Sunday, October 31, 2010

Two wrongs

From AP:
One of Egypt's best-selling novelists lashed out on Friday at an unauthorized Hebrew translation of his best known novel, describing it as intellectual "theft."

Alaa al-Aswany told AP that he will sue an Israeli center for translating his hit book, "The Yacoubian Building," without his permission.

The Israel-Palestine Center for Research and Information acknowledged it translated the novel against al-Aswany's will on the grounds of "expanding cultural awareness."

The center's founder, Gershon Baskin, said that al-Aswany is against culture normalization with Israel and that is why he turned down several requests to translate the novel into Hebrew.
In consultation with the organization's board, Baskin said, he decided to offer a link to a PDF file of the Hebrew translation, sending it out to the 27,000 people on the group's e-mail list.

"This man apparently rejects the fact that his country has been at peace with Israel for 30 years," Baskin said. "With all due respect to his copyright privileges, we decided it was important for people here to read this book. Let's give the Israeli Jewish public an opportunity to understand Arab society better."

Al-Aswany, a dentist-turned novelist, said bringing up his opposition to normalization with Israel was an attempt to distract from what he characterized as a theft.

"The fact is someone's intellectual property has been stolen and that this happened in Israel, a country that claims to be democratic," he said.
For al-Aswany to be against translating his novel to Hebrew is stupid and bigoted.

But that doesn't give the ICPRI the right to publish it and distribute it for free without giving al=Aswany royalties. If they had published it, sold it and given his the proceeds, they might have an argument, but to use al-Aswany's bigotry to justify IPCRI's theft is a bit outlandish.

I find it especially ironic that the same Gershon Baskin wrote an op-ed in the Jerusalem Post last month about the peace process, saying that both sides are right but "two rights don't make a wrong." Perhaps he should re-visit the original expression that he was twisting.