Monday, September 21, 2009

Lost in translation

Reuters ran a story yesterday following the broadcast of CNNs interview with Russian president Dmitry Medvedev. The story was quickly picked up by newspapers and agencies all over the world because it quoted Medvedev as saying that Israeli president Shimon Peres had promised that Israel would not launch an attack against Iran. There's only one problem: Medvedev never said that.

We watched the full interview on CNN and noted that the interpreter did not use the word "promise", "pledge" or any equivalent synonym during the section where Medvedev discusses his previous conversation with Peres. Given the discrepancy between what we heard and what Reuters reported, we decided to have Medvedev's comment (as it appears in the transcript provided by the Kremlin) translated.  Here's what Medvedev actually said:

When Peres was in Sochi, he said a very important phrase for all of us: Israel does not intend to attack Iran. We are a peaceful country and we're not going to do this.

Now why would Reuters run, as Huckleberry Finn might say, a "stretcher", i.e., inserting the embellishment, "Israel promised" into its headline and lead paragraph? Well, looking ahead, if Israel does indeed strike Iran, Reuters will be able to return to their previous exaggerated storyline and argue that Israel had failed to keep its promises to the international community. Propaganda of this type could be instrumental in helping to turn international opinion against Israel and to incite for sanctions in the UN Security Council.

Of course, we're just speculating.

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