‘Shoah’ mistranslated as ‘Holocaust’

hebrew word nature, hebrew for nature, teva, sebago

The defense minister merely meant ‘disaster’, according to Melanie Philips:

This reported remark by deputy defence minister Matan Vilnai caused widespread shock and absolute horror. For an Israeli minister to use the word ‘holocaust’ to describe a limited war of Israeli self-defence, when for Jews of all people the ‘Holocaust’ means one thing: genocide — and this at a time when the calumny of the ‘Jews as Nazis’ is rampant around the world, putting Israel and the Jewish people at risk — was simply beyond belief.

It was indeed without any credibility — because Vilnai never said it. It was an appalling mistranslation by Reuters

[…] Reuters translated the Hebrew word ‘shoah’ as ‘holocaust’. But ‘shoah’ merely means disaster. In Hebrew, the word ‘shoah’ is never used to mean ‘holocaust’ or ‘genocide’ because of the acute historical resonance. The word ‘Hashoah’ alone means ‘the Holocaust’ and ‘retzach am’ means ‘genocide’. The well-known Hebrew construction used by Vilnai used merely means ‘bringing disaster on themselves’.

Haaretz (an Isreali newspaper) disagrees with Philips and says that the term “Shoah” is commonly used to refer to the Holocaust:

Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai went as far as threatening a “shoah,” the Hebrew word for holocaust or disaster. The word is generally used to refer to the Nazi Holocaust, but a spokesman for Vilnai said the deputy defense minister used the word in the sense of “disaster,” saying “he did not mean to make any allusion to the genocide.”

“The more Qassam fire intensifies and the rockets reach a longer range, [the Palestinians] will bring upon themselves a bigger shoah because we will use all our might to defend ourselves,” Vilnai told Army Radio on Friday.

So I would say that it was an honest mistake on the part of Reuters.

The main wiki page on the Holocaust uses the term “Ha-Shoah”. But the page for names of the Holocaust uses “Shoah”. And says:

The biblical word Shoah (שואה), also spelled Shoa and Sho’ah, meaning “calamity” in Hebrew (and also used to refer to “destruction” since the Middle Ages), became the standard Hebrew term for the Holocaust as early as the early 1940s. Churban Europa, meaning “European Destruction” in Hebrew (as opposed to simply Churban, the destruction of the Second Temple), is also used.

The Hebrew word Shoah is preferred by some Jews and non-Jews due to the supposed theologically unacceptable nature of the word “holocaust” whose original Greek meaning indicates a sacrifice to a god.

I didn’t know that origin of “holocaust”.

I think the term “Ha-” is a prefix to a noun assigning it the definite article “the”.

And it seems that the BBC article refered to by Philips has been updated:

Matan Vilnai said Palestinians risked a “shoah”, the Hebrew word for a big disaster - and for the Nazi Holocaust.

[…] The BBC’s Katya Adler in Jerusalem says many of Mr Vilnai’s colleagues have quickly distanced themselves from his comments and also tried to downplay, them saying he did not mean genocide.

“We’re getting close to using our full strength. Until now, we’ve used a small percentage of the army’s power because of the nature of the territory,” he added.

That the DM’s colleagues have distanced themselves from the comments implies, to me, that they must have an impact in Hebrew too. (Assuming those colleagues heard the comments in the original Hebrew, of course).

The DM made his comments after Hamas rockets reached Ashkelon, about 15km from the Gaza border.

You know things are bad in a country when the Red Cross declares “there is no solution that can be provided by humanitarian organizations.” To what is this grim prognosis referring? The massive conflict-ridden Sudan? Occupied Iraq? Warlord-ruled Afghanistan? According to the Red Cross, humanitarian aid still holds promise in these massive disasters. The area they describe is in fact a small strip of land about one-tenth the size of Dane County: the Gaza Strip.

The Red Cross arrived at this disquieting conclusion back in December. Since then, conditions have worsened immeasurably. In the first two months of 2008, Israeli forces have killed 146 Palestinians, 42 of whom were civilians uninvolved in fighting. Israeli leaders then apparently decided that they were still producing too low a level of terror in the Palestinian population, for in the last week, Israeli operations have killed more than 100 Palestinians — half of whom were noncombatants.

This latest massacre is purportedly in response to the firing of Qassam rockets from Gaza into the southern Israeli cities of Sderot and Ashkelon. I often wonder what Israel would do without the Qassam attacks, for they have provided such a versatile excuse for whatever atrocity it is the state wishes to inflict on the Palestinians this week. It is easy to forget, amid the copious obloquy heaped upon the Palestinian government, that Hamas actually maintained a 16-month unilateral ceasefire in 2005-06. Throughout this period, Israel continued to mount attacks inside Palestine, culminating in the shelling of a Gaza beach in June 2006 in which eight civilians were killed.

The hysteria over Qassam attacks also obscures the vastly disproportionate nature of the threats Israel and Palestine pose to one another. Since Qassam rockets were first launched into Israel in 2001, they have killed a grand total of 14 people. This means that this week alone, Israel has killed many times more Palestinians than the entire death toll from the dreaded Qassam. These facts do not, of course, justify attacks on civilians, but they do illuminate what is at stake for the opposing sides in the Levant.

Israel is, of course, acutely aware that its own destructive capabilities greatly eclipse those of Hamas. Just last week, Israeli Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai declared that if the Palestinians continue their ineffectual rocket attacks, “they will bring upon themselves a bigger shoah because we will use all our might to defend ourselves.” According to the Jerusalem Post, “The Hebrew word shoah, which means ‘disaster’ or ‘conflagration,’ is primarily used in Israel to refer to the Holocaust.”

When confronted about his genocidal intent, Mr. Vilnai quickly retreated, insisting that he wasn’t referring to the Holocaust, but merely disaster in a more general sense. This seems to me to be missing the point. An analogous situation would be Mr. Vilnai announcing that he had a “final solution” to the Palestinian problem, but then later clarifying that he wasn’t referring to that Final Solution. Phrases like shoah and “final solution” may not, in and of themselves, refer to genocide, but they cannot be spoken without evoking it.

Mr. Vilnai is joined in his desire to eliminate the Palestinians by former Sephardic Chief Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu, who made a pronouncement last May that “there was absolutely no moral prohibition against the indiscriminate killing of civilians during a potential massive military offensive on Gaza.” Mr. Eliyah’s son, chief Rabbi of the holy city Safed, brought out the full implications of his father’s ruling: “If they don’t stop after we kill 100, then we must kill a thousand. And if they do not stop after 1,000, then we must kill 10,000. If they still don’t stop, we must kill 100,000 — even a million. Whatever it takes to make them stop.”

Defenders of Israel will undoubtedly respond with equally unpleasant quotes taken from members of Hamas. The key difference here, however, is that Mr. Vilnai and Co. have the means to make their foul words a reality. Israel is armed with nuclear weapons, each capable of killing hundreds of thousands of Palestinians. Palestinians are armed with Qassams, which have a kill rate of 14 deaths for every 3,000 launched. Qassam rockets are hardly the harbingers of Judeocide they are portrayed as. Rather, they are the futile lashing out of a people who have been forced to live for nearly 60 years without hope.

No comments: