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According to a October 7, 2023 Al-Jazeera article, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said:

“We will take mighty vengeance for this black day,” the Israeli leader said in a televised address. “We will take revenge for all the young people who lost their lives. We will target all of Hamas’s positions. We will turn Gaza into a deserted island. To the citizens of Gaza, I say. You must leave now. We will target each and every corner of the strip.”

But a lot (in fact, all that I've looked at) of the Western coverage of this "mighty vengeance" speech (e.g. NBC) omitted the part about a "deserted island", only Al-Jazeera and some really obscure websites have that [extended] quote on Google. CNN perhaps comes the closest to having the rest of the speech as Al-Jazeera, but the part about the "deserted island" is missing there too:

"What happened today has never been seen in Israel. We will take mighty vengeance for this black day," Netanyahu said in a televised speech from Israel's Government Press Office, which was carried by Reuters.

"Israel will reach every place Hamas is hiding," Netanyahu said, referring to the militant group behind the attacks. "I tell Gaza's people to leave those places now."

So, did Netanyahu say that "deserted island" bit? (I don't understand Hebrew myself.)

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2 Answers 2

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No, he did not. The full speech in Hebrew is available at the Israel PM YouTube channel. As it is in Hebrew, some inaccuracies with translations are possible and I couldn't find an official translation. The full transcript of the relevant sections are:

צה"ל יפעיל מייד את כל עוצמתו כדי להשמיד את יכולות חמאס. נכה בהם עד חורמה וננקום בעוצמה על היום השחור זה שהם עוללו למדינת ישראל ואזרחיה. "כפי שאמר ביאליק: "נקמת דם ילד קטן עוד לא ברא השטן.

את כל המקומות שהחמאס נערך בהם, של עיר הרשע הזאת, כל המקומות שהחמאס מסתתר בהם, פועל מתוכם, נהפוך אותם לעיי חורבות. אני אומר לתושבי עזה, צאו משם עכשיו כי אנחנו נפעל בכל מקום ובכל העוצמה.

Which is translated to English as (translated by me, not a professional translator):

The IDF will immediately apply its full force to destroy Hamas's abilities. We will strike them until they are extirpated and exact mighty vengeance for this black day which they have visited upon the state of Israel and its citizens. As Bialik had said: "Vengeance of blood of a small child - the devil has not yet created".

All the places where Hamas is formed at, of this evil city, all the places where Hamas is hiding, acting from, we will turn them into rubble. I'm telling the people of Gaza, get out of there now, because we will act everywhere in full force.

The translation of the first part about "mighty vengeance" is a correct translation (and this is why I used it as well even if this is perhaps not the phrase I would have used).

But then it adds things that were never said. Netanyahu doesn't say that Gaza will be attacked in general, but talks specifically about the places where Hamas is located in and uses.

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    As a native Hebrew speaker and an Israeli, this transcript and translation are accurate. Upvoted.
    – Jonathan
    Oct 8, 2023 at 14:33
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    It would be useful to take the last sentence apart a bit more in detail, because that seems to be where the translation of Al-Jazeera has either missed the meaning you consider correct, or took some liberty in interpreting it. How clear does the original state what's meant by "get out of there now"? It does seem a bit ambiguous whether he's saying the people should get away from the Hamas hideouts, or get out of Gaza completely. Oct 8, 2023 at 22:36
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    But the article says "Fears of a huge ground invasion of Gaza are growing after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promised to turn the besieged Palestinian enclave into a “deserted island” in response to the worst attack his country has suffered in decades". I think your answer is deceiving and misleading. Even your translation says "we will turn them into rubble". The essence of the Al-Jazeera article is correct, but you're making it look like it is not. Oct 9, 2023 at 1:24
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    @CharlesDuffy since Hamas is the governing authority of Gaza (since 2007), "places where Hamas is formed" can be interpreted as all of Gaza. It's unlikely that Netanyahu wants to flatten the entire Gaza land in which more than 2 million people live, but he did indicate an intention to flatten parts of Gaza where Hamas is (which can be interpreted as the whole of Gaza or significant amounts of it at least). This answer is making it look like he said nothing at all. "No he did not" is a misleading opening sentence. A better one would be "Yes, but how much of Gaza is open to interpretation" Oct 9, 2023 at 3:12
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    Aljazeera translated it incorrectly. The PM used the biblical ׳עיי חורבות׳ which means rubble/a pile of stone. This is different from the word ׳איי׳ which means islands of... Stick a biblical phrase into an automated translator and that's what you get.
    – Roy Falk
    Oct 9, 2023 at 5:30
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To add to @SIMEL's excellent answer, the specific mistranslation here is related to the phrase used by Netanyahu at the 1:37 mark of his speech. Netanyahu says (transliterated into latin script for the benefit of readers who can't read Hebrew):

[...] nahafoch otam le-eeyay horavot

In English, this translates as:

[...] we will turn them into rubble.

The expression "eeyay horavot" is a Hebrew expression meaning "rubble". The word "eeyay" can also be understood to mean "islands". However, it's important to emphasize that in Hebrew "eeyay" (the first word in the two-word compound expression that means "rubble") and "eeyay" (with the meaning of "islands") are two completely different words, which are spelled differently in Hebrew but are pronounced the same. (That is, they are homophones.)

What might have happened here is that the translator could have been someone who is not a native Hebrew speaker, and they were preparing their translation based on the audio of the speech rather than a written transcript. In that case, on hearing the word "eeyay" they might have reasonably decided that it should be translated as "islands". Then hearing the following word "horavot" they decided that the correct translation for this expression was "deserted island".

However, only someone with a rather poor knowledge of Hebrew (or an AI translation software) would make such a mistake, since as any native Hebrew speaker knows, the expression "eeyay horavot" is a standard compound expression in Hebrew that can only ever appear with the other "eeyay" that doesn't mean "islands".

To summarize, the "deserted island" part is definitely incorrect, but there is a plausible explanation for how a translator might arrive at it not through intentional misrepresentation but by making a good faith mistake.

In addition, there are other inaccuracies in the translation that are harder to attribute to the translator's imperfect command of Hebrew. Netanyahu very clearly is not saying that Israel will turn all of Gaza into rubble, but only the parts of Gaza from which Hamas operates. And he quite clearly cautions the people of Gaza to get away from those specific parts of Gaza, not to "leave" (implying to leave Gaza) as the Al-Jazeera translation suggests.

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