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Media Analyses





Ha'aretz Lost in Translation: Whitewashing a Stabbing


Ha'aretz translators are at it again: downplaying Palestinian violence for the benefit of its English readers by wrongly translating the original Hebrew article, and even inserting false information that doesn't appear in the Hebrew.

The latest case of "Ha'aretz Lost in Translation" involves the English print edition's coverage yesterday of the story of Yael Shalom, a resident of Moshav Sde Avraham who on Monday protected her four young children from a Palestinian who infiltrated her home near the Gaza Strip and stabbed her in the shoulder and face. When Israeli soldiers chased after the assailant in an attempt to arrest him, he suspiciously ran towards them with a knife shouting "Allah Akhbar," and the forces fatally shot him.

The translators' reckless manipulations begin, but don't end, with the headline. The headline in the Ha'aretz English print edition yesterday was:

 
 
 
 
 
The Hebrew headline, in contrast, was: "Suspected terror attack: Palestinian broke into a home in Eshkol and stabbed a woman."
 
 

While the English headline reflects "last-first reporting," reporting the effect before the cause, the Hebrew headline rightly focuses on the stabbing attack. While the English headline speaks of a non-specific "assault" (which could be anything from spitting, hitting to stabbing), the Hebrew correctly specifies the nature of the attack: a stabbing.

In addition, the English headline falsely states that the assailant was a "teen" -- a factual error which requires correction. According to the Hebrew article, the assailant "was in his twenties," a fact left out of the English article, though the first paragraph in English refers to him as "a young Arab man." How does the English headline writer get "teen" out of "young man"?

But it's not just his age that translators botch. It's also his origin. While the Hebrew headline refers to a "Palestinian" assailant, the English headline refers to an "Arab." The discrepancy between the two versions regarding the man's origin becomes more pronounced in the articles themselves. While the English edition insists that the man's origin is unknown, suggesting he may well be an Israeli Arab or an Arab from elsewhere, the Hebrew edition is clear that the assailant is a Palestinian from Gaza who breached the fence.

Thus, the English version, which is attributed to Gili Cohen and Yanir Yagna as well as agencies, begins:

Israeli security defense officials say they still do not know the identity, origin or motives of a young Arab man who was shot dead by soldiers yesterday after breaking into a home near the Gaza Strip border before dawn and stabbing a woman who was alone inside with her four young children.

The Israel Defense Forces initially investigated the incident as an attempted terror attack by a Palestinian from the Gaza Strip, but the perpetrator's identification has not been established yet and robbery has not been ruled out as a motive. (Emphasis added.)

The end of the English article reinforces the false notion that the man's origins are unknown, stating:

Initial reports described the intruder as an Israeli Bedouin man, but defense officials later said there was evidence suggesting that he was a Palestinian from the Gaza Strip who had crossed the border fence.

But the defense officials did not just say there was "evidence suggesting" he was a Palestinian from Gaza. They in fact said he was from Gaza. The day before the Ha'aretz story appeared, the AFP reported:

"A suspect from the Gaza Strip infiltrated the community of Sde Avraham and stabbed a woman inside her home. She was lightly injured," the [army] spokesperson told AFP.

The Hebrew article, as opposed to the English version, does not state that the man's "origins" are unknown. Instead, it identifies him as Palestinian, and reports that he infiltrated from the Gaza Strip. The article, also by Cohen and Yagna, but not agencies, begins (CAMERA's translation):

The security forces have yet to define yesterday's infiltration in Moshav Sde Avraham, involving a Palestinian who stabbed a woman, fled, and was then shot to death, as a robbery that went awry or a terror attack.

In the hours following the incident, the IDF referred to the incident as a terror event, with an army source saying that the suspect entered into the community "armed with a knife, attacked a woman, ran for his life, as he mumbled "Allah Akhbar."

Nevertheless, later captains clarified that the incident is still being investigated. The security forces have said that the identity of the armed man is still not known and thus his intentions are unknown. The army speculates that the youth, who is in his twenties, crossed the fence from Gaza. 

A few paragraphs later, the Hebrew edition goes even further, reporting as fact that the Palestinian came from Gaza. The article indicates that in addition to the speculation about the man's motives (terror or botched robbery), there are questions about how (not if) the man breached the Gaza fence. It states: "An analysis of the events raises a number of questions regarding how the Palestinian succeeded in infiltrating Israel in addition to questions about his intentions." (Similarly, the Times of Israel reported the day of the attack: "The IDF later stated that the Palestinian man cut through the Israeli border fence undetected, and said it was investigating why the electronic fence and IDF surveillance did not notice his entry to Israel.")
 
In another whitewash of Palestinian violence, the English edition quotes Danny Matzpun, the victim's father, as stating: "The intruder was holding a knife and a stick." But that's not what he actually said. The original Hebrew quotes him: "The intruder was holding a crowbar [in Hebrew, mot] and a knife." Clearly, a crowbar (mot) can inflict a lot more damage than a stick (makel). But not to fear. The intrepid Ha'aretz translator, always on the ready to do damage-control role for the Palestinians, has carefully blunted the "teen's" blows for the delicate international readers.
 
For the Hebrew version of this article, visit Presspectiva.

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