Classics to Arab Readers, But Contraband to Israel (New York Times)

For three years now, Asmaa Azaizeh has run a popular Arabic-language book festival in Haifa, a mixed city that has become a vibrant culinary and cultural capital for Palestinian citizens of Israel. But as this year’s festival opens on Friday, it is being held without hundreds of titles Ms. Azaizeh wanted to showcase. Israeli border officials barred them from being imported from Jordan, under an 80-year-old law that predates the existence of the state of Israel.

Arabic translations of George Orwell, James Joyce and William Faulkner; of Sylvia Plath, Susan Sontag and Nelson Mandela; of Shakespeare, D.H. Lawrence, Orhan Pamuk, and Agatha Christie were all rejected and sent back to a Jordanian distributor.

So, too, were novels by Ala’a Al-Aswany and the late Naguib Mahfouz, of Egypt; “Men in the Sun,” by the Palestinian author and political activist Ghassan Kanafani, who was killed by Israel in 1972; “Cities of Salt,” by Abdul Rahman Munif, the Saudi Arabian novelist; and “Out of Place,” the autobiography of the late Edward Said, the Palestinian-American scholar.

The reason? The books were printed in Beirut. An Israeli law that dates back to World War II-era British Mandatory Palestine forbids trading with the enemy, and Israel applies that policy to Lebanese, Syrian and Iraqi publishers, among others.

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