It was just a few weeks ago that the first copy of the Talmud Bavli
in Arabic landed in Israel
and it seemed like this was the beginning of a beautiful friendship. Yet it has become apparent that the translation which was carried out by the Center for Middle Eastern Studies (CMES) in Jordan includes more than a few anti-Jewish and anti-Zionist political messages.
Dr. Raquel Ukeles, curator of the Israel's National Library Arabic collection, who read the introduction in Arabic said that in the text, the Talmud is "very clearly accused of racism." In fact, it is so clearly stated that one section of the introduction is simply titled "racism in the Talmud."
The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) website presents quotes from the introduction to the text: "These texts confirm the racist and hostile perception toward the non-Jews, especially those who threaten the ‘chosen nation’ and stand in the way of its ambitions and hopes.
"There is no doubt that Israel is the best example of this racist position, both in the level of its daily crimes against the Palestinians and the level of its rejection and contempt for international resolutions and laws.
Anti Israeli message? The new Talmud
"For what applies to other countries in the world does not apply to contemporary Israel, as it is unique...Jews, according to this racist position (of the Talmud), are permitted to do what is not permitted for non-Jews.”
The conclusion states that: “The Talmudic heritage has a significant impact on the formulation of Jewish identity based on holy (principles of) racial isolation…It (the Talmud) also established the extreme positions that advocate hatred toward non-Jews, the violation of their rights and looting of their lands and property.”
The curator explains that what is especially intriguing about the introduction is the attempt to link Zionism and Judaism. "Up to now the Muslim approach was that Zionism is a variation on European nationality that made its way to the provinces of the Middle East," she noted.
"In contrast, the introduction states that the deciphering of the Talmud will also help to better understand Zionism. Linking the two is a rather abnormal occurrence in the internal-Muslim debate."
Yet in spite of the racist tone of the introduction Ukeles is not rushing to judge the translation on the basis of its introduction alone. "The translation itself is not bad, and when you take into consideration that the team of researchers who wrote it are not Talmud experts, then their work is not bad at all.
"Apparently the version they had before them was a copy of the Talmud in Aramaic but they often used the English Schottenstein translation to better understand the text. I believe there is a certain gap between the relative fairness of the translation itself and the problematic introduction.
"I believe the introduction is a kind of lip service meant to appease the Arab reader who has a set agenda on Israel. I believe that eventually after all the reservations, it seems that the results of the project will be positive as the translation itself is useful and will allow Arab speakers to become familiar with Judaism from a perspective disconnected of the Israel-Arab conflict.
"Today's knowledge of Judaism in the Arab world is meager and filled with stereotypes. I believe these stereotypes will fade away for the reader who goes beyond the introduction."