Media “Mistranslates” Bin Laden Tape

Courtesy of MEMRI.org, the website of the Middle East Media Research Institute, we find that the media apparently "mistranslated" the latest tape from Osama bin Laden. Although it was widely reported that bin Laden offered America a "truce," in fact what he offered was to adhere to a truce should we propose one. Translated by MEMRI.org, these are the relevant portions of what bin Laden actually said:

"We have no objection to accepting a long-term cease fire under fair conditions which we will uphold…both sides will benefit from such a cease fire, from security and stability…"

Unsurprisingly, one of the mistranslations originated with Al-Jazeera, which is hardly an impartial source. Indeed, one has to wonder whether they have a slot in the door marked, "al-Qaeda tapes."  This is their translation of bin Laden’s statement:

"We do not mind offering a long-term truce based on just conditions that we will stick to…hence both parties of the truce will enjoy stability and security…"

The main difference is the choice of the word "accepting" vs. "offering," but the end result is significant. The latter version softens bin Laden’s image, which perhaps explains why it was embraced by the western media. In their desperation to cast President Bush as the bad guy, they’re presenting an arch-terrorist and mass murderer as someone worthy of negotiating with.

Meanwhile, intelligence analysts are now speculating that bin Laden’s tape (immediately followed by a tape from second in command Ayman Al-Zawahiri) could have been the opening salvo in an imminent terrorist attack on the United States. So much for the truce.

The media also neglected to explain what the word "truce" really means in this context. The nearest translation of "truce" in Arabic is "hudna," but it’s an entirely different concept. A hudna is actually a temporary cease fire that gives terrorists a chance to rest, rearm, and regroup for the next round of fighting. Again, thanks to MEMRI.org, we have the words of Fatah leader Hatem Al-Qader on the subject:

"[The Hudna’s] purpose is not that we lay down our arms, but that we join forces [to rebuild] and continue our struggle. It is not damaging; it is the ‘respite of the fighter…’"

The media has been misreporting the hudna concept for years with its coverage of the Middle East conflict.  HonestReporting.com gave Reuters its 2003 Dishonest Reporting Award in part for this very reason.

Like the bin Laden "truce," its simply another example of the media acting as apologists for terrorism.