Political dissidents as translators, editors, and publishers

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Against the backdrop of the British mandatory rule of Palestine (1917–1948), Socialist and Revisionist factions struggled bitterly over the character of the new Israeli culture/nation in the making. Crucial ideological differences intermingled with violent fights over topical problems such as whether resistance to British rule should be violent or subdued and how to face growing Arab aggression. The struggle intensified during World War II when the Socialist Zionist camp, headed by Ben-Gurion, backed the British in the war against Nazi Germany. This camp eventually won, as we know, and dissidents found themselves not only jobless but unable to obtain employment in public office. As a result, many Revisionists turned to the private book industry, becoming translators, editors, and publishers. This essay will describe the conditions that led to this choice and will analyze the options left for Revisionist intellectuals rejected by the mainstream. It will then describe them as a far from homogenized sociopolitical group, analyze their various habituses, then present particular examples of participants in the alternative book industry. It will try to find a correlation between their sociopolitical ideology and their professional behavior. Cases of ex-dissidents that found a way into the mainstream will also be presented. Using a diachronic approach, this article will attempt to sum up their contribution, as well as the effects of the strife (schism, in fact) on Hebrew culture that this work represents. Finally, this article will attempt to incorporate these findings within the framework of the sociological turn, problematizing the application of Bourdieu’s habitus and field theories to the study of translation.


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