution of Palestinian identity in Israel between 1967 and 1987. The 1967 was a turning point in the relationship between Israel and its Palestinian citizens. If until that year PCI lived under military rule (1948-1966), in this period the military rule is lifted and that Palestinians are more free to move, work, study and interact with the Israeli society on all levels - social, cultural, commercial and political. As the underlying assumption of my research is that identity is in constant motion and evolution, I will demonstrate how Palestinian identity in Israel evolved during these years.
This paper, based on my PhD research, will focus on novels as primary sources for investigation. Novels offer a window through which we can look into aspects of identity that other research methods cannot explore - like fears, hopes and aspirations. I will present my analysis of 15 novels that were written in Israel during this period and will demonstrate how these novels reflect identity transformations vis-a-vis fluid political and social contexts.