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‘Arabs Dancing in a New Light of Arabesques’: Minor Hebrew Works of Palestinian Authors in the Eyes of Critics

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... himself was pleased with the reactions of the Jewish reviewers, especially in comparison with their criticism of his first novel, Samira Remains. ... Only Mahmoud Abbasi discussed this work, in his doctoral thesis on the development of Arabic
  . Middle Eastern Literatures, Vol. 11, No.1, April 2008 1 1 Routledge \. r.ylo,&f,.nd,Group dation'; Yuriko Yamanaka, cti?n:; ideaki ugita, The 'Arabs Dancing in a New Light of Arabesques':NIShio, eArabianNights Minor Hebrew Works of Palestinian Authors e Evolunon of the Arabian . . . umi & Claus Cliiver, Body, 10 the Eyes of Cntlcs Thousand nd One Nights'; , 'sh Editions of the Th d "'" ,""',rgulS"'IVI,,"' 'i"'T 'U':rl¥Yir'W=rr-~" ousan i W1 "" , ., ,: ~  " j c'. , cr ;~-" ,.-.;; ..;.j. ,j" '"""-"Cj'i ~ ',-""'~-'" l~_:;oLJ"_w."a;.J~"" "" """ .., [ , ." c   dathzn a-l-qudama', d. MAHMOUD KAYVAL22/2002, 559 century. nnotated Ab stract I The attitudes of Arab intellectuals to texts written in the language of the 'other' have : usually been ambivalent; but when Arab writers who were Israeli citizens have written inHebrew their antagonism and disregard have been particularly pronounced. Apparently,this attitude stemmed from their ignorance of the language, its marginality relative toother languages, and the existence of a great many political, ideological and psychologicalprejudices resulting from the long-standing violent Arab - Israeli conflict.This article discusses three novels-Atallah Mansour's In a New Light, AntonShammas's Arabesques, and Sayed Kashua's Dancing Arabs-which are representative ofthree generations of Hebrew writing by Arab authors. All three seem to be hybrid works,on the margin between Hebrew and Arabic, combining personal and political elementsto express the collective experience of Palestinian Arabs within Israeli society. All ofthem are novels with some autobiographical elements, but there are artistic, stylistic,linguistic and thematic differences between them, particularly in the way they representthe collective experience and the Palestinian narrative. Arabic criticism, though at firstinhibited by the language barrier, related to them in a variety of ways. Shammas's novelwas assessed avourably by some well-known Arab critics, not only because of its artisticsophistication, but primarily because t succeeded in presenting the Palestinian narrativeclearly and distinctly, whereas the other two writers, whose style was more journalisticand less sophisticated, presented only a vague, equivocal and incomplete Palestiniannarrative; as a result, Arab critics ignored them or criticized them severely.Introduction: 'The Babushka's Guilt,1Writing in the language of the 'other' has been prominent primarily in societies that livedunder the cultural hegemony of colonialist states. The colonial power usually imposed itslanguage on the educational system and the civil service, and left the indigenous writersno alternative but to use the language of the colonizers. In the Arab world, most of whichwas under colonial domination, this phenomenon was most widespread in the countries,,~ of the Maghreb. In the postcolonial period, too, Arab authors such as Rafik Shami, AssiaDjebbar, Ahdaf Soueif and others continued to write in the hegemonic language,'-(\",,1,1'"Mahmoud Kayyal, Tel-Aviv University, Department of Arabic and Islamic Studies, P.O.B. 39040, Tel-Aviv 69978, Israel. E-mail; ISSN 1475-262X rint/ISSN 1475-2638 nline/08/010031-21 2008 Taylor & Francis DOl: 10.1080/14752620801896297  p:~UWUWBWSBWMB 1SqWSJWS ;qWUwB~AS}JJA uSU~UABSq IBPPUBUSJM ~BS:BWP fAIBJBMBU:WJ 1UOMOSO0MJBB1SOS ,pS0UJwPpM ~LPMUP; [J~SS1W1qMA dJSMV1PwBUO :MSJSPB°PS~AA U PJSnHBU dIAWWB  nIBB1W ~MSBJ1PP wJUOB8BUB ISUWPJJJBSSU UMAPMSM 'OWUASUUBJpABBOS PpqAOqJ )BUSIBBWUB ~;J;A;pq DSMJUWpSPud9 ° ABJuWAW;UpSq1: lUBUpWAA 1BPBvBB nBUBSuB ~SqQpBS~Y SBXsnB°W SJqOBOPWSq°W ~0SUWWpPABU 0AUUBA ~UOO~SSSqUSPU IAO:JSq0U;M I BOB° ~A~:Pqq1WS QBWBpSWq iBWSU;MJWM;S ~ SnHqMUB ~qSWBUABJMSUU0u  B1 VWSA r BBUBU ,APlfAWAB IVW£  'Arabs Dancing in a New Light of Arabesques' 33I tried to justify writing in During this period critics who were ideologically nationalist or Marxist rejected not~ct with public opinion in only the viability of the writing of Hebrew by Arab authors, but the very possibility thatfeir cultural and linguistic Hebrew culture could influence Arab culture. In an article published in 1956 EmileTuma, a veteran Israeli Communist and one of the few literary critics of the 1950s andilich usually won acclaim, 60s, took issue with the representatives of the establishment active in the Arab sector,ng by Arab authors to be such as Eliyahu Agassi and Benjamin Zakkai. He was convinced that the principal long-nguage within Israel, as a term objective of the authorities, and of the circles working on their behalf, was togrants, and its marginality eliminate national Arab culture in Israel (Tuma 1956: 15). In another article, publisheddeter Arab writers from in 1963 under the title 'Does Jewish Society Influence Arabic Culture?', he discussed asurvey conducted by the periodical New Outlook, published by Mapam with the supporthenomenon of writing in of the Foreign Office.41n this survey some Arab intellectuals were asked about the stateib citizens of Israel live in of Arabic society and culture, and, among other questions, about the influence of Jewishi words, like nesting dolls society on Arabic culture. The replies were not clear-cut (New Oudook 1962). But Tuma~stinian people, which is used the opportunity to raise the question of intercultural .relationships between Arabsthey constitute an ethnic and Jews, and to make a number of assertions (Tuma 1963: 5 - 7):'---a society which itself is.s, there exist within it a. Arabic culture in Israel is part of the culture of the Palestinian and Arab world. . On the one hand, the Despite the crisis from which it suffered after the establishment of the State, andhe common Palestinian despite the small number of writers and artists, it has succeeded in recovering, and~ir own experience, and has attained a special character because t has preserved its links with Arabic cultureonstitute a military and and shown a genuine desire to maintain a dialogue with Jewish society on the basisnment imposed on them of equality.the limitation of the area b. Hebrew culture is not homogeneous, since it contains a number of components, as ar to integrate stems from result of the absorption of Jews of different srcins in Israel. But since the politicaltandards on a level with and cultural elite is of European srcin, it has marginalized the oriental elements inJewish culture and thereby limited its points of contact with Arabic culture.Arabs living in Israel, as c. Government policy, which is based on fanning hatred and deepening ethnic) Hebrew Israeli culture. divisions between the two peoples, and encouraging suspicion and racialr the flight of most of the discrimination, has lessened the possibilities of contact between the two peoples.of the Israeli Arabs fromishment n Arab cultural These remarks show that Tuma was very pessimistic with regard to the possibilities of . of questions about the intercultural contact during this period, particularly in view of the Military Government fruit of wishful thinking. under which the Arab population lived. Clearly, too, he rejected the possibility thatpillars of establishment Hebrew culture could influence Arabic culture, and certainly did not conceive of theliterature could develop possibility of Arabs writing in Hebrew.Ib world at large. In his A few years after the appearance ofTuma's article, however, the first Hebrew novel bybring it about. Further, an Arab writer was published: Atallah Mansour's Be-Or l:l adash (In a New light),unique Arabic literature published in 1966. This was followed by dozens of Hebrew works written by Arabs: shortt or Lebanon, could be stories, novels and verse.s Moreover, several Arab intellectuals wrote on current affairs,It he does point out that and were involved in theatrical performances and films, in translation, and in otherrse in particular, can be cultural activities in the Hebrew language.6 Such phenomena are, certainly, marginal tothe cultural scene of Arab society, and constitute no danger to the status of Arabicd not crush the spirit of culture as the national culture, etched in the consciousness of this society; but,ering, to such an extent nonetheless, the question arises: what brought about this great change in the degree offrom critics in the Arab involvement of Arab intellectuals in Hebrew culture from the 1960s onwards? WhatIthors, including Emile prompted Arab authors to write in Hebrew at this particular point, when the Militaryninence in the world of Government had been abolished, the connection between the Arab population of Israeland the Arab world had been renewed, and local Arabic literature had gained the  -;S I q SA I AO Q B~ n , O 1 1 1mSB0U~W~ I 1JW I 1UW1 "e 11111 . SJUpAB1WSM SqMBA~BJMW I PI ;M " A B~~JBBBo ) AOB0B t~~BE'SMASM >BOq~S1SB1 I JBdOnJ 0O I 6 I J p 1 " Wn 1.~Us~n "OU P B B "S 'TOB " UJn1SWS°JWJO; S UW P U A O "MU 111 .AJUSS;J'pUS )W O M q JU;M 1AS~pUUPBWB BSUSd ~ U J 1I T S " ~Sqo~nMB 'MA1SWB~pUSB1 (S p S q S . 11 ° PO J A Iq I MBSWEUOUE1S f P P ~q; 11 ~A~wUBnqqUS .Up J W MW q M )Q P B1UWB JBU IOdOJ1;JW DUQUM M;J ':'1~'.. . '1~ '1 . . ~qWSA~BUWUdUBS qMSI p ~ M I SUOS " ~SqB1SSSO;BP .qSI 1 P BB p O (I . Jpp; B [A - OJp;1~uBIBB~Jp .M S I OWS p QBUU S 1 . P W P q p U B P 1;B 11 t ~ UdB1 ~ qSpO q uW q I 11 ,UOIA ~S~UuMOUeQ IBB J I Mu ,IB1SSS~SM~ qJJ;SS~eJMAuU IJBSBqp l -  -'Arabs Dancing in a New Light of Arabesques' 35lueSti~~ becomes especially application of the conscription law to this community in 1956, contributed to therare,o She act that for them adoption of Hebrew by some of its members as their main culturallanguage.lo~ass ( ammas 1980: 8). Atallah Mansour maintains that the Arabs in Israel have become bilingual withoutimpairing their Arabic national identity. He considers that his and others' Hebrew : n Hebrew writing emphasizes the bi-national and bi-cultural character of Israel, despite the factth. that, in his view, many Jewish critics are somewhat proud of the fact that their f'ent e dommance of th " . . '1 "" .. e tongue, which was for hundreds of years consIdered a dead language, has come to hfe, ra es:~an Ara~ socIety m and s even used by non-Jewish writers. Mansour emphasizes hat Arab writers aspire o ~l Ia o ~e Wlth Hebrew present an alternative narrative, and to tell the Israeli public about the special problemsSI e to Iscern indications fArb .. .. . J d knArb " . thith1 d . . 0 a cItIZens m ItS own tongue, smce most ews 0 not ow a IC; m sway ean ddPohtlcal tensions, Jews will identify with these problems, or, at least, understand them (Mansour 1992:~re a res sed itself to an 63-65).t ~e. firre .of the a ewish) Shammas claims that the confused situation of the Arabs in Israel was one of the majorflam ~n Icatlons of mutual reasons for his writing in Hebrew. 'As for me, only the language of grace [Hebrew] is~ r I~st~ce, the mutual capable of expressing my confusion, and of throwing a life-line of grace to mypro uctlons, translation bewilderment. As for my bewilderment, I belong to an Arab minority living in a Jewish . 1 majority within the Arab majority in the Middle East.' (Shammas 1985/6: 68). Shammas :~ cu ~re: ~estern and sees n Hebrew writing by Arabs a way of subverting Zionist ideology, which emphasizedonre~te a ~rd space: or the inseparable connection between the Hebrew language, Jewish and Israeli identity, . ad ~amlc of attraction and Zionism. In his view, this type of writing can express the aspiration to de-Judaize and a: d 0 the ~erarchical de-Zionize the Jewish state. I He says explicitly: 'And what I'm trying to do-mulishly, it~, ~a~~:~:es. HY?rid seem~-is to Hebrew ~an~ag.e (to use a :hilip R~~ ve~b~, o ma~e it morefu . .d. ~udalsm, Israeh and less JeWlsh, thus bnngmg It back to ItS SemItic onglns, to ItS place.'slon and d~Vlslon that (Shammas 1989: 10).. d 1. In Shammas's view, the mother tongue imposes cliches and well-worn linguisticIC an Iterary dualism of structures. Writing in a different language frees the author from this limitation and:l~guag;s ~d served as enables him to use the language more precisely. He believes that writing in Hebrew is anIsm 0 wnters such as expression of his aspiration to demonstrate his linguistic skill in the language of what is,~mas and Sayed Kashua in his view, one of the most beautiful texts in the history of humankind: the Bible (SiddiqItten m Hebrew. 2000: 163).   the State the Hebrew ". .h d " Wntlng m Hebrew has enabled some of these authors to express themselves freely and~ ;mmant tongue in critically about their own society. In particular, they have felt that this language providesre om the status and a way of escape from the pressures, accusations and feelings of offence of their fellowIan to e heard voices . tArabs and relatives. Shammas has remarked:0 put a stop to its~ in business, in their I write about my village in Hebrew, of course, I'm not quite sure how theSh story would turn out if I were to write it in Arabic. First of all, I'd certainly be~ I' a:~as ~d Sayed more careful. Paradoxically, the Hebrew language provides me with someg,;:e ~n JeWlsh areas sort of apparent security, a kind of freedom which I wouldn't have if I weres, ere ore, a natural to write in Arabic, and put all my family into a story, . . And what will my aunt ' t b1say, and what will my uncle and my cousins and all my extended family say? SoI ers e ong to minority . . . . md D . this IS a conscIous act; I use Hebrew as a sort of camouflage net. (Amlt . ruze-:-stlm~lated 1988: 76)than ArabIc, whIch iscy, anhd, .in their eyes, Sayed Kashua claims that the chief reason why he writes in Hebrew is the woeful staterove elr status as a fArb.1.I1Ihi . .. b.ffi ' .h .ell boa IC cu ture m srae. n s VIew t IS su Ject o many a ICtlonS, uc as stnct~ e, ,too, ~at the supervision and control by the Israeli establishment, he lack of a suitable nfrastructure, especIally mce he of publishers, public libraries and bookshops, and the lack of a reading public devoted o
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