Against the backdrop of Israel’s controversial new nation-state law, which critics charge downgraded Arabic from an official language to “a language with a special status,” a headline yesterday in Haaretz‘s English edition falsely alleged that the Knesset speaker refused a letter from an Arab lawmaker because it was written in Arabic (“Knesset speaker rejects Arab lawmaker’s resignation letter — because it was written in Arabic“). In response to communication from CAMERA’s Israel office, Haaretz editors amended the headline to make clear that Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein would not sign the Arabic letter because he does not speak Arabic, and could not understand the resignation letter submitted by MK Wael Younis (Joint List).
Adelstein’s [sic] office explained that the speaker would not sign a letter which he cannot read, and demanded it be resubmitted in Hebrew. Adelstein had the letter translated by Knesset staff and signed onto the Hebrew version.
“The Knesset members tried to pull a fast one when they submitted a letter to me in a language that I do not know,” the speaker said in a statement. “I respect the Arabic language, but cannot sign on a letter that I can’t read.”
Thus, if Edelstein did know the language, presumably he would have signed the Arabic version. Thus, contrary to the headline’s implication, there was no inherent refusal to accept the language because the speaker deemed it intrinsically unacceptable.
Indeed, the headline of the Hebrew version of the very same article accurately states (CAMERA’s translation): “Edelstein refused to sign an Arabic resignation letter because he doesn’t speak the language.”
Editors at Haaretz‘s English edition agreed that the English headline required clarification, and commendably amended the headline to accurately state: “Knesset Speaker Refuses to Sign Lawmaker’s Resignation Letter in Arabic Because He Doesn’t Speak It.” Haaretz also amended the subheadline which had originally stated: “Speaker Yuli Edelstein only accepted the resignation after the letter was translated to Hebrew.” The amended subheadline replaces the passive voice with active voice, as it was Edelstein himself who sent the letter for translation, so that he could understand it and subsequently sign.