Over the last few days, the mainstream media has been making a mountain out of the Hamas Mouse Hill. Yigal Carmon, president and founder of the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), went on air on the Glenn Beck show to say that he stood by the translation. He even complained that there were no Arabic speakers willing to debate with him about MEMRI’s translation.
Well, here’s what Ali Alarabi, a member of CNN’s Arabic desk had to say about MEMRI’s translation:
Was MEMRI actually playing verbal gymnastics? Yes indeed.
The issue here is not simply some error in the translation of this word or that, but actually making new words up and putting them in the mouth of that child to show defamatory evidence against the Palestinians.
MEMRI which stands for Middle East Media Research Institute was established by former Israeli intelligence agents, the Mossad, to police Arabic media for any evidence of anti-Israeli rhetoric.
Yegal… head of MEMRI was interviewed on CNN’S Glen Beck on his radio show and assured Beck that he stands by his translation and blasted CNN’s Arabic desk (which I am a member of) and Octavia Nasr head of the desk for uncovering the forgery by claiming that CNN’s Arabic desk do not know Arabic and they are “hiding” while he is on the other hand out there ready and willing to debate and challenge anyone for his version of the translation.
In my professional opinion, MEMRI’s “translation” is not credible and flat out forgery.
But don’t just take his word for it, here’s a full transcript, courtesy of Professor As’ad Abu Khalil from The Angry Arab News Service:
Meanwhile, Brian Whitaker, at the Guardian Comment is free website, also smelt a rat and it wasn’t Farfour. He agreed that the show had been mistranslated and went on to point out:
Memri, the “research institute” which specialises in translating portions of the Arabic media into English, has issued a video clip from a children’s programme on Hamas TV in which it claims that a Palestinian girl talked of becoming a suicide bomber and annihilating the Jews.
Memri – described by New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman as “invaluable” – supplies translations free of charge to journalists, politicians and others, particularly in the US.
Though Memri claims to be “independent” and maintains that it does not “advocate causes or take sides”, it is run by Yigal Carmon, a former colonel in Israeli military intelligence. Carmon’s partner in setting up Memri was Meyrav Wurmser who in 1996 was one of the authors of the now-infamous “Clean Break” document which proposed reshaping Israel’s “strategic environment” in the Middle East, starting with the overthrow of Saddam Hussein.
…Among those misled by Memri’s “translation” was Glenn Beck of CNN, who had planned to run it on his radio programme, until his producer told him to stop. Beck informed listeners this was because CNN’s Arabic department had found “massive problems” with it.
Instead of broadcasting the tape, Beck then invited Carmon on to the programme and gave him a platform to denounce CNN’s Arabic department, and in particular to accuse one of its staff, Octavia Nasr, of being ignorant about the language.
Carmon related a phone conversation he had had with Ms Nasr:
She said the sentence where it says [in Memri's translation] “We are going to … we will annihilate the Jews”, she said: “Well, our translators hear something else. They hear ‘The Jews are shooting at us’.”
I said to her: “You know, Octavia, the order of the words as you put it is upside down. You can’t even get the order of the words right. Even someone who doesn’t know Arabic would listen to the tape and would hear the word ‘Jews’ is at the end, and also it means it is something to be done to the Jews, not by the Jews.”
And she insisted, no the word is in the beginning. I said: “Octavia, you just don’t get it. It is at the end” … She didn’t know one from two, I mean.
Carmon’s words succeeded in bamboozling Glenn “Israel shares my values” Beck, who told him: “This is amazing to me … I appreciate all of your efforts. I appreciate what you do at Memri, it is important work.”
It was indeed amazing, because in defending Memri’s translation, Carmon took issue not only with CNN’s Arabic department but also with all the Arabic grammar books. The word order in a typical Arabic sentence is not the same as in English: the verb comes first and so a sentence in Arabic which literally says “Are shooting at us the Jews” means “The Jews are shooting at us”.