A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Friday, July 24, 2009

Arabic Books in Israel

"Want to Read Harry Potter in Arabic? Not in Israel": An interesting recent article in Haaretz about border officials confiscating books published in Beirut or Damascus when Israeli Arabs try to bring them in from Jordan or Egypt.

This may just be bureaucratic inefficiency, and as it notes there are importers who are licensed to import. I know I have at least one book in Arabic on my shelf published in Beirut and bought in a bookshop in East Jersualem, and it's on a political subject to boot. And I know that some Arab countries still bar anything published in Israel. But if a book is bought legally in Jordan or Egypt, countries which have relations with Israel, and is bought by an Israeli citizen, and isn't objectionable for some other reason (Israel does still have military censorship), then I'm a bit surprised it's being confiscated. Perhaps I'm holding Israel to a higher standard than I do many Arab countries, but it does seem odd to block your own Arabic-speaking citizens (a fifth of the Israeli population) from reading a bestseller just because it was published in the center of Arabic book publishing, Beirut.

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