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Palestine - Abbas adulation gets lost in translation

By David Singer - posted Friday, 28 October 2011

PLO Chairman Mahmoud Abbas has been often criticized for making statements in English that are contradicted by other statements made by him in Arabic. Abbas has continued this art of doublespeak first perfected by his predecessor Yasser Arafat - tailoring his views to the audience that he is addressing.

What is equally as sinister - and indeed should perhaps be regarded with even more alarm - is the apparent attempt by some sections of the media to put Abbas in a favorable light by deliberately mistranslating into English what he says in Arabic.

This is illustrated by considering two differing versions of remarks made by Abbas - when greeting some of the convicted terrorists released in exchange for the captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.


The Guardian reported Mr Abbas as saying:

'Your efforts have not been in vain,' he told a crowd of thousands, which included 133 of the freed prisoners. 'You have sacrificed, fought and paid the price.'

This identical quote was also carried by such media outlets as UTV News and NewsRack.

Sky News however reported Mr Abbas's speech in different terms:

Your sacrifices and your efforts and your work has not been in vain. You have sacrificed and fought...

This version was also carried by Lebanon News and The Australian Newspaper.


The discrepancy between both reports is glaring .

The omission of "your work" in the Guardian story cannot be described as "nitpicking" or "inconsequential." Such omission could not have been purely accidental or due to the Guardian's translator having less of a grasp of Arabic than the Sky News translator.

If Abbas was to be seen in Western eyes as openly and publicly condoning and praising the "work" of these released terrorists - it could well have an adverse affect on Abbas's image as a peace-seeking diplomat presently touring world capitals to enlist support for the PLO's application for recognition of the State of Palestine and its admission as a member of the United Nations.

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About the Author

David Singer is an Australian Lawyer, a Foundation Member of the International Analyst Network and Convenor of Jordan is Palestine International - an organisation calling for sovereignty of the West Bank and Gaza to be allocated between Israel and Jordan as the two successor States to the Mandate for Palestine. Previous articles written by him can be found at

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All articles by David Singer

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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