WAS THE CAIRO SPEECH LOST IN TRANSLATION?
By: Harold Witkov
Now that much of the hoopla has passed regarding President Obamaâ€™s Cairo television address to the Muslim world, the effectiveness of his oratory can probably be put into a better perspective. To many dreamers, it was no doubt moving and uplifting, but to realists, it was no ground breaker.
Besides, television in the Muslim world is subject to the X-Factor. What is the X-factor? The X-Factor is Arab state-run television. These are the same people who created Farfur, the Hamas Mickey Mouse look-alike, jailed and martyred by the Israelis, and the Egyptian TV mini-series production â€œHorseman Without a Horseâ€ (based on The Protocols of Zion).
Considering the track record of state-run television in the Arab world, just how sure can we be that Muslims really heard the speech, the whole speech, and nothing but the speech? What type of spin did the television announcers give both before and after the Presidentâ€™s oration?
Now letâ€™s have some fun. Since most Muslims do not speak English, imagine Arab state-run television providing incorrect voice translation and closed captioning. Remember the 1966 Woody Allen movie, Whatâ€™s Up Tiger Lilly? Woody Allen took a Japanese action film, in tact, and English dubbed a story plot about a secret egg salad recipe. Imagine Arab state-run television taking the speech of the century and turning it into some kind of farcical, Whatâ€™s Up Mr. President?
Remember the Jim Carrey movie, Ace Ventura When Nature Calls. In one particular scene, Jim Carrey attempts to negotiate peace with a warlike and aggressive African tribe, the Wachootoos. Without his knowledge, every time his interpreter, Ouda, would translate for Ace, Ouda would start (in Wachootoo) with â€œWhite devil say.â€ When Ace realized what his translator was doing, he demanded an explanation, to which Ouda responded, â€œThatâ€™s how they know you.â€ Even when Ace was able to get Ouda to stop saying â€œWhite devil say,â€ Oudaâ€™s interpreting was dangerously inaccurate. Imagine Arab TV doing likewise to the Presidentâ€™s Cairo speech? It would go something like this:
President: Israelis must acknowledge that just as Israelâ€™s right to exist cannot be denied, neither can Palestineâ€™s.
Arab TV: Israelis must acknowledge that Israel has no right to exist, only Palestine.
President: Freedom of religion is central to the ability of peoples to live together.
Arab TV: Islam is central to the ability of peoples to live together.
President: The struggle for womenâ€™s equality continues in many aspects of American life, and in countries around the world.
Arab TV: The struggle for womenâ€™s equality continues in many aspects of American life, and will never take place in Muslim nations around the world.
Let us be honest now. Whether or not they carried the Presidentâ€™s Cairo speech exactly as it was, in the Muslim world, Arab state-run television and media are exactly that. Other than Israeli and Turkish Muslims, the Muslims of the Middle East suffer under the rule of dictators and kings, and lack credible elections and human rights.
Political speeches are just political speeches. They do not change the world. They are for show. Beyond the hoopla of the masses, secret deals are made behind the scenes that change the course of history. Better to inquire what went on in the back rooms of Cairo and Riyadh than to overanalyze the Presidentâ€™s Cairo speech too much.