Israeli Web site speaks to Arab world in its own language

Israeli reaction to Mughniyeh's assassination was put up in Arabic soon after the incident occurred.

internet finally 88 (photo credit: )
internet finally 88
(photo credit: )
Hours after Imad Mughniyeh, a senior Hizbullah commander and suspected terrorist mastermind, was assassinated in Damascus this week, Israeli lawmakers and defense officials responded to accusations that the Mossad was responsible for the assassination. Their denials, and other voices from the Western world, were quickly translated into Arabic and offered, for the first time, by an Israeli-run Web site speaking to the Arab world in its own language. "To communicate and reach the Arab world, it is important to communicate in their own language. We are seeking to translate materials from progressive and democratic voices in the West into Arabic, and make them available to Arab peoples in the Middle East who otherwise cannot access the material," said Zvi Mazel, a former Israeli ambassador to Egypt and the head of the new site which regularly translates articles, speeches, and other material into Arabic. Mazel, whose project falls under the auspices of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs think tank, has a history of involvement with similar projects. He has already created a site on the center's Web site which translates Arabic texts into Hebrew, to allow Israelis better insight into emerging thinking from the Arab-speaking world. His new site, which was launched three months ago and is already receiving 800 visitors each month, currently translates up to 14 new items each week into Arabic. "We look for new articles each day that will bring new insight and voices to this region," said Mazel. "We are already getting back feedback and hope to grow and establish a broader audience." Looking over e-mails that he has received this week, Mazel recounts several messages congratulating the new site for the information it has provided. One reader, from Yemen, added that he would like to find ways to work "in cooperation with the site to stop" extremist Muslim voices that are dominating the region. Other readers, however, blast the site as a "Zionist enterprise" that will not gain readership within the Arab world. "Of course, I know we cannot reach everyone - and we won't appeal to everyone. At least now this information is out their and available in Arabic," said Mazel. There has been a renewed interest in translating Western texts into Arabic in recent years. The Kalima project, based out of Abu Dhabi, Dubai, recently announced that it was translating Isaac Bashevis Singer's The Collected Stories. Singer, a Jewish author based in New York, dominated the Yiddish writing scene for decades. The project has already translated a number of other famous texts ranging from Khaled Hosseini's recent blockbuster, The Kite Runner, to Baruch Spinoza's Ethics.