After Babel


After Babel


For then will I turn to the people a pure languageZephaniah 3:9



Say What?


Translations between unrelated languages are difficult; sometimes they are simply impossible without accompanying explanations. Different customs, different ways of expressing ideas, different linguistic structures; an amazing example of this is Moses, a sculpture by Michelangelo, housed in the church of San Pietro in Vincoli in Rome. Commissioned by Pope Julius II for his tomb, it depicts the Biblical figure Moses.

The sculpture was based on the Vulgata, the Latin translation of the Bible used at that time, and depicts Moses with two horns.+ St. Jerome had translated the Hebrew text in the 4th century, and translated “keren” as “horn” while the word was used in the meaning of “ray.” A radiant Moses was immortalized as a horned Moses.

This error was unintentional. The translator had no bad intentions and the sculptor was unable to check out the faithfulness of the text. The problem still exists today; the translation machines available on the web perform poorly with Hebrew. Thus, Hebrew speakers who do not command other languages at a reading level (and this holds for most speakers of Hebrew as their main language) totally depend on translated material for getting information.

This reality has created a powerful tool for population control; the State of Israel is taking full advantage of this. Hebrew media is controlled by the Editors’ Committee; printed books always lead to AKUM (see later), online material is even easier to censor. I often report here about the odd reactions of Israelis, for example in Haredim: “Better to serve in the Nazi Army than in the IDF.” More often than not, these reactions are the result of manipulations. Denizens are fed with institutional disinformation, creating modern parallels to a horned Moses.

Israelis fear their oppressive government more than anything else.++ Recently, an awesome example of censorship was provided by the censors themselves.

Religious Censorship


Not all censorship relates to security issues. Religious censorship is also common, especially through State-run lists determining one’s religious affiliation. This determines rights from the State, and debts toward it. It determines how one is born, marries and dies. Changing that is practically impossible. Yet, when it reaches ridicule, hiding the charade is impossible. The left picture above shows a snapshot taken from Shironet, a commercial Israeli website offering lyrics of Hebrew songs and poetry.

It shows their rendering of a poem by Yehuda Amichai, who is considered by many to be the most prestigious Hebrew poet of the 20th century. Next to it is a scan of the same song as written by the poet. I won’t translate it out of mercy towards my readers, just let me say that the word “God” as written by this secular person, was changed in the website to fit the preferences of Ultra-Orthodox Jews (“elokim” instead of “elohim”).

A related testimony of how serious the situation is the company itself. Founded in 2002, the following year it signed an agreement with AKUM (see later), and in 2012, it was purchased by Mako. After the sabotage was published by the Israeli mainstream media on February 28, 2013, Mako claimed that the error predates their ownership and that they have no way of checking out when it was committed.

Moreover, they had the insolence to say that they cannot perform a check on hundreds of thousands of documents that they publish in their website; they don’t need to because the establishment won’t touch them. Apparently, this went on for years with nobody noticing. Censorship of prominent authors is easy when people’s access to information is controlled by the state. Israel has created the parallel of Newspeak, the new formal language introduce by Big Brother in George Orwell’s 1984. Yet, most of the world considers this oppressive state a democracy. I’m impressed by the skill shown by my Big Brother.

Dorit Akerling from “Keren [ray, horn] Publishers,” Modern Censor After Babel: Aspects of Language and Translation

Considering the Israeli average education level (low), I have no doubt that AKUM founders have no idea that they were insulting themselves when they baptized their organization.

AKUM is a Hebrew acronym for “Organization of Compositors, Authors and Publishers.” The words used for “compositors” is foreign, for some reason they banned its Hebrew counterpart. The point is that the acronym created sounds like one used by religious Jews, which means “Worshippers of Stars and Astrology.”

It is a polite reference to pagans, and plays on its sound similarity to the word “crooked.” This bent organization is a member of CISAC, The International Confederation of Societies of Authors and Composers; in other words, they collect copyrights and transfer them to authors after deducting a generous commission for themselves. In 2004, AKUM was declared a monopoly; in 2011, this was sanctioned by the Court. The State loves monopolies because they are easy to control.

Thus, AKUM is to the literary world, what the Editors’ Committee is to newspapers. The latter is a body that enforces censorship policies on Hebrew media. Most recently it came to the headlines when Prime Minister Netanyahu met with them in an attempt to censor the Australian Prisoner X Affair, as it is known in Israel. All books published in Israel are monitored by AKUM; publishers are members of it and follow its policies. What are its policies?

On March 1, Yediot Aharonoth published an article titled “Unfree Translation,” by Yotam Schwimmer, which analyzes the translation of foreign books to Hebrew. Relatively few books are translated every year (several hundred), and mainly from English, French, German and Russian. Every year a few “exotic” books are translated; oddly, the term “exotic” was specifically expanded to Indian, Greek, Albanian, and Japanese. Dorit Akerling from “Keren [ray, horn] Publishers,” said that her decision what to publish originates on recommendations and her assessment of which books will sell best.

This situation is reported by most publishers; even those who claim that their enterprises “are not commercial” (for example Nahar Books, and the “New Library”) admit having personal agendas in their choices. Serious anti-Zionist literature is never translated. Books portraying the Palestinian side of the conflict have no chance of being considered, unless they create an unfavorable image (see Israelis say: “A Good Arab is a Dead Arab”). Books offering alternative, non-Zionist explanations of events are not translated.

Israeli citizens live in an anti-Babel, purposely isolated by their oppressive government from what happens in the world. Netanyahu may say: “I’ve been chosen democratically, and I can declare war;” what he means is, “I have isolated and then manipulated the People.”

+ Exodus 34:29-30 And it came to pass, when Moses came down from mount Sinai with the two tables of testimony in Moses’ hand, when he came down from the mount, that Moses wist not that the skin of his face shone while he talked with him. And when Aaron and all the children of Israel saw Moses, behold, the skin of his face shone; and they were afraid to come nigh him.

++ I grew up in a kibbutz in the Valley, the situation there was so frightening, that the only critique we dared to utter was, “work is our life, but not for us” (“haavoda eeh chayeynu, ach lo bishbileinu”). In other words, “we are slaves.” So many years after I left, it still sounds to me like a frightening variation on Nazi “Arbeit macht frei” (“work makes [you] free”).


We See The World From All Sides and Want YOU To Be Fully Informed
In fact, intentional disinformation is a disgraceful scourge in media today. So to assuage any possible errant incorrect information posted herein, we strongly encourage you to seek corroboration from other non-VT sources before forming an educated opinion.

About VT - Policies & Disclosures - Comment Policy
Due to the nature of uncensored content posted by VT's fully independent international writers, VT cannot guarantee absolute validity. All content is owned by the author exclusively. Expressed opinions are NOT necessarily the views of VT, other authors, affiliates, advertisers, sponsors, partners, or technicians. Some content may be satirical in nature. All images are the full responsibility of the article author and NOT VT.
Previous articleTop 10 Veterans Stories in Today’s News – March 04, 2013
Next articleThe Commitment of the Intellectual
Roi Tov is a graduate—among others—of Tel Aviv University and the Weizmann Institute of Science. In addition to his memoir, Tov is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Molecular Physics and other scientific journals. He won various travel writing and photography awards. In his writings, he tries to reveal life in Israel as a Christian Israel Defense Force (IDF) officer—from human rights violations to the use of an extensive network of underground agents. He was recognized first as a refugee and subsequently as political prisoner of Bolivia.