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Palestine and Literature

Panel X-26, 2023 Annual Meeting

On Saturday, November 4 at 5:30 pm

Panel Description
  • Rania Said -- Presenter
  • Laila Riazi -- Presenter
  • Prof. Terri Ginsberg -- Presenter
  • Ms. Aya Labanieh -- Presenter
  • Mr. Atwa Jaber -- Chair
  • Alexei Perry Cox -- Presenter
  • Loaay Wattad -- Presenter
  • Alexei Perry Cox
    In "Solidarity Poetics," I argue that Indigenous Studies and Palestine Studies must be more central to the scholarship and activism that affects liberation in both regions, building on concepts of inter-nationalism and politics of refusal as proposed by Steven Salaita, Lila Abu Lughod, Audra Simpson and Mishuana Goeman. I present a short selection of the affective archive poetries of Palestinian-American poet George Abraham and Oglala Lakota-American poet Layli Long Soldeir in order to discuss how their dynamic attunement to difference-locating locates their/our solidarity and informs connection-building that provides symbology of their enactivism as beings in ecological transformation with/in their given and changing environments. These transformations are enacted toward a more amenable world of our imagining and, thus, creates it in doing so. This paper proposes that the Palestinian territories occupied by Israel have eroded as a landscape or as a polity and the continued American encroachment on large amounts of Oglala Lakota territory threatens the lives and lands therein, but both Palestine and this Indigenous nation have thrived as an idea, and as an ideal. This disparity informs a broader problem of the world, the maintenance of decolonial energy against violent market forces that constrict access to wealth, movement, resources, and citizenship. We can imagine better worlds, ones free of plutocracy and military occupation and extraction, but often we feel we possess too little material power to transform imagination into comprehensive results. This viewpoint is not defeatist. It augurs hopefulness and signals a motion for ordinary daily enactivism. Transmitted by the works of my inquiry, in this case poetry by George Abraham and Layli Long Soldier, is the sensibility to improvise with solidarity as a dynamic experimentation that yields and bolsters enaction from the discursive reading-work. This poetry asks us to consider the practical usefulness of inter and intra national approaches in addition to their intellectual or imaginative value that transgress such nations and borders of interest. And answers, perhaps, that the only salvageable things in this world are the futures we manage to keep alive. It is suggested by these works that our memories must therefore remain larger than the restraints of the colonizer’s imagination, for example. And that we have to create the world in which we intend to reside. That world, as we read to learn to feel spontaneously from these poetries, unlike the current one, must be amenable to our existence.
  • Prof. Terri Ginsberg
    The history of Israeli hasbara is commonly traced to the attempt by the Israeli government to do “damage control” in the wake of the 1982 Sabra and Shatila massacre facilitated in Lebanon by the Israel Defense Forces. Hasbara goes back much further, however, to Israeli attempts after 1948 to counter the Arab League economic boycott of companies doing business with the Israeli occupation (Lustick and Shils). In contrast to its earlier iterations, contemporary hasbara, while theorized and formulated quite publicly, has taken a particularly clandestine turn in an exceedingly aggressive Zionist effort to out-maneuver the powerful delegitimation campaign to which Israel has been subjected since 2005 by the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. Cinema has been a central arena for this propaganda putsch. One of the most significant because well-funded and deeply effective hasbara tactics has been the production of transnational film vehicles that are marketed and distributed as Palestinian or Arab when they have in fact been conceived by Israelis and paid for, increasingly surreptitiously, by Zionist foundations and/or the Israeli state. Several such films have enjoyed international recognition and acclaim, even occasionally slipping in to Palestine film festivals and solidarity screenings, with others going unrecognized as rip-offs of earlier, historically and aesthetically more complex Palestinian and Arab films concerning the same topics. In the context of explicating the hasbara phenomenon, thus far minimally discussed in the extant scholarship (see Jankovic; Arouagh), my proposed paper will expose the hasbara character of a selection of nominally Palestinian and/or Arab films. The paper's analysis will enable critical interventions into the films’ ideologics, revealing their respective distortions and dissimulations of Palestinian culture, history, and politics. More importantly, this paper is a work of theory: less interested in proffering a correspondence mode of truthfulness, in the course of decipherment the paper serves as a reminder of interpretive tools from the oft-ignored annals of film, literary, and cultural theory available not only for detecting but thwarting hasbara, its aesthetic tendencies and thematic patterns, tropes, and memes. Bibliography: Arouagh, Miriyam. "Hasbara 2.0: Israel’s Public Diplomacy in the Digital Age." Middle East Critique 25.3 (2016): 1.27. Ginsberg, Terri. Visualizing the Palestinian Struggle: Towards a Critical Analytic of Palestine Solidarity Film. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2016. Jankovic, Colleen. “'You Can't Film Here': Queer Political Fantasy and Thin Critique of Israeli Occupation in The Bubble." Canadian Review of Film Studies 22.2 (Fall 2013): 97-119.
  • Loaay Wattad
    As a result of the Israeli policy of restricting trade with most of the Arab world, the difficulty of importing children's books created an autarkic field of children's literature in Arabic within the borders of Israel. The disconnection from the Arab world created a need among authors and translators to develop unique literary mechanisms that would suit the field of Arabic children's literature in Israel. On the one hand, they had to preserve their Palestinian identity in the text. On the other hand, they wanted to succeed economically and therefore strived to be accepted by the Israeli Ministry of Education system. As a result of ambivalence in its goals and the disconnection from the Arab world, a complex industry of translating children's books from Hebrew to Arabic has been developed by translators. The translation between the languages in Israel is not a linguistic act in any way but rather a political act in all its elements since Hebrew children's literature in Israel is primarily ideological and national. Therefore a large part of its national messages remains even after the conscious translation of it. In my research, I examine translations of Israeli children's literature characterized by Zionist values into Arabic and examine the various tools and mechanics used by the translators to deal with the forced translational dissonance. This paper refers to three study cases of Israeli children's literature classics in which Zionist ideologies are particularly prominent: "Where is Pluto" [איה פלוטו, 1957], "A Tale of Five Balloons"[מעשה בחמישה בלונים, 1974] and "A Children's March[תהלוכה של ילדים, 2000], all of which include Zionist ideologies, and all of them translated into Arabic. Through each of the books, I offer a different way that the translators chose to deal with the paradoxical idea of translating Zionist children's literature into Arabic. For the analysis, use the concepts of minor literature and minor translation alongside the concepts of Colonial Mimicry and Imitation, as defined by Homi Bhabha. In this paper, I propose three different models of translation; Subversive translation, interpretive-cultural translation, and dissonant translation. Some translators took on an active role of content change agents compared to others who chose to preserve the Zionist ideology in the translated text as a certain faithfulness to the original text.
  • Ms. Aya Labanieh
    The epigram “traduttore traditore” links translation to treachery: to translate is to betray the original. In linguistically-fraught colonial contexts, however, translation, and the movement of texts across ethnic, religious, and political battle-lines, can also be construed as the betrayal of one’s allegiances and communities. Periphery-periphery translation after the epistemic violence of colonialism becomes especially charged: to the indigenous Arab in Palestine after 1967 and Algeria after independence in 1962, Hebrew and Jewish identity become sources of confusion and potential treachery, and the textual movements or "passages" of Arabic and Hebrew transform into latent threats. In this article, I analyze two Arabic novels published in 1974—Emile Habibi’s The Pessoptimist and al-Tahir Wattar’s The Earthquake—whose contents, contexts, and translational afterlives contend with themes of betrayal and fidelity, both linguistic and political, and movement across such rigid binaries. The Arab characters of both novels descend from a long line of political traitors who sided with the French or the Zionists, yet who continue to displace betrayal onto Jews to cope with their own family legacies. Jewish identity becomes a "third variable" in a binary settler-colonial struggle that cannot fully be categorized, and captures the history of successful colonial suppression of hybridized anti-colonial solidarity.
  • Rania Said
    According to Olivia Harrison, contemporary Maghribi literature portrays Palestine as both a utopia and a topos, or metaphor. As such, Harrison argues, Palestine is both “a marker of political disenfranchisement in the era of post-colonial disenchantment” and a generator “of decolonial thought”. The work of the Tunisian writer Hafidha Karabiban constitutes the perfect site for the examination of this hypothesis. Her novel al-ʿArāʾ, which focuses on the PLO’s exile in Tunisia was published in 2012, right after the Tunisian Revolution, when Palestine was not necessarily needed as a metaphor for political disenfranchisement. Karabiban’s memoir of the Tunisian Revolution, al-Najma wa al-Cocotte, also centers the Palestinian cause and details the author’s efforts in commemorating the history of Tunisian-Palestinian solidarity in Bizerte, her hometown. This paper studies the mechanisms of solidarity deployed by Karabiban in both narratives. It examines how the author balances the work of memory with the work of decolonial thought and practice in her writing. The paper also asks whether there has been a change in the forms of intellectual and literary solidarity with Palestine in the aftermath of the 2011 Revolution.
  • Laila Riazi
    This paper situates Etel Adnan's l'Apocalypse arabe as a work of speculative poetics that takes as its point of focus the 1976 siege and massacre at Tal-el-Zataar, a Palestinian refugee camp just outside of Beirut. Adnan's "apocalyptic vision" I read in proximity to literary and aesthetic theories of "speculative" writing -- as opposed to realist or mimetic representations of atrocity-- as well as against the historical and archival erasures enacted by the Lebanese state and by humanitarian discourse in regards to Palestinian refugees in Lebanon.