Israel Police last week arrested a resident of the Palestinian Authority suspected of planning a terrorist attack, based on an incorrect translation of his post in Arabic on his Facebook page, Ha’aretz reported Sunday. The police relied on Facebook’s automatic translation of the post, which had not been reviewed by an Arabic speaker before making the arrest.
The PA Arab posted his Facebook page a picture showing him leaning on a bulldozer at a construction site where he was employed, in the largely Haredi city of Beitar Illit in Judea and Samaria. Next to the picture he posted a caption in Arabic, saying: “Good morning to you.”
However, the Facebook automatic translation replaced the innocent greeting with the Phrase “hurt them” in both Hebrew and English. Which is why Judea and Samaria Police conducted a search that culminated in the arrest of the author.
The Arabic text in the post reads Isabech-hum, a folksy greeting meaning “Good morning to you.” But the translation robot scanned it to mean Yidbach-hum, meaning “Murder them,” as in the infamous cry “Idbach al Yahud” slaughter the Jews.
The combination of an Arab man standing next to bulldozer and the call to slaughter immediately suggested to Police that the author was going out on a ramming attack against Israeli civilians.
It should be noted that the suspect was detained for only a few hours, and that when he kept insisted that he wrote “good morning” rather than “let’s slaughter,” an Arabic reader was invited to examine the post – following which the Arab worker was released.