Published Without Permission: Israeli Anthology of Arab Women Writers

Earlier this month, activists, scholars, and authors began circulating the news that the Israeli publisher Resling had published an “Arab Spring” anthology of stories by Arab women writers, edited and translated by Dr. Alon Fragman, without obtaining translation or publication rights from most of the writers:

Most only discovered the existence of the collection — titled Freedom (חוריה حُرِّيَّة)  when news began circulating on academic listservs, Facebook, and media reports. A number posted statements on Facebook stating that they had not given permission, nor had any knowledge, of the collection.

Neither the publisher nor Fragman replied to inquiries. According to author Najla Said, whose work was included in the anthology, they replied to her agents saying they were looking into the matter.

However, Hyperallergic translated a statement from Resling’s chief editor, Idan Zivoni, that was posted to Facebook; the statement is on its face outrageous:

This entire story of translation is an issue by itself especially when it’s from Arabic. It’s a different kind of category. When you translate from English, you deal with norms, you have a subject and you ask for rights. We as a publisher do it all the time, and we never publish foreign works without permission. It’s different in the Arab countries, where there are no publishers. Some of these countries have no ties with us [Israel], so there’s no one to contact. In that respect, a symmetry exists. Books by Resling were translated and published there without permission as well…Here we’re not even talking about books, but short stories. In many cases, the writers wouldn’t even be practically allowed give us their permission. These women are putting a call out to the world. This is literature written in body and blood, for some of them it’s a [sic] SOS signal which reaches us thanks to technology….so that we can use it to save lives. Who will hear the cries of these women? In the past, these women could cry out in their kitchen…or in the field, heard only by god maybe? Now somebody is taking these cries, translates them and voices [sic] them here in Israel… It’s important to us that the voices of these women are heard…We take it as their salvation.

Activist Khulud Khamis reported the book, however, had been taken down off their website after protest.

Although there have certainly been instances where Israeli publishers have stolen work by Arab artists in the past, according to translation editor Tami Chapnik, a participant in the Van Leer Forum of Arabic–Hebrew Translators, it is no longer typical, and “Publishing houses today respect authors rights and pay royalties.” She noted Yael Lerer’s Andalus publishing house, where Arabic translations into Hebrew were published with full authorial consent.

This comes at a time when Janan Bsoul reports, “The Forum for Regional Thinking,” that there has been a greater openness, by some Arab authors, to being published in Hebrew translation and creating ties with Israeli leftists, possibly helping the cause of Palestinian freedom. However, theft of work — and such a ridiculous assertion of the reasons why — would certainly undermine such possible connections.

Although at least one author expressed interest in suing the publisher, she did not have the thousands of dollars to pursue it.

Novelist and activist Khulud Khamis posted a list of the authors on Facebook:

Intissar Abdul Monaem إنتصار عبدالمنعم (Egypt)
Souad Mahmoud El-Ameen سعاد محمود الأمين (Sudanese, living in Qatar)
Rehab Muhammad Ali El-Basiuny. رحاب محمد علي البسيوني (Egypt)
Nawal El-Ghanam نوال الغنم (Morocco)
Farh El-Tunisi فرح التونسي (Tunisia)
Najwa Ben Shatwan الكاتبة نجوى بن شتوان (Lybia, living in Italy)
Fatma El-Zahra’a Ahmad فاطمة الزهراء أحمد (Somalia)
Rahma Shukri رحمة شكري (Somalia, living in Kenya)
Latifa Baka لطيفة باقا (Morocco)
Fatma Buzian فاطمة بوزيان (Morocco)
الكاتبة سندس جمال الحسيني – Sondos Gamal Elhosseny (Egypt)
Janat Boumangel جنات بومنجل (Algeria)
Badriya Ali بدرية علي (Sudan)
Lutfiya Abdallah لطفية عبدالله (unknown)
Shahinaz Fawaz شاهيناز فواز (Egypt)
Suad Suleiman سعاد سليمان (Egypt)
Nabahat E-Zeen نبهات الزين (Algeria)
Fatma Hammad فاطمة حماد (Egypt)
Dua’a Abed E-Rahman دعاء عبد الرحمن (Egypt)
Ahlam Mosteghanemi أحلام مستغانمي (Algeria)
Mona Bishlem منى بلشم (Algeria)
Sajeda Abdallah Ibrahim ساجدة عبد الله إبراهيم (Bahrain)
Sharifa El-Toubi شريفة التوبي (Oman)
Zalikha Jousef زليخة يوسف (United Arab Emirates)
Rafah El-Seif رفاه السيف (Saudi Arabia)
Fatma El-Husni فاطمة الحسني (United Arab Emirates)
Zainab Ahmad Hifni زينب أحمد حفني (Saudi Arabia)
Intisar El-Sari إنتصار السري (Yemen)
Hala Touma هالة طعمة(Jordan)
Hayma’a El-Mufti هيماء المفتي (Syria)
Ibtisam Shakush إبتسام شاكوش (Syria)
Litha El-Hamoud لذة الحمود (Kuwait)
Buthaina El-Issa بثينة العيسى (Kuwait)
Mayyada El-Ani ميادة العاني (Iraq)
Hanan Bairouty حنان بيروتي (Jordan)
Najla Said نجلة سعيد (Palestine living in the USA)
Montaha El-Eidani منتهى العيداني (Iraq)
Sana’a El-Sha’alan سناء الشعلان (Jordan)
Haifa Bitar هيفاء بيطار (Syria)
Haifa Jousef Ajeeb هيفاء يوسف عجيب (Syria)
Salwa El-Banna سلوى البنا (Palestine)
R.A.R (Naqab)
Fawz El-Kilabi فوز الكلابي (Iraq)
Asma’a Mohammad Mostafa أسماء محمد مصطفى (Iraq)
Madonna Askar مادونا عسكر (Lebanon)

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