How do you say “Muggle” in Arabic? Arabic-speaking Israelis have never known. The Harry Potter series coined the term to refer to individuals not blessed with magical powers, but due to a Byzantine bit of Israeli legislation, Arabic translations of Potter—along with Shakespeare, Marques, Moliere, and others—were verboten in the Jewish state. A 1939 law passed by the British authorities in pre-state Palestine and adopted by the Israeli government shortly after the country’s birth declared it illegal to import books from hostile nations. The majority of Arabic translations of international literature are published in Lebanon and Syria, which meant that most Arabic-language literature was banned from Israel. But, finally, that’s about to change. A special cabinet committee recently expressed its support for a new bill that would allow Israeli companies to import Syrian- and Lebanese-published titles. According to the new proposal, which is slated to pass in the coming days, any Arabic book would be permitted into the country, just as long as it does not incite to violence, deny the Holocaust, or provides instructions on how to prepare explosive devices. Harry should be safe.
The Ministers’ Committee Approves: Books Translated in Syria Will Be Sold in Israel [Haaretz, in Hebrew]
Liel Leibovitz is editor at large for Tablet Magazine and a host of its weekly culture podcast Unorthodox and daily Talmud podcast Take One.