“Past Perfect: Memories of Language and the Politics of Arabic in the Jewish Community of Mandate Palestine”
Assistant Professor in the Department of HistoryUniversity of Colorado-Boulder
Thursday, April 6, 2017 4:00 p.m.
Memorial Union (800 Langdon)
Festival Room (Lower level)
As the Jewish community of interwar Palestine became ever more distant from the Palestinian Arab community, and locked in ever more intractable conflict, some of the earlier immigrants in that population–both European and Middle Eastern–felt nostalgia for the late 19th century past when, they imagined, Jews had had more organic relationships with the Arabs of Palestine. While these memories were not always based in fact, collective memories about Jewish knowledge of Arabic were an important way that these older Jewish communities made claims about their nativeness in the land, touted their ability to resolve conflict, and critiqued those Zionists leaders whom they felt were approaching the Zionist-Arab conflict in the wrong way. This talk will consider the politics of language in a highly contested national setting, interactions between European (Ashkenazi) and Middle Eastern (Sephardi and Mizrahi) Jews in Palestine during the late 19th century, and the way the telling of the past serves political purposes in each of our evolving presents.