[Note from David Bedein: Ever since HaAretz pioneered an English edition for its daily Hebrew paper, with English translations overseen by David Landau, many astute readers who know both languages have noted that the English language version tends to sanitize the PLO.

David Landau was the co-author (with Shimon Peres) of The New middle East, and has served as the bureau chief of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency in Israel for the past 25 years, and has also worked for many years as the Israel correspondent for The Economist. Previous critiques of Landau’s JTA editorial policies can be found on this site here and here.

In reading the article entitled “Israeli killed in shooting attack near W. Bank town” (Ha’aretz English edition March 24, 2002),I was struck by what seemed to be the extraordinary efforts made by your writers to avoid using the word “terrorist” to describe the Palestinians who had infiltrated across the Jordanian border into Israel last night and were killed by the Israeli Army near Kibbutz Tel Hatzir.

The use of neutral language to describe these individuals, who came across the border armed with Kalachnikov rifles and hand grenades, was particularly striking, because it contrasted so starkly with the language used by another article I had read earlier on the same subject.

Much to my surprise, the other article turned out to be the original Hebrew version of the very same article as published by “Ha’aretz” itself.

Consider the following examples. In each case the Hebrew text describes the Palestinians as “mechablim”, contemporary Hebrew for terrorists, while the English version uses a language that could imply that the Israeli Army hunts down and kills illegal immigrants:

Ënglish version: “Earlier Sunday, following a long chase on the southern slopes of the Golan Heights, IDF troops killed four men Sunday afternoon near Tel Katzir, who had infiltrated across the Jordanian border into Israel”.

In the original Hebrew version the phrase was “IDF troops killed four terrorists Sunday afternoon near Tel Katzir, who had infiltrated across the Jordanian border into Israel”.

English version: “At around 2 P.M., soldiers from the elite Egoz unit spotted the four close to the border with Jordan and opened fire. Three were killed instantly, while one managed to escape. Troops tracked down the fourth man a short while later and shot him dead”.

Hebrew version: “At around 2 P.M., soldiers from the elite Egoz unit spotted four terrorists east of Tel Katzir in the vicinity of the Haon cliffs and opened fire… “

English (translated) version: “The search for the infiltrators was launched after soldiers discovered tracks near the Israeli-Jordanian-Syrian border… “

Hebrew (original) version: “The search for the terrorists was launched after soldiers discovered tracks… “

The translator seems to confuse the Hebrew word for infiltrator (“mistananim” ) with the word for “terrorist” used by the author of the article. However a few lines later, when the original article actually uses the word “mistananim”, he or she does manage to translate it correctly. If so, why translate “terrorists” as “infiltrators’ unless the goal is to raise doubts about the moral right of the Israeli Army to hunt and kill them?

I suspect that these examples indicate a problem far more serious than the sloppiness of the English translation used by Haáretz staff.

The translator – or the English editor- has taken it upon his or herself to distort both the original article and the event itself.

The men who crossed the Israeli-Jordanian border armed to the teeth with automatic rifles were not seeking to better their standard of living by sneaking into Israel.

Bitter experience indicates that their mission was to kill as many Israelis as possible.

The authors of the original article got it right- such men are terrorists.

It behooves the editor and translators of the English version of Ha-aretz to share this information with their English readers.