Letter from Mona Baker to Colleagues in Translation Studies

From the www.monabaker.com archive (legacy material)

Mona Baker | Personal Record of Email Correspondence | 11 June 2002

Date: Tue, 11 Jun 2002 10:58:09 +0100
From: Mona Baker <mona.baker@umist.ac.uk>
To: Robin xxxxx
Subject: Re: The Translator
Dear Robin (and Andrew, and everyone else on the list),
Thank you Robin and Andrew for this balanced and rational response. I very much respect your opinions and position on the whole, and some years ago I would have argued in a very similar vein. In fact in a recent talk I gave in Cairo where I drew heavily on Gideon Toury’s work, I argued exactly the same points in response to one or two ‘extremists’ in the audience who suggested I shouldn’t be promoting the work of an Israeli.
But things have deteriorated considerably since then. There are times (thankfully not many) when people’s loyalties (to friends, academic and scholarly standards, etc., even national and religious affiliation) are placed under severe strain. The holocaust would have been one such instance in history, when I believe decent people in many parts of the world would have at least seriously considered boycotting ALL German facets of life in response to the systematic and horrific violations of the rights of a group of human beings. Where we probably disagree is on whether what Israel has been doing to the Palestinians (without as much as a single formal protest from any Israeli academic group in the past 35 years) is indeed a version of the holocaust. All I can suggest is that you read more about what is going on day by day now and has been going on throughout all the previous governments in the past 35 years in Israel. I can’t summarise it all here, but some of the stuff I circulate may give you a good start – if you’re willing to consider this possibility at all.
I firmly believe that if more people knew what is actually going on and has been going on in Israel for many many years they would find it much easier to understand my position, and the position of the few Israeli academics who are signing the boycott against their own country, colleagues and themselves, and are being severely persecuted for it.
Here are some facts that you might like to consider (and I will be more than happy to give anyone interested references to further information on any of this):
Did you know that non-Jewish Israelis cannot buy or lease land in Israel?
Did you now that cars owned by Palestinians are colour coded to distinguish Jews from non_Jews?
Did you know Palestinians are not allowed to move from one city, say Gaza to Bethleham, to another without first getting a ‘visa’ from Israel?
Did you know that Israel allots 85% of the water resources for Jews and the remaining 15% is divided among all Palestinians in the territories? For example in Hebron, 85% of the water is given to about 400 Jewish settlers, while 15% must be divided among Hebron’s 120,000 Palestinians?
Did you know that Israel routinely confiscates Palestinian bank accounts, businesses and land and refuses to pay compensation to those who suffer confiscation?
Did you know that Israel stands in defiance of over 80 United Nations Security Council Resolutions?
Did you know that it was not until 1988 that Israelis were barred from running ‘Jews Only’ job ads?
Did you know that Sharon’s coalition government includes a party – Molodet – which advocates expelling all Palestinians from the occupied territories?
Did you know that Sharon (the ‘elected’ leader of a democratic society) was held responsible for the massacre of more than 2750 Palestinians in the refugee camps of Sabra and Chatila? The UN qualified the massacre by Sharon as GENOCIDE. In years to come we will know more about the horrors of Jenin, Nablus, Bethlehem, and we will do the usual academic thing: look back on regrettable ‘historical’ incidents, as ‘students of history’, and condemn them from our ivory towers.
Did you know Sharon’s commando unit in 1953 razed the Palestinian village of Qibya killing all its citizens and bombed all the houses, mospues and schools?
Did you know that Israel’s settlement-building on Palestinian land increased considerably since the signing of the Oslo agreement?
Did you know that settlement building of Jewish only homes under Barak doubled compared to settlement building under Netanyahu?
Did you know that Palestinian refugees make up the largest portion of the refugee population in the world?
Did you know that since 1967 Israel has expropriated some 79% of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Since 1967 estimated figures published by Amnesty International show the following:
Year Land Confiscated in the West Bank
1984 42%
1991 60%
1998 74%
I’m sure I don’t need to explain that the impact of land confiscation has disastrous social, economic, environmental and moral consequences on the Palestinian community (or what’s left of it). The brutality of confiscation leads to the loss of Palestinian roots and also to the main sources of income.
Did you know that since 1967 Israel has demolished or sealed over 8500 homes, of which 2500 were in East Jerusalem alone? Putting aside the increased effort to destroy what is left of the Palestinian community in the past few months, there are currently 2000 demolition orders in effect. Houses are demolished as punitive measure or under the pretext of ‘lack of building permit’ – permits are rarely granted.
The Ha’aertz Israeli paper estimated in 1998 (31 July) that a population of 5800 Jewish settlers in Hebron consumed 547 liters of water a day each. By contrast, a population of 119,230 Palestinians in the same area consumed or had access to no more than 58 litres per day each.
B’Tselem, a leading Israeli human rights monitoring organization, states that Israel’s deliberate targeting of educational, health, economic and cultural infrastructure (long before the latest atrocities received some publicity in the West) – indeed during the past 35 years of military occupation – rendered Palestinians totally dependent on services and resources accessible only within Israel or Jerusalem. Thus, closure constitutes a chillingly effective form of collective punishment, as it brings (and has now totally brought)Palestinian economic, medical and educational life to a halt.
Since 1967, (and of course not counting the latest round of atrocities) over 600,000 Palestinians have been jailed in Israeli jails and over 200 have died while in Israeli jails. During the first year of the second intifada alone, Israel arrested over 1900 Palestinians, of which 600 were children under 16. Israel uses torture routinely in jails (only against non-Jews of course) despite the Israeli High Court outlawing it.
You may dismiss my stance as motivated by national affiliation (though I’m happy to denounce Egyptian policy any time) but how then do you explain the stance of the Israeli activists who are encouraging me to stick to the boycott, and who have signed the boycott statement themselves?
Yes, politics and academia shouldn’t mix, under most circumstances, but there are times in history when at least some of us have to override these rules, because what is at stake is far more important than the feelings of our colleagues, than ivory tower standards, or even the fate of a scholarly venture in which one has invested years of hard work.
Mona Baker