Sunday, March 2, 2008

Gaza Linguistics, Who is threatening a Holocaust?

Gaza: Holocaust or The Hashoah?


There is no doubt that the recent Israeli escalation in Gaza is unwise. It will not end the Qassam rocket fire on Sderot or the Grad rocket fire on Ashkelon. It will not bring peace. It will not end the rule of the Hamas in Gaza. On the contrary, it might help to legitimize and entrench the Hamas.

Israel has a right to defend itself. It is not always wise to exercise your rights. It is never wise to carry out military operations that cannot achieve any political goal or provide any military advantage. The Israel government must know by now that the rules are different for Israel. According to the BBC the Lebanese army killed about 260 people in Nahar el Bared camp. Over 40 were civilians, while the rest were terrorists militants of the Fatah al-Islam Al-Qaeda group. But nobody batted an eyelash. Nobody said there was any Holocaust. In Gaza, about 40 terrorists militants were killed by Israel, and about 10 civilians in a day. It was immediately condemned as "disproportionate use of force" and "a Holocaust." Fifty dead Palestinians make a Holocaust, but as many dead Pakistanis or Iraqis rate 2 column inches on the third page, and nobody even remembers if six times as many Lebanese are killed. That's the way the world works.

A linguistic note is in order. Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai said the following last week:

"As the Qassam rocket fire [on Israeli civilians] intensifies and increases its range, the Palestinians will bring upon themselves a greater catastrophe because we will use all our might to defend ourselves."

. The phrase he used in Hebrew was

yamitu al atsmam shoah gdolah yoter.

Reuters news service mistranslated "shoah" as Holocaust, and trumpeted the "news" that Vilnai was threatening a "Holocaust." They published a correct version later on, but the story of the "Holocaust" threat has spread far and wide. The original was either a deliberate error or a very gross mistranslation. Those who are spreading it now are lying deliberately. I have check three authoritative dictionaries (Alcalay, Even Shushan, Shweika). The word "Shoah" in correct Hebrew does not mean genocide, or burnt offering or the massacre of European Jews by the Nazis. That is not one of the meanings listed. "Hashoah" - with a definite article, refers to "The Holocaust" - the massacre of European Jewry. It is not the same thing. I have also searched for "Yamitu Shoah" in Google. This is a sort of cliched phrase that means "will bring on disaster." It is used for ecological disasters, environmental disasters and so on. For those who read Hebrew - here are two examples here and here. The first discusses whether or not child subsidies will cause a "shoah" and the second discussed where or not computers will cause a "shoah." Moreover, in the context in which Vilnai said it, the meaning is unmistakable. Nobody sane, and no Israeli minister, would argue that the Holocaust or a holocaust had already taken place in Gaza. So what could it mean if he "threatened" a "greater holocaust?" The Holocaust, HaShoah, is understood as an absolute term in Israel - the annihilation of European Jewry. How could anyone threaten to make someone "more annihilated?"

Continued at Gaza: Holocaust or The Hashoah?

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