On Naming and Translating in Palestine

Contributors:

Published

In this text, Bekriah Mawasi questions the ways through which the Palestinian struggle for liberation is translated into English, often creating unnecessary equivalences, as well as inadequate adaptations to a framework made by and for others. She brings our attention to the crucial site that naming constitutes, both in the transmission of specificities and in cultivating memory.

Calling things by their name where I live is a strenuous daily exercise. By the end of each day I flashback the language I uttered throughout the passing hours in three lingual modes, making sure they align and accommodate my intention to its purpose. I find solace in language and, with translation, I manage the ghosts of otherness, of receiving and perceiving. The diglossic nature of Arabic teaches me to adapt and look forward to a nuanced understanding fluctuating between crystal-clear thoughts through classical Arabic, and the instant lexicon of emotions that saturate the vernacular. I often find myself designing habits to cleanse my imagination from the redundant derivatives of outsourced information about what I see in front of my eyes, and attracting to the frame what is invisible.

An ecological park named Hiriya Recycling Park as it appears on Google Maps, might seem like a 21st century celebratory green extravaganza where “making the garbage bloom” is a conscious act to save the planet, yet it carries the name of a destroyed Palestinian village which was completely covered by waste. lf a river has a name on a sign planted on its bank, I would usually skip the sign and hope to find the Arabic name of the river online, using my multilingual skills, relying on my family’s knowledge, or looking it up in a book I trust. This might sound like an etymological approach, but in fact it is an act that undoes erasure.

The bizarre common meaning of being a Palestinian relies on unseeing and all the what ifs possible, that in one hand, while on the other I need to excavate history from my ancestors using a fork, turning temporality into a long waiting line in a liminal space where a ‘start-up nation’ is rising.

Some time in the late 2000s, I was on a student bus to campus, when a tall blonde man with a backpack slung over his shoulder noticed my necklace pendant.: