Lost in anti-Zionist translation? Guardian misquotes Noam Shalit on Palestinian hostage taking

Phoebe Greenwood, writing for the Guardian on March 16, claimed, in a sensational headline and accompanying text in the lead passage, that Noam Shalit, the father of the Israeli soldier (Gilad Shalit) held hostage for five years by Hamas, said (during an interview with Israeli TV) that “he would kidnap Israeli soldiers if he were a Palestinian.”

Well, JTA had a Hebrew-speaking colleague track down the interview with Israel’s Channel 10 and it turns out Shalit didn’t say that at all.

Here’s a transcript (translated from Hebrew) of what Shalit actually said:

Q. So you support talking to Hamas?

Shalit: I support talking to anyone.

Q. Including Hamas?

Shalit: Including Hamas. Everyone who wants to talk with us.

Q. As a Knesset member, would you go out tomorrow to talk with [Hamas Prime Minister Ismail] Haniyeh?

Shalit: Haniyeh’s not yet ready to recognize us. Unfortunately, it hasn’t happened yet.

Q. And if he recognizes us?

Shalit: If and when we get the bridge, we’ll cross it. Of course.

Q. That is, even if the kidnappers of Gilad themselves one day are senior officials in the Palestinian administration and agree to recognize Israel, you would sit with them as an Israeli Knesset member.

Shalit: Presumably — I said that if they change their ways and are prepared to recognize us and recognize that there is a Jewish state, that there’s Israel, there’s the State of Israel, yes, and they stop the war against then yes – absolutely.

Q. Shake his hand?

Shalit: Yes.

Shalit: How did Barak say? If I were Palestinian, it’s possible I too would be a terrorist or a freedom fighter — how they call them — or something else.

Q: If you were a Hamasnik, would you abduct an Israeli soldier?

Shalit: I don’t know but maybe I would fight IDF forces in a different way, I don’t know.

Q: But you don’t rule it out.

Shalit: If I were a Palestinian?

Q: Yes, abducting a soldier to release prisoners.

Shalit: We also kidnapped British officers way back when, when we were fighting for our freedom.

Clearly, Shalit didn’t say that he would kidnap an Israeli soldier if he were a Palestinian, as Greenwood definitively claimed.  He essentially suggested that he didn’t know exactly what he would do if he were a Palestinian, while stating that (if he were Palestinian) he might have tried to fight the Israeli army in a different way.” 

Shalit, during the interview, also evidently said (as reported by The JC) that the Prime Minister should have imposed financial sanctions on Gaza while his son in captivity. He said:

”As soon as they capture an Israeli soldier and are not willing to release him and asking for such a price, you should put the pressure on them, including stopping the transfer of money.”

So, its clear that Shalit gave an equivocal, nuanced and, at times, somewhat contradictory answer to the question of Palestinian hostage taking.

But, the Guardian’s Greenwood, and her editors, either didn’t attempt to get an accurate Hebrew translation, or simply decided to go with the most sensational, pro-Palestinian, narrative possible.

The Guardian headline is egregiously misleading, and yet thoroughly consistent with a media group continually in search of “evidence” to buttress their a priori anti-Israel conclusions – reports which often seem intent on suggesting a moral equivalence between Israel and her terrorist enemies.

Similarly, recall a Guardian report, back when Gilad Shalit was released from Gaza in Oct. 2011, focusing on a gaunt, weary, and beleaguered Shalit who was forced to endure an interview on Egyptian TV shortly before his release to Israel.  

Chris McGreal, whose reports of the Hebrew interview with Shalit seem to have been at least partially based on Tweets in English he read throughout the Q&A, by those watching the Egyptian TV interview, wrote:

[Shalit] was asked whether, now that he was free, he would campaign for the release of remaining Palestinian prisoners. He said it would make him very happy to see all Palestinian prisoners released.

But, as Ynet and other media noted.

Asked whether he will campaign for the release of the other Palestinian prisoners held in Israel, Shalit said “I would be happy if they are released, on condition that they stop fighting against Israel.”

That enormous qualifier was somehow omitted by McGreal – a report never revised despite our complaint to Guardian editors – in a manner not disimilar to Greenwood’s gross mischaracterization of what Noam Shalit said more recently.

As I’ve written before, but what can’t repeated often enough, the Guardian can not reasonably be seen a serious newspaper in any real sense of the word.

Rather, the institution represents far left political activism under the guise of journalism.

10 replies »

    • Noam Shalit does say that he would not rule out abducting Israeli soldiers if he were a Palestinian. I’m afraid M. Levick did not take the time to read the interview until the end:

      Q: If you were a Hamasnik, would you abduct an Israeli soldier?
      Shalit: I don’t know but maybe I would fight IDF forces in a different way, I don’t know.
      Q: But you don’t rule it out.
      Shalit: If I were a Palestinian?
      Q: Yes, abducting a soldier to release prisoners.
      Shalit: We also kidnapped British officers way back when, when we were fighting for our freedom.

      • You are assuming that by his reference to the abductions of British soldiers in 1947-8 he would employ the same methods. But he did not actually say he would, or that he condones it, or that he thinks Etzel was right to do so.

  1. Duvidl stands to be corrected, but suggests the following non-exhaustive list of languages regularly spoken in Israel, (which almost all have their own Israeli television channels) which Phoebe does not speak:


    Duvidl would be pleased to help assuage Phoebe’s linguistic deficit by finding someone who could probably speak four out of five of these, together with English, to act as her interpreter. The caveat is that Phoebe would have to ditch her mistranslating Arab “fixer.” Duvidl somehow feels certain he will not be taken up on his offer.

  2. “the institution represents far left political activism”

    define far left.

    The Guardian is a guilt-ridden middle class liberal newspaper. They’ve never espoused a single far left policy.

    “[The Guardian] will remain bourgeois to the last” Ted Scott

  3. “Fighting in a different way, I don’t know”, doesn’t sell viewspapers. A Guardian editor isn’t going to pass such juicy irony just because it isn’t true.

    • Very true.

      I wonder if a Palestinian had expressed that ‘if he was a Zionist, he would behave as Israel behaves now, especially in demanding the the Palestinians/Arabs/Muslims recognize Israel as a Jewish state’ would receive any corresponding ‘interest’ from The Guardian.

  4. I listened to the interview ( and the translation above is completely accurate. Since it is unlikely that Greenwood speaks Hebrew, it would be interesting to know which of her “fixers” skillfully doctored Shalit’s response to provide her with the headline she wanted.

    The interview, if one can call it that, was one of the most brutal attacks on a person I have ever seen on TV. It was not really an interview – it was an attempt by a right-wing media person to pin Shalit, who has decided to throw in his lot with the Labor party, into a corner and goad him into saying things that this inexperienced would-be politician no doubt regrets now. After Shalit said that as much as Netanyahu helped with the release of Gilad, he was forced into doing so because polls indicated that 70% or more of the population wanted this to happen, it opened the door to a series of sneers and smears against Shalit for not joining Netanyahu’s party.

    Shalit seems to have no particular agenda in mind, and was unable to provide any specifics as to what he would do, what he would like to change, and how eh would do so, except for for some vague words about improving education in the prerphery outside Israel’s major cities.

    In fact, Greenwood missed what I would regard as two amazing revelations that came out in the interview in her eagerness to try to leverage a mistranslation of the kidnapping question into showing that either Hamas is no worse than Israel or that Israel is a bad as Hamas.

    First, Noam Shalit and his brother Yoel were soldiers fighting in Sinai (Noam) and the Golan (Yoel) in the Yom Kippur War during their period of compulsory military service. Yoel was captured by the Syrians, and killed by them while a POW. Gilad’ s elder brother is named after Yoel. Noam denies that that experience was what drove him to try to release his son (in response to what might be one of the stupidest questions ever posed in an interview) but that obviously it was in hos mind the whole time.

    Second, Shalit said that everything changed (for the better) when Netanyahu became PM. In a meeting, Netanyahu simply said to the Shalits that he would bring their son home. In contrast, former PM Olmert told the Shalits that, in Olmert’s exact words, he had “no contract with any citizen that he would bring their son back from captivity”.

    Now, that is something I for one would never have imagined I would hear from an Israel PM. People like BG, Eshkol, Meir, Rabin, Begin, msut be turning in their graves.

  5. Your comparison with McGreal – the author of the lies about Israel providing nuclear weapons technology to South Africa – and Greenwood is sadly compelling.