Hezbollah’s Nasrallah threatens Israel’s Dimona nuclear reactor: Iranian and Israeli press do not fully quote what he says
Almost one year ago the head of Hezbollah Hassan Nasrallah made a veiled threat against Israel, basically saying that if a Hezbollah rocket were to strike an ammonia storage facility in Haifa, the resulting explosion and damage would be equivalent to a nuclear strike.1 Well it looks like Nasrallah is at it again, this time threatening Israel’s Dimona nuclear reactor facility.
Before we get to what Nasrallah actually said, lets first look at how PressTV, an Iranian news outlet, covered the story in their online article entitled “Nasrallah to Israel: Shut Dimona nuclear reactor.”2 Within the article Nasrallah is quoted as saying, “I call upon Israel not only to evacuate the Ammonia tank from Haifa, but also to dismantle Dimona nuclear facility.” In fairness to PressTV the opening paragraph did paraphrase Nasrallah as saying that Dimona “would be within the resistance movement’s [Hezbollah’s] reach in case of a potential Israeli offensive.”
Yet, if one was ignorant about the situation in general, and if one did not carefully read the article or only read the headline title, then it is easy to get the impression that Nasrallah was not really threatening Israel, but for whatever reason, just demanding that they shut down their nuclear power plant. Heck maybe he is merely concerned with the environmental dangers posed by nuclear energy, and also ammonia.
Fortunately there are organizations that translate much of what is said in the Middle East, and MEMRI has provided a more revealing translation of Nasrallah’s statements:3
“Today, I call upon the enemy [Israel] not just to move the ammonia facility out of Haifa, but to dismantle the nuclear plant in Dimona as well. They know that this plant is old and outdated. This plant is worn out and is running on fumes, and it cannot withstand a massive missile attack. They know what will become of them and of their (Zionist) entity if missiles hit that plant.”
Firstly while MEMRI translated Nasrallah as saying “I call upon the enemy”, PressTV rendered it “I call upon Israel.” Secondly, and more importantly, the MEMRI translation includes Nasrallah actually talking about missiles striking the reactor, although he does not say that the missiles in question are Hezbollah’s, one can reasonably infer that that is what he is implying. PressTV’s omission should come as no surprise as they do not want to portray Iran’s proxy Hezbollah as belligerently threatening Israel with a potential Fukushima like incident.
However, what is surprising is that Israel news-sites, while reporting that Nasrallah is threatening Israel, are also not fully quoting what he said. For instance a Times of Israel story quoted him as saying, “I call upon Israel not only to evacuate the Ammonia tank from Haifa, but also to dismantle Dimona nuclear facility. … The Israeli nuclear weapon that represents a threat to the entire region, we will turn it into a threat to Israel.”4 While the Jerusalem Post quoted “I call on Israel not only to empty the ammonia tank in Haifa, but also to dismantle the nuclear reactor in Dimona. Our military capabilities will strike Israel and its settlements.”5
Based on what these Israeli news outlets quoted, I suspect readers with a bias against Israel or a bias for Hezbollah could easily rationalize that what Nasrallah said was not really a threat. The quotes are rather disjointed, and depending on the particular source a bit different. So why didn’t these Israeli outlets bolster their case against Nasrallah by quoting what he said about the missiles, as reported by MEMRI?
Ultimately what the Iranian and Israeli coverage of Nasrallah’s threat against the Dimona nuclear plant illustrates, is that the media in general does a poor job of accurately and completely reporting on stories. This is a particular problem for news originating in the Middle East, because the vast majority of Westerners are ignorant of the regional languages (i.e. Arabic, Iranian, etc.), making them reliant on the media to provide accurate and complete translations of what important Middle Eastern figures, such as Nasrallah are saying. Yet, as illustrated by this story, this is not the case.
One solution to this problem is to learn Arabic, but for the average person this is not practical, as Arabic is a very difficult language for English speakers, and most people do not have the time or desire for such a linguistic endeavor. A more realistic alternative is just to possess a healthy skepticism of whatever one reads in the press pertaining to the Middle East and to make use of sites like MEMRI which in general do appear to provide better translations.
But I guess a really skeptical person could argue how are we certain that MEMRI is providing a better translations? Well if you are that skeptical, just learn Arabic.