Talmud in Arabic

Via Paleojudaica.com: The Jerusalem Post reports that a team of Jordanians has translated the Talmud into Arabic.

A think tank on Middle East affairs in Jordan has for the first time published a translation of the Babylonian Talmud in Arabic.

Middle East Studies Center based in Amman produced the 20-volume work, which took six years to complete and is the labor of 95 translators, language experts and editors.

The center’s director Jawad Ahmad refused to speak about the project with The Jerusalem Post and a member of the staff said that Ahmad would not speak with the Israeli press.

The remainder of the JP article consists of Israelis darkly speculating on those evil Moslems and their wicked intentions, in a manner that would not be tolerated if it was Moslems speculating about evil Jews.  Isn’t identity politics, or “politically correct poker”, fun!!  The fun bit is working out who is allowed to criticise who.  But onwards!

On the Talmud Blog, I find more details.  But I also learn that it is on sale for $750.  That is sad, for how many Arabs can afford that?  Let us hope that it becomes accessible more generally online.

Jim Davila comments on the announcement:

I agree that there are precedents that raise potential concerns, and the petty refusal of the center to speak with Israeli journalists is not encouraging. I have discussed the problem of “Talmud libel” here and links. But all that said, Talmud libel depends on selective quotation out of context, and indeed quotations from made-up, spurious sources. To translate the whole Talmud for the purpose of Talmud libel would not only be ridiculous overkill, it would be counterproductive, since it would allow readers to evaluate quotations in context and verify sources. So I think there is good reason to give this translation the benefit of the doubt and not to assume bad motives on the part of the translators. Assuming it has been done accurately, I think the translation of the entire Talmud into Arabic is a welcome development and I hope it is widely read.

This is sound thinking, although I can’t say that I care about thought-crime (and interesting that a term, “Talmud libel”, has already been invented to try to stifle use of the Talmud for anti-Jewish polemic).  Let the Moslems hate the Jews, if they wish, or vice versa. I agree entirely that a complete translation must dispose of out-of-context quotation, and, in general, should be welcome. 

That said, I don’t see how use of mistaken information works, even from the anti-Jewish point of view.  This may be politically naive of me, but let’s explore the idea a bit.

Say that the Jews are truly the scum of the earth intent on screwing over the rest of the world.  This is, I believe, a popular view throughout history wherever Jewish people have lived, so clearly it cannot be true but must be a conspiracy, probably by the Jews, or the bankers, or the freemasons, or someone.  But if it is true, then surely that view does not need to be advanced using forged sources?  The truth would be a better weapon!  And if the Jews are not quite that bad, and buy their round when asked, then none of us need forged unhistorical claims polluting the web and our minds.  We’d all rather have the facts, surely?

But what if the Talmud does contain “Wrong Thinking”?  Well, since I don’t feel any need to tell people what to think, I have to say that I don’t care if the Talmud is indeed stuffed to the brim with Jewish racially motivated hatred of everyone else.  What business is it of ours?  Why shouldn’t it be?  Each race and nation believes that it is the best — although of course only the English are correct here –, and that the rest are just foreigners who are daft or malicious or shifty or Welsh or whatever.  Understanding that, and making allowances for national pride, is what we all used to do.  It used to be called “tolerance”, and it has become a very rare thing. 

Quite why the Jews of that period should not write a book for purposes of self-identification I do not know.  A Byzantine Jew of the 6th century AD who had been threatened and forced to pay money by one of Justinian’s tax-gatherers because he was a Jew has every right, surely, to sit down and compose something vitriolic about “Christians”, if he wishes.  Wouldn’t we, in his shoes? 

Live and let live, and let us crucify the zealots who demand the right to silence others.  With blunt nails.


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