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November 07, 2013

Ha'aretz Lost, No Translation Needed


haaretz lede polonium Reuters.jpg

We all know that Ha'aretz has had serious problems with translations. As CAMERA has noted, "information appearing in the Hebrew original concerning Palestinian militancy, violence and other Arab wrongdoing is downplayed or omitted entirely" in the newspaper's English translation, while translators also "introduc[e] misinformation reflecting negatively on Israel which did not appear in the Hebrew original."

But do editors of the Israeli newspaper's English website also change wording around when no translation is even necessary?

The lede of a Nov. 6 Reuters story on the site emphatically and unequivocally reports that "a Swiss forensic team has found that Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat was poisoned to death in 2004 with radioactive polonium." Ha'aretz's headline likewise announces, without even the slightest ambivalence: "Swiss team: Arafat poisoned to death with polonium."

This is surprising. The report by Swiss scientists includes many caveats and what the authors call "critical problems" that hindered the ability to reach emphatic conclusions. That being the case, the report concludes that the study's results "moderately support the proposition that the death was a consequence of poisoning." The authors explicitly opted not to conclude that the results "strongly support" such a determination.

So why would Reuters brush aside the authors' caution and report that the scientists reached a definitive conclusion that Arafat was poisoned?

It seems they didn't. Not one of the Reuters dispatches about Arafat in Reuters' Nov. 6 archive opened with the lede found in Ha'aretz's version of the Reuters story. Instead, each of the five Reuters dispatches, updates, corrections and refiles open with an accurate passage attributing the certain claim of poisoning to Arafat's widow: "Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat was poisoned to death in 2004 with radioactive polonium, his widow Suha said on Wednesday after receiving the results of Swiss forensic tests on her husband's corpse."

Ha'aretz seems to have played with the opening sentence to transform Suha into the Swiss forensic team. As Reuters notes, though, "The Swiss scientists' report, posted in full on Al Jazeera's website, was more cautious" than those who presented the findings as a smoking gun proving Arafat was poisoned. (Strangely, Ha'aretz left this language in, so that the body of its article contradicts its lede.)

If we find that Reuters actually did at some point make the overstatement that "A Swiss forensic team has found that Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat was poisoned to death in 2004 with radioactive polonium," we'll be sure to correct this piece. Meanwhile, Ha'aretz should correct its headline and lede. Reuters never seemed to say, and the Swiss scientists certainly never said, what Ha'aretz makes them out to say.

Posted by GI at November 7, 2013 04:41 PM

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