Media Development Center hosts symposium on Israeli-sourced translations, Palestinian narrative

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The Media Development Center at Birzeit University organized a symposium on the Palestinian media’s relationship to its Israeli and Hebrew counterparts, on Tuesday, August 7, 2018.

The symposium, entitled “Translating Hebrew: Between Fact and Narrative,” was held together with the Arab Center for Media Freedom, Development and Research – I’lam, and stressed the need to establish a Palestinian agency that monitors incitement in Israeli news media and produces reports that are published to Western consulates and embassies.

The attendees argued that the nonexistence of an official Palestinian narrative has caused a real crisis in the Palestinian media landscape. To counter Israeli narratives, and the spread of rumors, attendees said, there has to be a Palestinian narrative that originates from real-life events.

Nibal Thawabteh, director of the Media Development Center, noted that the importance of such symposia lies in their ability to approach translations of Israeli news media articles, and their impact on the local Palestinian readership and viewership.

Kholod Massalha, director of I’lam, said that impartiality in news coverage is unrealistic, explaining that “we as Palestinians are naturally partial to the Palestinian cause and Palestinian victims. It’s a shame that the Palestinian news media is still operating reactively to sustain our Palestinian identity.”

Emad Alasfar, the monitoring and evaluation coordinator at the Media Development Center, remarked that the symposium was held to discuss, and guide, translations from Israeli news media, such that it can be utilized to “benefit Palestinian media and craft accurate and safe news articles.”

The symposium comprised two sessions. The first, entitled “The Boundaries of Translation and Narrative Fact-checking,” featured journalists concerned with Israeli affairs such as Khaldoun Barghouti, Mohammed Abu Allan, and Wade Awawdeh, and was chaired by Alasfar.

The second session, entitled “Nomenclature and the Israeli Narrative,” featured Esmat Mansour and Fayez Abbas, and was moderated by Kholoud Masalhah. Walid Omary, chief of Al Jazeera’s Jerusalem Bureau, commented on the findings and recommendations of both sessions.

The recommendations of the symposium, which was funded by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), ranged from highlighting the source and agenda of the writer when translating news articles to making a distinction between fact and narrative.

The attendees also underscored using Palestinian nomenclature instead of Israeli terms and names, as doing so bolsters Palestinian identity, geography, and consciousness, while stressing that translations of Israeli news media reports and articles have to paint a complete picture of the Israeli society.

The recommendations also included maximizing the role that the official Palestinian news media plays in conveying the Palestinian narrative; holding workshops for journalists, translators, and politicians to organize and streamline the complementary relationship of the three parties; and establishing centers that monitor, and translate, Israeli news media in all aspects of life, not just politics.

Additionally, the attendees stressed the need for a unified Palestinian narrative based on a united political front, noting that political division has negatively impacted journalism and the media landscape in Palestine.