The Headline: Israeli Minister warns Palestinians of "holocaust" in Gaza

This was the title all over the news this morning: “Israeli minister warns Palestinians of ‘holocaust’. In fact, YNet still is using the same headline tonight.

What Ynet is reporting: Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai said today that “By stepping up Qassam rocket attacks on Israel [from the Gaza Strip] ‘Palestinians will bring upon themselves a bigger holocaust because we will use all our might to defend ourselves,’ says Deputy Defense Minister Vilnai says. Hamas in response: We are facing new Nazis.

The article reports: ” ‘Holocaust’ is a term rarely used in Israel outside discussions of the Nazi genocide during World War Two. Many Israelis are loathe to countenance using the word to describe other contemporary events. Israeli air strikes on the coastal territory, controlled by Hamas Islamists, have killed at least 32 Palestinians, including five children, in the past two days. Israel said it was responding to rocket fire by Gaza militants, which killed one Israeli in the southern border town of Sderot on Wednesday, and it threatened to launch a larger-scale offensive unless the barrage stopped. ‘The more Qassam (rocket) fire intensifies and the rockets reach a longer range, they (the Palestinians) will bring upon themselves a bigger holocaust because we will use all our might to defend ourselves’, Vilnai told Army Radio. Hamas official Sami Abu Zuhri said of Vilnai’s comments: ‘We are facing new Nazis who want to kill and burn the Palestinian people’.” This article is posted on YNet’s website here.

Now, the reporting is being criticized — though not this article in YNet. Reuters and the BBC (both British news outlets) are taking the brunt of the rage.

The Spectator, another British media, has published this reaction: “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, the source of the BBC story.

Vilnai said: ‘The more Qassam (rocket) fire intensifies and the rockets reach a longer range, they (the Palestinians) will bring upon themselves a bigger “shoah” because we will use all our might to defend ourselves’.

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’.

As a subsequent Reuter’s story reported, ‘Vilnai’s spokesman said: “Mr. Vilnai was meaning ‘disaster’. He did not mean to make any allusion to the genocide”. Israel’s Foreign Ministry spokesman, Arye Mekel, added: ‘Deputy Defence Minister Matan Vilnai used the Hebrew phrase that included the term “shoah” in Hebrew in the sense of a disaster or a catastrophe, and not in the sense of a holocaust’. But this grotesque mistranslation has given Hamas a propaganda gift which they lost no time exploiting: Hamas official Sami Abu Zuhri said of Vilnai’s comments: “We are facing new Nazis who want to kill and burn the Palestinian people”.’ This reaction in The Spectator to the initial reports of Vilnai’s remarks is posted here.

Meanwhile, even the Jerusalem Post is reporting that “Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilna’i said Friday that ‘as long as the rocket attacks escalated, the Palestinians are bringing upon themselves a bigger Shoah [Holocaust]’.” This article in the JPost is published here.