Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Language Issues

Further to the Occupation 101 post, I wanted to add a couple of language things. As far as I know, in Israel, Hebrew is the language most spoken, these days I bet there is a lot of Russian, some Arabic and maybe some languages Bedouin people speak (? anyone know?!). And in the occupied territories the main language is Arabic. The official languages of Israel are Hebrew and Arabic, and although there are many road signs etc with both- English is more clearly a second language, certainly in terms of prestige. For more info on this check out the work of Elana Shohamy.

One of the most significant and overwhelming government buildings in Israel is only English and Hebrew, I am talking about Yad Vashem the Holocaust Museum, documentation and research centre. Which is a must see if you ever visit Israel (but not if you only speak Arabic!). On the other side of the coin is this fantastic documentary Occupation 101, that interviews academics in Israel, Noam Chomsky, Human rights groups and Palestinian people, presents facts and stories- and yet is not available with Hebrew subtitles, and there for basically inaccessible to Israeli population.

We wrote to the directors about this and they said they were doing their best to get it done soon. The Holocaust museum on the other hand are rumoured to have said they 'catered to demand' and therefor Arabic was not relevant.

The other thing I don't like much are phrases like the 'Palestinian problem' or the 'Arab problem' - it sounds a little like Hitler's rhetoric of the 'Jewish problem', and it makes it sounds as though the the ethnicity of a group of people is the problem. Which is not true, the problem isn't that some people are Jewish Israeli and others are Muslim/Christian Arabs, the problem is all the fear, hype and lack of education, poverty, violence, corruption and hatred that is aimed at creating and maintaining conflict. Haven't Jewish people lived peacefully in Iran, Syria, Jordan for centuries...?

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