Saturday, December 29, 2007

Rape - 2

Following Lydia's comment on the previous post, and a lively discussion last night over Shabbat dinner, here's a theory about the harshness of Landau's language.

The Hebrew word for rape is Ones, or La'anos. La'anos, however, can also be translated as coerce, a much more likely meaning for Landau to have intended. However, English is Landau's mother tongue, and it's probably what he used when addressing the American Secretary of State, especially this one who's Hebrew is probably rather poor given that she's a trained Sovietologist. How then to explain his use of the wrong English word? Is it possible he thinks in Hebrew? Especially when people who really know multiple languages generally think in whatever language they're talking in?

More likely, it seems to me, is that one of the Israelis present at the meeting heard the (English-language) exchange, and then leaked it in Hebrew, from which it then seeped back into English. This still doesn't explain why Landau is basically confirming what he said ("My words were quoted out of context" means, in Israeli parlance, yes, you've got me, but I need to appear as if I'm denying without outright lying in case some has it on tape), but perhaps he was confronted in Hebrew, too, and the whole incident has been mistranslated.

The essence, of course, remains, but I'm in a rush to some meeting and may or may not comment an that later this evening.


Lydia McGrew said...

This seems strained to me. As you say, he was probably speaking in English initially and could not have been unaware of the meaning of the word in English. Certainly 'rape' in English cannot be used to mean more generically 'coerce' or 'force'. Try to imagine substituting 'rape' in the following sentences:

"If Prof. Jones provides citations, I shall be forced to change my opinion."

"He forced himself to concentrate."

"Some children have to be forced to eat green vegetables."

Landau must have known that there is a difference in English connotation between saying, "Israel must be forced" and "Israel must be raped."

Not that I agree with the former, either. It shows a high degree of recklessness, to put it mildly, and almost a self-hatred.

As to the Hebrew (in the highly unlikely event that *everything* was in Hebrew and this is all a result of mistranslation), is there no more generic word meaning "forced" in Hebrew that he could have used, such as one might use in the above sentences? Or would you use 'ones' or 'La'anos' as well when referring to forcing yourself to concentrate, your child to eat his veggies, etc.?

SnoopyTheGoon said...

No matter what the small letters are, he came through as a complete idiot. Every newspaper (at least in Israel) has a few. Not much to worry about...