Arab Cultural Notebooks Arabic-Language Journals

By Al Jadid Staff

 

MASHARIF is a magazine published in Haifa and Jerusalem, founded and edited until May 1996 by the late novelist Emile Habibi; currently, it is edited by Siham Daoud. The May issue (1997), which coincided with the first anniversary of the death of its founder, contained substantial coverage of this event. The cover story, entitled "A Year Since Departure," includes the text of a will by Habibi and a dialogue he had with an Israeli writer Youram Kaniuk. Friends and Arab intellectuals remembered him through articles and poems: the "Unfinished Symphony," by Mohamad Banis; "The Tragedy of a Literature and People in the Life, Literature, Thought of an Exceptional Personality," by Karim Mureweh; "From Life to Literature and From Literature to Politics," by Mohamad Dakroub; "The Pessomoptimist is a Superb Political Novel in Form and Content" by Ali Al Rai. The late Egyptian author Latifa al-Zayyat was interviewed in Masharif No. 12. The interview was conducted by Layla Naymeh; in addition to the interview, the issue published a biographical sketch, and an excerpt by al-Zayyat, "The Beautiful Quarrel." In issue No. 6, Palestinian scholar and author Ihssan Abbas recalls his memories of Haifa, the city where the magazine is published. Masharif's No. 4, features "Prose Poem and the New Arabic Poetics," by Hatim al-Sakr. Amoz Oz's "The Traveller and the Serpent" also appears, translated from the Hebrew by Jamil Ghonayem.

AL ADAB is a monthly Lebanese magazine, edited by the Lebanese intellectual Suheil Idriss and managed by his son, Samah Idriss, a writer and author. Experimentalism in the the Arabic novel is the main focus of Volume 44, Nos 5, 6 (May 1997). The topics include "Experiemntalism and the Collapse of Established Rules" by Mohammad al-Qadi; "The Labyrinth of Language and the Mirror of the Novel" by Sabri Hafez, and Mohammad Mu'tasim writes on "The Department of the Text and the Woman Novel." Volume 44, No. 7-8 (1997) continues its coverage of the Arabic novel, where Faysal Darraj writes on "Legacy and Satirizing the Museums of Nightmares;" Nazik al-A'raji on "Al Walaha [Cigarette Lighter, a title of a novel by the Syrian Hana Minah]: The Mask of the Other and the Mask of the Self;" Mohammad Abou Izzat on "Three Faces From Baghdad: The Autobiographical and the Fictious;" Nour al-Din Muhiqiq on "The Echoes of Autobiography: The Presence of the Prose Poem in the Novel." Volume 43, No. 12 (1996) is dedicated to contemporary Saudi literature. The issue is rich with poems, short stories, and reviews. Volume 43, no. 5-6 features Adonis'rebuttal to Al Adab and its editor Suheil Idriss as well as a counter rebuttal by Idriss. Adonis figures also in other contributions. The rebuttal and counter rebuttal appears to have been resulted from the expulsion of Adonis from the Arab Writers Union on the grounds that he met with Israeli intellectuals and to have called for normalization of relations with Israel, a charge he denies. Many noted Arab intellectuals opposed the expulsion of Adonis, including the late playwright Sadallah Wannous and the novelist Hanna Minah. Mauritanian literature is featured in Al Adab's double-issue Nos. 3-4 (1995). The editors wanted to introduce the Arabic-language reader to new trends in this literature, rather unfamiliar to large segments of Arab readers. Al Adab hosted a number of Mauritania n authors and critics of different perspectives and generations.

AL-BAHREIN AL-THAQFIYYA is a Bahrein based Journal that covers general literary and art themes. Edited by Abdallah Al Rahman Al Yatim. No. 1 (Spring 1997) features a study of early Islamic architecture in Bahrein by Khalid al Sindi and an introduction to fine arts of the Arabian Peninsula and the Gulf by Ahmad Bakr. The Books section includes a review of Arab Thought and Its Opposites by Mohamad Jabber Al Ansari . The 1996 October issue interviews the French director Jean Luje Ghodar (translated text). Issue No. 12 (1997) includes a study of the organization of the Islamic city in Al Husba [religious] books by Salim Al Susi, and a panel on "Culture and Consumption."

AL THAQAFIYYA is a London-based monthly magazine published by the Saudi Cultural Bureau, directed by the Saudi Cultural Attache in Britain, Abdallah Mohamad al-Nasser. The April (1997) issue features an interview with the Iraqi poet Abed al-Wahab al-Bayati in which he warns against the prose poem. The issue also includes a report on Arab immigrants in Western European cities; Syrian poet Yasin Rifa'ieh recalls his memories with Nizar Qabanni, another Syrian poet. Issue No. 16 offers a variety of articles including Ghazi al-Qusaybi, the Saudi Ambassador in Britain, "Literature and Politics;" a feature on "The World Arab Encyclopedia;" and Yasin Rifa'ieh's memories of the Syrian novelist Ghada al-Samaan; and an article on "Feasts in Islam" by Mamduh al-Tantawi. The issue covers a lecture by Britain's Prince Charles on the spirituality of Islam and how it could salvage the West from materialist culture.

NAZWA is an Oman-based quarterly which combines diverse intellectual and literary contributions. In its Spring issue, some of its diverse contributions included "The Poetic Bond," by Seif Al Rahbi, and "The New Arabic Poem," by Fakhri Saleh and an interview with Egyptian critic Ahmad Abed Al Muti Hijjazi.

Al BAHEETHAT: Baheethat means woman researchers in Arabic. But the reader need not rush to the conclusion that Baheethat is a feminist publication dedicated exclusively to women researchers and writers. The list of the contributors to this annual publication is equally divided between women and men. The magazine attempts, with great success, to transcend gender on the topics. Published by the Lebanese Researchers Group, Baheethat is the group's most important publication. Although published in Lebanon, contributors come from more than one Arab country. Every year the pages of Baheethat is devoted to one central theme. The latest issue, Volume 3 (1997), is devoted to "Research in Humanities in the Arab World." The major theme is explored in four categories: (1) sample studies on the status of research; contributors in this area include, Mouna Fayad, Huda Qasatli, Wajeeh Kawtharani, Radwan al-Sayyid, Rashid al- Daif, Dalal al-Bezri (the list of contributors here and in other categories is selective); (2) research and methods, with contributions from Wadah Sharara, Najla' Hamdan, Burhan Ghalyoun, Hussayn Qubaysi; (3) contributing to "ideas and opinions" are Jean Makdisi, Nada Mughyzil Nasr, and Talal Atrissi; (4) a panel on books includes poet Abbas Baydoun, Biyan Nuwayhid. This panel discussed the difficulties encountered in relating to political and academic authorities, absence of research institutions and declining academic standards.

AL MAJALA AL-ARABIYYA: Issue No. 226 (1996) features an important study by Sheikh Hamad Al Jasir of the Dutch Orientalist K. Snoke Horforneh's "Pages of Mecca's History in the Nineteenth Century;" another study focuses on alienation in Arabic poetry by Nasser al-Dakhil. The Nobel Laureate Naguib Mahfouz is interviewed in the September (1996) issue. Mahfouz talks about the role of public opinion, satellite stations, science fiction, among many other topics. The same issue offers a Kuwaiti novelist's rebuttal to Egyptian writer Anis Mansour who argues that "woman is a secondary creature."

AL ARABI is published in Kuwait and edited by Mohammad Al-Rumayhi. In an editorial published in the February 1997 issue, Al-Rumayhi revisits the conditions that led to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. The invasion, al-Rumayhi claims, was the result of a darkened thought that expanded in different forms into areas of Arab reason during the last decades, producing a despotism represented best in the oppressive regime of Saddam Hussein. The editor of Al Arabi raises an important question in the July 1997 issue: what explains Muslim underdevelopment and others' development. Other articles focus on objectification and post-modernism by Abed al-Wahab al-Masiri; unknown stages of the progress of the Syrian woman by Salma al-Quzbari; the personality of the late novelist Mohamad Husayn Haykal examined by Sameh Karim; the weakness of the story's art by Jabber Asfour. The magazine's Panel Department discusses the emotions of Arab nationalists and the rationality of the realists. In this issue (December 1996), the noted Leftist Egyptian intellectual Mohamad Amin al-Alem writes on philosophy that requestions itself. The issue has a special section on the late Egyptian journalist Ahmad Baha'Eddine, focusing on aspects of his life, excerpts from his writing and contributions from writers who knew him. In the Book section, Egyptian critic Farida al-Nakash reviews the novel The Memory of the Body. In the August 1996 issue, the reader is introduced to the oil fires as depicted in the paintings of an American artist.

QANTARA is a French quarterly published in Paris by the Arab World Institute. Setting its attention on French readership, the publication's main concern remains with Arab culture. The Spring 1997 issue is devoted to Palestine and the question of identity. Addressing this issue is Salim Tamari who explores the Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza; as well as Rashid Khalidi on "The Formation of Palestinain Identity, the Decisive Years, 1917-1923." On another topic, Elias Khoury discusses the late Ghassan Kanafani. Issue No. 19 sets a new direction away from an "orientalist" and "academic" to a more competitive nature, something attributed to the Lebanese scholar Francois Zabal, as reported by the London-based Al Wasat weekly. The issue includes contributions by Hassan Hamza on the Arab lexicographer Ibn Mansour (1232-1311) and Boutrous Bustani (1819-1882), great Lebanese literary figure, translator and lexicographer. Arab surrealism is discussed by Abed al-Qader Jababi, language in Arabic cinema by the Tunisian film critic Khamis al-Khayati.

UYUN is a bi-annually cultural magazine that was launched in 1995, edited by the Iraqi poet Khalid al-Maali, and published by Al Jamal Publishing House in Germany. The first issue included an article by the German philosopher Jurgen Habermas on his teacher the philosopher Theodore Adorno, translated and commented on by Hussein al-Mawazi; Fadil al-Azzawi explores various aspects of the 1960s in Iraq.

ALAMAAT is a quarterly published in Maknass-Morrocco. Body and sign language is featured in Issue No. 4. Other topics include "Theater and Islam" by Hassan Bahrawi who reviews a 1941 book which "claims an established proof of acting prohibition" in Islam.

AL IJTIHAD is a Beirut-based quarterly magazine edited by Al-Fadel Shalaq and Radwan al-Sayyid. Issue No. 36 (Summer 1997) is dedicated to the topic of "Arab Economic History: Modern Times." Shams Eddine al-Kaylani writes on "Islam and Europe in the Sixteenth Century: War and Trade;" Taghrid Beydoun on "Islamic Reformist Thought in the Economy: The Example of Mohammad Abduh." Christinan-Islamic relations is discussed in a special section of Issue No. 30 (1996): the journal's editors address Islamic-Christian relations; "Islamic Thought and Religious Liberties" by Radwan Al-Sayyid. Other contributions are "Ibn Rushd Between Farah Antoun and Mohammad Abduh" by Michel Jiha; "Coptic Church Between Conservatism and Modernization" by Milad Hanna. In the Book Section, Turki al-Rabiou reviews Albert Mansour's Destinty of Arab Christians and their Choice; Ahmad Turmus reviews William Suleiman's Kalada's Christianity & Islam in Egypt.

NUSUS is a London-based quarterly; its first issue appeared in February 1995. The publication is the product of a collective effort. Its editorial board consists of known writers and critics like Fatima al-Muhsin, Abed al-Karim Kassad, Zuhayer al-Jaza'iri. The first issue includes contributions by Faleh Abed al-Jabbar on "Sociology of Bedouinism," and "Leader Worship" analyzed by Zuhair al-Jaza'iri.

DIRASAAT ARABIYYA is a monthly magazine published in Beirut by Dar al-Talia. Vol. 33, Nos. 9 and 10 (1997) features Aziz al-Azmah on "The Limits of Islamic Reformist Thought; Mohmmad al-Masbahi, "The Other Face of Ibn Rushd's Modernism;" Abed al-Hadi Abed al-Ruhman, "Between the Historical and the Epistemological Break." In the January-February 1997 issue, Lebanon's reconstruction occasions special importance but not at the expense of other topics. Mohammad Wakidi on "The Constradictions of Development;" Fathi al-Maskini, "Ibn Rushd and the General Usage of Reason;" Husni Ayash, "Modernism and Post-Modernism and the Consequences of these Ideas on Society, Family and School." Its double issue Nos. 3-4 (1995) features "The State of Psychological Medicine in the Arab World" by Mohammad Ahmad al-Nabulsi; "How Did the Arabs Chronicle Their Scientific PastCOutcome and Evaluation" by Salim Yafout; "Dividing Inheritance and Social Reality: an Anthropological Study of Community in Northern Jordan" by Mohammad Suleiman Shanak; "An Enlightened Historical Reading of Ibn Khaldun's Muqadamah [The Introduction]" by Salim Hamish; "Jean-Paul Sartre and the Arab-Israeli Conflict" by Nour al-Din al-Lamoushi.

ABAAD is published by the "Lebanese Center for Research Studies in Beirut. The quarterly publication is concerned with Lebanese and Arab intellectual questions. Issue No. 6 (1997) explores class differences in Lebanon and critically examines the social and economic policies of the Lebanese government in the 1990s. The issue is introduced by Paul Salem, General Director of the Lebanese Center For Research Studies, who writes on "The Dimensions of Poverty and Social and Economic Policies in Lebanon." The contributions include Antoine Haddad on "Class Disparities: Measurement and Social and Political Effects;" Butrus Labaki, "An Economic Policy That Reconciles Between Requirements of Growth and Social Justice;" Ghassan Dibeh, "The Social and Developmental Dimension of Expenditure Policy;" Kamal Hamdan, "The Policy of Wages and Revenues and Its Impact in Determining Class Distinctions;" Fawaz Trabulsi, "The Class Composition of the State After War;" Adib Nehmeh, "The Policy of Social Security and its Impact on Wealth Redistribution in Lebanon." Other articles include Adil Daher on "The Arabs Facing the Cultural Aspects of Age." Ghada al-Saman, the Syrian noted novelist, is interviewed in the issue. Issue No. 2 (1995) has a special section on the Lebanese economy and the reconstruction of the country. The Panel Department of the publication has a special discussion of Edward Said's Culture and Imperialism," with participation by Ahmad Beydoun, George Deeb, and Ghalib Abou-Muslih. In the third issue (1995), the nationalist movements in the Arab world assume central focus. Lebanese historian Massoud Daher writes on "The Modern Arab State and the Nationalist Question;" Abed al-Ilah Balqaziz on "The Nationalist Movement and the Challenge of Global Developments;" Ali Daher on "The Image of the Other in Pan-Arab Movements;" Ghassan Salameh on "Arab Nationalism: Death or Renewal?" and Burhan Ghalyoun on "The End of the Nationalist State Phase." 

AL MUSTAKBAL AL ARABI is published by the Center for Arab Unity Studies in Beirut. The Algerian crisis is featured in issue No. 191 (1995). Among the topics discussed are "Sociology of the Current Crisis in Algeria," "Arabization and Social Contradictions in Algeria," "National State and Civil Society in Algeria: An Attempt at Reading the 1988 Uprising" and "Economic Dependency and its Impact in Practical Decision-Making: A Study of the Algerian Case."

SHAQA'IQ is published in Beirut and edited by Sara Bint Abed al-Muhsin Ban Jalawi al-Saud. In issue No. 2 (1996), Munzir al-Badri writes on "The Personality of the Moslem Woman. The issue includes a feature on Kurdish women, compiled by by Mohammad Khayer Yusuf. The name of the magazine, according to its editor, is borrowed from a Prophetic hadith "Women are full sisters of men."

AL MANTALAQ is an intellectual magazine published in Lebanon. The main focus of issue No. 111 (Spring 1995) is "man in contemporary thought." Mohammad Hassan al-Amin writes on "Man's Liberty Between al-Koran and Contemporary Thought." The Panel Department of the publication centers on the issue of "Toward Contemporary Understanding of Ijtihad." Participating in the panel are Sheikh Mohammad Shamseddine, Mohammad Hussein Fadlalallah, and Hassan Jabber.

AL NAHJ is a Damascus-based intellectual and political journal published by the Center for Research and Socialist Studies in the Arab world. In issue No. 3 (Spring 1995), the editors debate the American Naom Chomsky under the title, "Chomsky Politically." Other articles include "Contemporary Islamic Movements and the Question of Dependency" by Khudr Zakariyya.

EL-JADEED JOURNAL OF BOOKS & LIBRARIES is published by the Amman-based Dar Al Shuruq Lil Tawzieh wa al-Nashr, edited by Fathi Al-Biss. Issue No. 12 features a special section on the noted novelist Abed Al-Monhem Munif, consisting of an interview conducted by Nima Khaled, and five essays by different authors, including the American Roger Allen. All contributions deal with the Saudi-born and the Syrian-based Al Munif as well as with the rich and prolific literature he produced. In previous issues, El-Jadeed featured similar sections on noted literary figures like Ihssan Abbas, Zaki Najib Mahmoud, Edward Said, Abed Al Wahab Al Bayati, Fadwa and Ibrahim Toukan, Hanna Minah, Jabra Ibrahim Jabra, and others. This quarterly has a rich Books section, consisting of a synopsis of new Arabic titles and feature reviews. This issue features reviews of Benjamin Natenyahu "s Place Under the Sun, Tharwat Akasha's Culture and Politics. Also, the issue includes a study of the Literature of Arab Jews, focusing, among others, on Joyce Mansour and Albert Mimeh. 

AL FAYSAL is a monthly cultural magazine published in Saudi Arabia. Issue No. 239 has a special section on translation, accompanied by a supplement-book on the same topic. The section offers comprehensive discussion of translation, accounting for a distinction between two concepts, "translation" and "Arabization" as well as the scientific and intellectual principles used in translation. The Supplement on translation covers the translation in Islamic culture and its impact on literature and sciences. Included are (1) "The Islamic State and the Translation of the Sciences," by Hassan Zazah; (2) translation from the Arabic on the disciplines of letters and humanities by Al Taher Ahmad Maki; (3) translation from Arabic in the scientific field and its impact on Western culture by Mohammad Ismail al-Sini.

AL QAHIRA is a magazine edited by the Egyptian noted critic Ghali Shukri. This magazine has recently undergone changes that caused a three-months delay of the current issue (Summer 1997). In that issue, Mohammad Awadah writes on "Democracy in Egypt" and Sayid Yasin on "The Place of the Arab Nation from the Third Wave." Included also is an interview with the novelist Abed al-Monhem Munif and an article by Jacques Daridda, translated from the French by Ahmad Othman.

AL HIKMA is a Lebanese magazine. In the April 1997 issue, scores of intellectuals pay tribute to Kamal Yusif al-Hajj, a late Lebanese philosophy professor. The issue offers diverse topics but all centering on the Kamal Yusuf al-Hajj as a person and intellectual. Ghassan al-Khalid writes on al-Hajj "In the Memory of Lebanon and Arabism;" Simon Awad on "The Lebanese Personality in the Thought of Kamal al-Hajj;" Father Joseph Qazi, "Sectarianism in the Thought of Kamal al-Hajj;" Nassif Qazi,"Philosophy and Concepts for Kamal al-Hajj;" Antoine Mukarzil, "Kamal al-Hajj and Lebanese Philosophy."

AL HADATHA is a cultural quarterly concerned with issues of popular tradition and modernism, edited by Farhan Salih. In issue Nos. 11-12 (1995), Khaldun al-Nakib writes on "History and Societal Culture;" Abdallah al-Alayeli on "The Future of Arabic Language;" Toufic al-Basha on protecting artistic and literary copyrights; and Ahmad al-Amin on the theater of Ziad al-Rahbanni. The double issue Nos. 7-8 (Spring 1995) features an interesting study of "Popular Traditions in Lebanese Funerals" by Yusu Muwanis. Another study is by Farouk Saad, "The Problem of Compiling and Recording Arab Popular Tradition."

AL-THAQAFA AL-ARABIYYA is a quarterly magazine published by "The Arab Cultural Association" in Beirut. The first issue (Summer 1997) features many articles that cover diverse topics, including "The State of Arab Culture and its Future" by George Corm; and "The Renewal of Arab Political Thought" by Paul Salem.

Al-Karmil had ceased publication in 1993, but this highly esteemed cultural journal has made a comeback. Its chief editor remains the noted Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish; while it was published in Cyprus before 1993, the journal is currently published in Ramallah, Palestine. However, the level of intellectual production continues to be impressive in its scope. This is one of the only journals where one can find translations of writers like Dereck Walcott and many other writers in French and English. At the same time, however each issue includes a diversity of contributions. Issue no. 51 (Spring 1997, 335 pages) has a special section on Post Modernism, including translations of Fredrick Jameson, Samir Amin and Ihab Hassan. This issue features the last play written the recently deceased Syrian playwright, Saadallah Wanous. Saadi Yusif, the Iraqi poet, writes about Australian novelist and poet David Maalouf and includes some of his translations. The Moroccan writer, Abdallah Balqaziz, writes an essay about Intellectual Terrorism. Each issue of al-Karmil includes a translations from the Hebrew about Israeli society. Issue no. 50 (Winter 1997, 299 pages) includes a dazzling array of articles, translations, and book reviews: Subhi Haddidi writes an article about Franz Fanon; Faisal Darraj, "Palestinian Cultural Identity;" Kadhim Jihad, "From Identity to DifféranceCThe Politics of Derrida;" Nasr Hamed Abu Zeid, "A Literary Reading of the QuranCPast and Present Problems." This issue also includes poetry from Salim Barakat and the recent Nobel Prize winner, Wislawa Szymborska. The Palestinian writer Fadwa Tuqan was interviewed by Liana Badr and Israeli poet A. B. Yehushawa.

AL MADA is a Damascus based magazine, edited by Fakhri Karim, who also edits al-Nahj magazine. The first issue came out in 1993, promising to offer an extensive analysis of Arab culture. Saadi Youssef, who was then the editor, asserted in an editorial comment that al-Mada will strive to offer democracy to Arab cultureCa kind of democracy that has never existed since "Napoleon arrived with his canons and printers." Dar al-Mada is also an up and coming publishing house. Recently, Adonis, chose to publish his collected poems with Dar al-Mada. Each issue since the first always begins with two full page black and white photographs. The two main photographers, Qatiba al-Janabi and Mahmud Diab produce photographs that tell stories. 

The major theme explored in issue No. 15 (1997) is the strong historical presence in the Arab novel, particularly the Syrian. The issue begins with a poignant and melancholy photograph of Sabra and Shatilla. The materials for this theme is prepared by Suzanne Zaza. It includes contributions by Shawqi Badr Yusuf, "The Experiemental Novel of Edward Al Kharat;" Amin Salih, "Women and Pornography;" Zabia Khamis, "Sound and Meaning: The Body and Soul in the Memory of Past Arab Criticism;" and Suad Jarus writes on the famous Syrian artist Fatih al-Mudarass. Michael Ondaajte's English Patient is excerpeted in the same issue. The book review section is quite helpful as it includes many books from different publishing houses. Issue No. 14 (1996) included a section on the relationship between modernity and poetry. The poetry and short story section includes many seasoned and fresh writers such as Saadi Youssef and Mamduh Adwan's poetry and Taghrid Ghadban and Osama Isber's short stories. Besides book reviews, al-Mada includes a critical geographical essays, articles on European and Arab cinema, reports from different regions, in addition to reviews of fine art in each issue.

AL TARIK Features Saadallah Wannous, Samir Amin, Mohammad Amin Al Alim, and Others

AL TARIK is an intellectual Lebanese bi-monthly journal, edited by Mohammad Dakroub. In the wake of his death few months ago, issue No. 3 (1997) features a lengthy unpublished interview with the Syrian playwright Saadallah Wannous, conducted three years ago by the Syrian writer Mary Elias. The same issue devotes a special section to "The Woman's Journey into the Lebanese Theater," edited by Watfa Hamadeh, with participations by Nidal al-Ashkar, Siham Nasser, Latifa Multaka, Hannan al-Hajj Ali, and Randa Asmar. Al Tarik issue No. 2 (March-April, 1997 ) celebrates Egyptian Intellectual Mahmoud Amin al-Alim. The issue abounds with articles celebrating the Egyptian intellectual as an individual and author. Among the issue's contributors are Mohammad Sayid Ahmad, Rifaat al- Said, Maher al-Shariff, and Mohamad Dakroub, who introduces the section on al-Alim. Hussein Mureweh, noted Lebanese intellectual, is remembered by As'ad Diab, Lebanese University President. It is the tenth year anniversary of the assassination. The issue remembers Sheikh Abdallah al-Alayeli as the most important contemporary Arab lexicographer. The question of Enlightnment between religious reform and political Islam is discussed in some length in issue No. 1 (January-February, 1997). Joining this discussion is a group of writers and intellectuals with strong credentials on the subject. Syrian theorist Tayeb Tazini writes "Between Modern Religious Reform and EnlightnmentCScope and Problematics;" Yusuf Salameh, "Religious Reform and the Return to Arab Philosophization;" Maher al-Shariff, "Between Religious Reform and Political Islam." Under the sub-theme of "Islamic Reformism and Secularism," Mohammad Jamal Barout writes on "The Possibilities of Islamic Secularism;" Wajeeh Kawtharani, "Arab Enlightnment Projects Between Yesterday and Today;" Karim Mureweh, "From the Proposal of Religious State to Separating Religion from State." In the literary criticism department, Rafif Rida Sidawi wr ites on "The Changes in the Concept of Gender and Its Meanings in Some Arab Novels." The Syrian novelist Hana Minah is the major topic of issue No. 6 (November-December, 1996). Suheil Idriss writes on "Hana Minah and the Novel;" Karim Mureweh, "Hana Minah the Activist Nvelist;" Yumna al-Id, "The Novelist Autobiography and the Dual Function." Mohamad Dakroub, Al-Tarik's editor, remembers the literary legacy of the late Latifa al-Zayyat and Baland al-Haydari in issue No. 5 (September-October, 1996). The role of Lebanese intellectuals during and after the civil war, a reading of the poetry of Baland al-Haydari, and a special section on three Arab Israeli writers are offered in issue No. 3 (May-July, 1996). Mahmoud Haydar writes on "The Intellectuals and the Post-War Culture in Lebanon." Among those remembering Habibi are Faysal Daraj who writes on "Emile Habibi: The Tragedy of the Divided man;" and Abed al-Monhem Munif, "Lost by Literature...Was He Won by Politics?" Samir Amin, the noted Egyptian economist and theorist, is the main focus of issue No. 2 (March-April, 1996). Fahmieh Sharaff Eddine reads "Samir Amin's Theoretical System;" Sana' Abou-Shakra, "Preliminary Questions on Samir Amin's Propositions;" Kamil Dagher, "The Nation and the Arab Nation in the Thinking of Samir Amin." Sadallah Wannous, prior to his death, contributions examined by a host of writers in issue No. 1 (Janury-February, 1996). In addition to a lengthy interview wiuth Mary Elias, the issue publishes contributions by Abed al-Monhem Munif; Yumna al-Id, and Mohammad Dakroub. To Subscribe, write to Al Tarik, Beirut, P.O. B.P. 9120, Lebanon

ABWAB is published by Dar Al Saqi, a London and Beirut based publishing house. Issue No. 13 (1997) features articles by Nadia Sadeq al-Ali, translated from the English, by Ahmad Nahed, on "Introduction to Post-Modernism;" Fatima al-Muhsin on the exiled Iraqi novel between home and diaspora; Mohammad al-Haddad, "Three Studies of Al-Afghani;" Mouhammad Hafez Yacoub, "Democracy and Civil Society;" Abed al-Husayn Shabaan, "Tolerance and Arab Elites." A panel about art and exile, held in Denmark is covered in issue No. 12 (1997). Participants in the panel included Kanaan Makieh, Shaheen Mirali, Walid Sitti, and May Ghoussoub. Other important subjects have made their way into the issue as well: Frederick Maatouk writes on "Arab Internal Wars;" Ali al-Sarraff, "The Leftist Slogan as a Source of Mythology in Arab Politics;" Ellis Goldberg, "Prostitution, Preaching, and Egyptian Political Entity;" George Tarabishi, "The Invention of Europe;" Pierre Abi Saab, "Four Experiements from the Tunisian Avant Guarde Theater." Issue No. 11 (Winter 1997) features a wide range of topics. Adding to what may be called the social psychological literature of the Lebanese Civil War is Izzat Sharara's, "Lebanese Woman and Her Psychological Health." The issue includes other contributions: "Authority and Sovereignty and the Question of Democracy," by Saleh Bashir; "The Question of Humanist Philosophy in the Islamic Midst," by Mohammad Arkon. The Lebanese Civil War is evident in two other contributions: the unity of the Lebanese identity Hassan Qubayysi, and a diary by a displaced Lebanese female student by the Lebanese sociologist Waddah Sharara. Ethiopian Jews, disparagingly referred to as Falasha are examined in Issue No. 9 by Mohammad Hafez Yaccoub's "Mirror of the Civilization, Image of the Primitive;" "The Phenomenon of Scientific Explanation of the Koran" by Abed al-Basset Mardas; "Democracy, Nationalism and Minorities" by George Tarabishi. In Issue No. 8, Marlene Nasr writes on the "Stranger in Our Relationship and Language," a study based on field research of ordinary Lebanese of all sects, ages, and geographical and social affiliations. The Iraqi dissident Kanaan Makieh (Formerly Samir Al-Khalil) writes on "Despotism and the Memory of Cities." Also, George Tarabishi reviews Emanuel Sifan's "Arab Political Myths." One interesting article by Saleh Abed al-Latif is on the life of the author and traveller Izabelle Irhart who embraced Islam while living disguised as a man; she died in Algeria. An intimate and friendly portrait of Adonis is offered by Hashem Shafiq. In issue No. 4 (1995), Kanaan Makieh writes on "Ta'sis al Tasamuh ala al Turath [Being Tolerant on Heritage];" Aziz al-Azmah on "Irrationality in Modern and Contemporary Thought." The issue includes a review by George Tarabishi of Mohammad Arkon's Islam, Europe, the West: Rihanaat al Mana wa iradaat al haymana [The Stakes of the Meaning and the Will to Domination]." To Subscribe, please write to Al Saqi Books,26 Westbourne Grove, London W2 5R H

These notes on Arabic-language journals constitute a major part of a longer section which appeared in Al Jadid, Vol. 4, no. 20 (Summer 1997)

Copyright © 1997 by Al Jadid

 

BY ELIE CHALAL

The polemical issue of boycott is a longstanding one in Arab political, economic and cultural discourse. Not only has most of the Arab world long boycotted Israeli economic products, as well as cultural events that include Israeli participation, but boycotts have also targeted Western products if their producers conduct trade with Israel. Excluding a few Arab states and those states which signed peace agreements with Israel, the issue of boycott remains present today. The only noticeable change in the last two decades is that Arab states are forgiving Western companies who have done business with Israel.

No boycotts have been more attention-grabbing than world cultural activities, especially those which invite Arab and Israeli cultural figures. Arab participants often find themselves labeled by colleagues, the press and activists as being less than patriotic, or even accused of supporting Israeli policies against the Palestinians. Those who decline to participate publicly exploit their rejection in two ways. They take political advantage by presenting themselves as champions of the Arab cause, and benefit commercially through sales of their music products or books, which often skyrocket as a payoff for their uncompromising political principles.

The most recent issue in the boycott debate came with a decision by the Salon du Livre International Book Fair in Paris to give the prestigious “Pavilion of Honor” award to Israeli writers. This decision cost the Salon du Livre (which ran from March 14 to 19, 2008) some attendance and attracted unwanted controversy. At the urging of the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO), countries including Algeria, Morocco, Iran, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia and Yemen announced their withdrawal from the event. Implying that art cannot divorce itself from politics, ISESCO issued a statement saying that “the crimes against humanity Israel is perpetrating in the Palestinian territories” make it undeserving of such an honor, especially as a “siege” is conducted against the Palestinian people.

An equally significant debate emerged after the International Book Fair in Turin, Italy (which ran from May 8 to 12, 2008) selected Israel as the guest of honor. The Italian decision ignited a debate between those who called for boycott and those who oppose linking culture to politics – and thus supported participation in Italy’s largest annual gathering of publishers.

As one would expect, Israel attempted to maximize its benefits from the boycott. After a five-day state visit to France, Israeli President Shimon Peres commented, “I am against the boycott of books. Books are written to try to awaken reflection, to try to make sense of ideas.”

French officials and intellectuals echoed the same sentiment. French presidential spokesperson David Martinon said at a news conference, “It is not books we should fear,” and called for tranquility in the meantime. Bernard Koshner, France’s foreign minister, was also dismayed by the Arabs’ boycott of “ideas,” commenting sarcastically that he hoped they would not also choose to boycott the “necessary peace.”

“What is happening in the Middle East is very sad, but it is not linked to our event,” said Christine de Mazieres, spokesperson for the French Publishers Association, the group which organized the Salon. She emphasized that Israel was not being honored for its politics, but for its writers, which included Amoz Oz, David Grossman and Sayed Kashua, an Israeli Arab who writes in Hebrew. According to de Mazieres, all of the countries that withdrew knew that Israel was being honored when they signed up. The fair’s organizers also stressed that their choice to distinguish Israeli literature was unrelated to the Jewish state’s 60th anniversary.

Italian leftist intellectuals and activists were at the forefront of the opposition to recognizing Israel at the Book Fair in Turin. “A prestigious event like the Book Fair can’t pretend it doesn’t know what’s happening in that part of the Middle East,” said Vincenzo Chieppa, a local leader of the Italian Communist Party, as quoted in the New York Times. Mirroring the controversy in France, Italian intellectuals battled each other on the pages of newspapers, raising “concerns about censorship” while “extolling the need to place art above politics.” According to The Times, more than 30 Italian intellectuals and artists formed a counter-campaign and petitioned the Italian president, Giorgio Napolitano, to preside over the opening of the Book Fair and speak out against “any discrimination and blind intolerance towards the citizens and culture of Israel.”

On the other side, pro-Palestinian protesters stormed the Book Fair’s offices and demanded the withdrawal of Israel’s invitation, threatening more demonstrations in the days leading up to the Book Fair.

The debate over the boycotts went beyond France and Italy, involving scholars and intellectuals worldwide. But nowhere has the debate been more heated than in the Arab world itself, where most intellectuals fall into one of three groups or schools of thought. The first promotes all-out opposition toward any contact with Israel, cultural or political. Algerian journalist Yacine Tamalali represents this group. Tamalali made his views clear in an article in the Beirut-based Al Akhbar newspaper.

In the article, Tamalali lashed out at French officials and European intellectuals, deriding their call for separating culture from politics. Culture and politics, in Tamalali’s opinion, are inextricably interconnected. He challenged the European intellectuals’ hypocrisy by reminding them of the boycott policies Europeans have adopted in the past. He leveled the same charge against the United Nations, including UNESCO, which imposed boycott policies against South Africa during its former system of apartheid. Tamalali includes sports in his examples, arguing that sports were never free from politics. He reminds Westerners of the 1980 boycott of the Olympic Games in Moscow – an act protesting the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

Advocates of this approach assume that their audience is “back home” in the Arab world. They may be able to score points in Beirut or Cairo in favor of the boycott, but not in Paris, London or New York. Since this particular debate on boycott centers on events taking place in Paris and Turin rather than the Arab world, attempting to advance a pro-Palestinian agenda in the West in this manner is not likely to be successful.

Consider the issue of legitimacy that is implied by those who favor the boycott. The advocates of boycott assume that the Arabs and Palestinians monopolize legitimacy. By participating, they would legitimize the other party: Israel. This zero-sum game logic, that “we” are the only legitimate party, misses the point that legitimacy is a dynamic concept, negotiable and debatable, and can be won in debate and discourse. One unintended consequence of this approach is that if you boycott, you allow the official Israeli position to be presented without challenge, and you are actually depriving the book fairs’ audiences from the Palestinians’ side of the story. Since the source of any legitimacy resides with the public – in this case the book fairs’ audiences – rather than in a biblical or ideological claim, the boycott has stifled the Palestinian and Arab voice in this key discourse.

Certainly culture cannot be fully divorced from politics and the two can influence each other. However, one cannot assume that they are mutually dependent on each other, or that politics or economics exclusively determine culture. The pro-boycott sentiment appears inspired by an assumption of strong influence and would in all likelihood dismiss pro-participation (or anti-boycott) Arabs as “liberal,” a label these days often confused or affiliated in the Middle East with the “neo-conservative” agenda in the West.

Perhaps the most troubling aspect of this viewpoint is the simplistic and even naïve understanding of the nature of the relationship between culture and politics in Western societies. Contrary to notions popularized by the pro-boycott groups, culture and politics are relatively autonomous in Western societies. Such autonomy is based on economic and constitutional foundations. This stands in contrast to the Arab world, where the cultural sector is totally dependent and employed by the state, or it is subject to monopolistic interests such as the Hariri family media enterprises in Lebanon or by some branches of the Saudi family in Saudi Arabia and London. Cultural activities in the West, be it in entertainment or in journalism, are privately funded. What this means is that no matter what the government’s wishes are, the media and cultural institutions enjoy independence and can dissent from the official policies of the state. Although the government, particularly in the U.S., has expanded its political and judicial powers over civil society since September 11, it stops far short of attempting to implement any kind of state-run media.

Elias Khoury, novelist and editor of An Nahar Cultural Supplement, represents the second group, pro-participation. He opposes the boycott and believes that the Arabs and Palestinians should not fear a cultural confrontation with the Zionists because the latter has no moral superiority. As proof, he points to the support the Palestinian cause has won from a large number of intellectuals, scholars and filmmakers, including Westerners and progressive Israelis. Participation in the Book Fair could have potentially put Israel on trial for its crimes against the Palestinian people over the past 60 years, Khoury argues.

The boycott is thus an unnecessary “flight” by individuals and states alike. While Khoury has no doubt about the aggressive nature of the Israeli state and the expansionist nature of the Zionist ideology, he wonders why the Arabs lack any answer to Israel at the Paris Book Fair other than “flight.”

He imagines, and challenges others to imagine, some kind of event taking place next door to the French Book Fair, amounting to a whole cultural awareness month for Palestine, one that could have drawn the involvement of academics, intellectuals, artists, filmmakers – all with the goal of telling the story of Palestine during the past 60 years. As for the vast resources needed to realize this type of activity, Khoury posits that resources are always available one way or another, so what obstacle is left to prevent undertaking such an event? Khoury’s answer is “courage,” which he says is lacking in Arab culture.

Khoury further argues that rational thinking has become a liability in the Arab world. Those dominating the intellectual discourse are either extreme fundamentalists or liberals. The solution requires both courage – needed to counter Zionism and extremist viewpoints – and enlightened thought, which will express itself through progressive, humanist and secular ideas.

Although Khoury offers important observations, he seems overly optimistic about the cultural superiority of the Arab argument and claims. Even if such supremacy existed, it is not absolute; rather it is contingent on a set of conditions, one of which is interaction, or dialogue between cultures. This is where Khoury’s argument is weakest. He writes, “I do not want to be misunderstood that I call for hiwar (dialogue) while blood is being spilled in Gaza; rather, I call for muwajaha (confrontation).” Khoury, of course, does not mean a violent confrontation. But if by “confrontation” he means mere presence at book fairs with panels, documentaries, artwork and photos so the world does not forget the Palestinians, that may not be enough. Perhaps Khoury feels intimidated by the fundamentalists, whose influence in Arab culture he decries, or he is taking pains to ensure he appears “patriotic,” because in reality it makes little sense not to call for engaging in dialogue with those with whom one disagrees, especially given the superiority of the Arab argument.

Nahla al-Shahal, a journalist and activist, represents the third group. She accepts a political/cultural separation in some cases, but not in the Paris case, since she considers this case political. In an article she wrote for the Beirut-based Al Akhbar newspaper, she distinguishes her position from both Tamalali and Khoury. While al-Shahal does not mention either of them by name, she seems to separate the cultural from the political, a separation that is not addressed by Khoury and considered impossible by Tamalali. In her view, the Paris Book Fair, while a cultural event, is also political and thus its boycott was justified. However, she would not go so far as to diminish the overall importance of cultural activities and the role of ideas, nor would she advocate adoption of the official policy of absence and boycott practiced by the Arab states and some intellectuals.


The political nature of the Paris Book Fair is unequivocally clear to al-Shahal. She reminds her readers that this year’s Salon du Livre was opened by Israel’s president, Shimon Peres, rather than by one of Israel’s important novelists, like Amos Oz. She also points to the use of certain vocabulary as evidence of the political nature of the book fair, especially “Israel’s Sixtieth Independence Anniversary.” This usage, she correctly observes, suggests that there was an Israeli state before 1948, and what took place in 1948 was a simple attainment of independence from some power. This language is certainly political and legitimizes the claim of Israeli statehood, while implying that the Arab Palestinians were merely roaming nomads.


She accuses some Arab intellectuals, without naming names, of having fallen into the trap of Zionist propaganda by joining other European intellectuals and politicians in condemning “the calls for boycotting ideas and literature.” For her it is neither mere coincidence nor innocence that some Arab intellectuals were ready to talk with major French newspapers about condemning the boycott and that these newspapers were more than willing to publish their statements.


Aware that old policies of pure rejectionism do not work, al-Shahal criticizes those who opposed the Book Fair on principle, symbolic as it was. More specifically, she is critical of their fatalism that opposition will not lead the Book Fair to rescind its invitation to Israel. Al-Shahal characterizes such an attitude as the product of the dominant logic of the market, decided on the basis of profitability, which rules out the human dimension, including the importance of principles and symbolic positions.


Illustrating the importance of human action, she commended the activity of a pro-Palestinian group which rented space from French publishing house La Fiebre, a publisher known for introducing progressive Israeli writers to the French reader. The group’s project, inspired by the Salon du Livre itself, was called “Sixty Years of Palestine’s al-Nakba.” It included artwork, photographs of confrontations between Palestinians and occupying forces, and panel discussions that included well-known authors, filmmakers and journalists. For al-Shahal, this kind of undertaking was an appropriate response, despite the fact that it did not garner much publicity.


Al-Shahal believes the role of culture can exist outside the realm of politics. Underlying her argument is the notion that there can be purely cultural or purely political activities, and thus Arabs and Palestinians have the luxury to participate in one or the other category of events. In the book fairs’ cases, their invitation to Israel was clearly political in nature. This argument seems more of a rationalization for the boycott, although it is careful not to dismiss the role culture and the arts can have in influencing Western public opinion toward the Arab cause. However, it is wishful thinking on al-Shahal’s viewpoint to so conveniently delineate between the spheres of culture and politics.


Those who believe politics determine culture, the anti-participation groups, are the most vocal and the most influential in the Arab world, which explains the decision by many governments, pro-Western governments included, to boycott the Paris Book Fair. Countering this group are mainstream European governments and mainstream intellectual groups who believe in a decisive separation between culture and politics; thus they wonder why Arabs make decisions based on politics rather than the cultural merits of the activity at hand. Although it may not be grounds for boycotting either the Paris or Turin book fairs, the recognition of Israel as their guest of honor on the anniversary of its establishment cannot be claimed as an apolitical act.


In the end, however, any superiority, moral or otherwise, can only be gained in a free society through dialogue and open exchange. Participation is better than boycott, but it is just one step toward interacting, dialoguing and yes, talking to those with whom one disagrees. This is a more effective approach to cultivate support for the Palestinian cause on the 60th anniversary of Al Nakbah.

 

This essay appears in Al Jadid, Vols. 13/14, nos. 58/59 (2007/2008)

Copyright (c) 2007-2008 by Al Jadid


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