Guardian corrects story with false translation of Noam Shalit interview after his son’s release

On March 17th we posted a piece (“Lost in anti-Zionist translation? Guardian misquotes Noam Shalit on Palestinian hostage taking“) which noted that the Guardian’s Phoebe Greenwood cited an incorrect translation of a Noam Shalit interview on Israeli TV.

According to Greenwood Shalit stated, in the context of discussing his son’s recent release after five-years of captivity by Hamas, that he would kidnap Israeli soldiers if he were a Palestinian.

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: 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.

Clearly, Shalit didn’t say that he would kidnap an Israeli soldier if he were a Palestinian, as Greenwood 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.” 

In the Guardian’s ‘Corrections and clarifications’ section today, there was this.

Those of you fluent in Hebrew may want to read the text of the interview at the Israeli site here and let us know whether the incorrect translation could have been an honest “misinterpretation”. 

16 replies »

  1. There’s no way the incorrect translation was an honest mistake. The words are quite clear, and the TV show even has subtitles so there’s no excuse of not understanding the spoken words. The moment comes at 12:31 minutes into the video (out of 39+). I took a screenshot to show you. (I hope this works…).

      • I’ll cross-post what I wrote from the other column about this journalistic disaster:

        I listened to the interview ( and the translation CW Provided 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 he would do so, except for for some vague words about improving education in the periphery 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 his 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, must be turning in their graves.

    • Anne, oh but there are ways to excuse these gross misconducts, according to guardian standards. “zionists” subtitles are all lies unlike the Arab trustworthy ones….

  2. Another bizarre footnote to this issue is that apparently Sherwood was there or also spoke to Noam Shalit separately. In a rare exception, her column on this interview was open for comments and someone asked her if she had spoken to Noam Shalit. Its as if the Guardian has appointed two KGB officers, Sherwood and Greenwood, to keep watch on each other in classic Stalinist style:


    10 May 2012 11:55AM

    Ms Sherwood

    It is difficult to tell from this piece whether you actually interviewed Noam & Aviva Shalit yourself? Out of interest, did you?


    10 May 2012 12:52PM

    Three responses:


    2. Yes (to JackofDiamonds) I interviewed Noam Shalit in Jerusalem on Monday

    • Thanks for the background – I had no idea that Noam’s brother had been captured and killed – thank God that he got his son back in one piece. As for Olmert’s statement, astonishing.

      Re Sherwood’s latest piece – I am uncertain whether she interviewed the Shalit’s at the time that Greenwood filed her piece or whether she has interviewed the Shalits recently… I would be surprised if she had had an ‘exclusive’ as this latest piece and her response to JackofDiamonds would seem to imply. Does anyone know whether the Shalits have been interviewed by a journalistic pack recently?

      • John – I wrote about Sherwood before I had time to see the interview. It is clear that Sherwood interviewed Shalit on a different occasion, in Jeruslaem. What is not clear from Greenwood’s article is that SHE NEVER INTERVIEWED SHALIT AND WAS NEVER PRESENT DURING THE INTERVIEW which was conducted by Amnion Levi of Channel 10.

        In fact, Greenwood’s article is about as close to blatant plagiarism dished up as journalism as one can get.

    • Actually, for The Guardian, it is a promotional issue. Israel haters get ‘booted upstairs’ for being consistently hostile to the Zionist Entity.

  3. My Hebrew is only up to ‘Kitah gimmel’ officially, but even I got it. Some might say it doesn’t matter, but it absolutely does. This was a deliberate twist and any journalist, quite obviously, should check sources and translations at a bare minimum.

    A rudimentary deliberate fail, which could, (as they knew it would), have headline consequences – the message was clear in it’s intent: look, see, even Gilad’s dad agrees with us.

    • This was a deliberate twist and any journalist, quite obviously, should check sources and translations at a bare minimum.

      I doubt that The Guardian employs much in the way of real journalists. Mostly only Guardian hacks whose articulation is poor but their hate of the US and Israel is prominent.

  4. Phoebe Greenwood,Harriet Sherwood,what’s with the wood.

    It must be wood for brains………………