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The Atlas is proud to be partnering with the Hay Festival's Beirut39 contest, celebrating Beirut's year as UNESCO World Book Capital, to find the hottest authors under 40 of Arabic origin. Nominations are open until August 24th, 2009.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Reading Arabic in Israel...

as difficult as reading Lolita in Tehran, as this blogpost from the LA Times' Babylon and Beyond series reveals. It follows up the story of Arabic-language Israeli bookstore Kull Shay, which had its permit to import books withdrawn. Saleh Abbasi, the bookstore's founder and manager, had been ordering his books from Egypt and Jordan, countries with agreements with Israel (and still having to submit his lists to the Israeli censors) -- but because many of the books that he orders, from contemporary Arabic novels to Arabic translations of English-language classics and blockbusters (Harry Potter as the inevitable example), are published in Syria or Lebanon, the Israeli government censured him under the 1939 Trade with the Enemy Ordinance, which Babylon and Beyond's Batsheva Solomon calls "one of several legal anachronisms inherited from the British Mandate in Palestine and still in use."

Mr. Abbasi petitioned the Supreme Court on 28 January 2009 with the support of Adalah, the Legal Centre for Arab Minority Rights in Israel. Their petition points out that the Ministry of Industry, Trade, and Labor - who issued the import ban on Kull Shay in August 2008 - have not previously interfered with the bookstore, which has been running since 1974. The bookstore supplies universities and businesses with Arabic dictionaries and technical books, as well as supplying more literary texts to individuals and institutions, and as such plays a key role in business communication in Israel. Furthermore, as (according to the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network) Adalah point out:
the ban violates the rights of all Arabic speakers and readers, and students of Arabic and Middle East studies to freedom of information, culture, education and academic freedom. These rights are constitutional rights. The violation of these rights is a characteristic of anti-democratic regimes, the petition contended.
According to Solomon, "the authorities relented and issued another temporary permit that may be extended at the end of the year," allowing Mr. Abbasi to order books during book fair season -- but it's been issued under the Trade with the Enemy Act.

According to Solomon,
Adalah is now pressing for the import be continued under regular trade agreements. "All informational and cultural materials should be exempt from the Trade with the Enemy Ordinance entirely," says Haneen Naamnih, a legal intern at Adalah.
This seems particularly pressing, as the Literary Saloon picks up, given that there are no Israeli presses translating Hebrew authors such as Amos Oz into Arabic.

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