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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Ha'Aretz lost in translation

The key to understanding the significance of this post is to maintain awareness that although Haaretz's English website gets a lot of traffic, its Hebrew newspaper and website are among the least read Israeli newspapers. I used to work in an Israeli government agency with a lot of Leftists, and we used to have to require companies to put legal notices in the newspapers. One of the Leftists once complained about the fact that companies were putting notices in Haredi newspapers. They were told by another Leftist to keep quiet, because the Haredi newspapers had higher circulation than Haaretz.

With that in mind, the significance of the fact that Haaretz 'loses' pertinent facts in translation from its Hebrew edition to its English edition should be obvious.
There’s Ha’aretz in Hebrew and then there’s Ha’aretz in English, and it’s not just language or circulation which sets them apart. (The Hebrew edition of Ha’aretz has a very low circulation in comparison to other Israeli newspapers; its influential English site is the go-to portal for Western journalists, policymakers, diplomats, and a vast public.)

Close reading of both print editions over the course of years has revealed an ongoing pattern. In preparation for the English edition, the Hebrew articles (most Ha’aretz stories are written first in Hebrew) are not merely translated – they’re often also whitewashed. In sometimes dramatic and sometimes subtle cases, time and again, information appearing in the Hebrew original concerning Palestinian militancy, violence and other Arab wrongdoing is downplayed or omitted entirely. In some instances, the English account is completely at odds with the original Hebrew.

For instance, on Jan. 11, 2011, Zvi Barel wrote in Hebrew about a plan by Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat to link the eviction of Jews residing in an illegal building in the neighborhood of Silwan to the eviction of Arabs also living in illegal buildings in the same neighborhood: “A house in which Jews live illegally will be exchanged for a house in which Palestinians live illegally.” (Emphasis added.) The Hebrew report was factually correct.

The English translator, however, whether intentionally or not, gave the sentence an entirely new – and false – meaning, rendering the “illegal” Palestinian house “entirely legal.” The English read: “A house in which Jews live illegally will be exchanged for a house in which Palestinians live entirely legally.” (Emphasis added.) Is this either an entirely innocent slip of the pen or perhaps subconscious editorializing on the translator's part? It's impossible to know, but the introduction of the word "entirely," which does not appear in the Hebrew original, suggests something perhaps more deliberate at play. (The English edition, online and print, was subsequently corrected after Presspectiva, CAMERA's Hebrew site, contacted editors. See "Presspectiva, CAMERA's Hebrew Site, Prompts Improvements," below.)

This case would be striking enough as a stand alone item, but unfortunately it is consistent with a clear trend, which CAMERA has begun to document on its blog (blog.camera.org) but which warrants an extensive published study.
Read it all.

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