Saudi Arabia’s financial support to UNRWA lauded

In this Jan. 31, 2014, file photo, released by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), shows residents of the besieged Palestinian camp of Yarmouk, queuing to receive food supplies, in Damascus, Syria. (AP)
Updated 02 December 2018

Saudi Arabia’s financial support to UNRWA lauded

  • Abu Houli said Saudi Arabia has donated more than $160 million to UNRWA in 2018

JEDDAH: Ahmed Abu Houli, a member of the executive committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization and head of the Department of Refugee Affairs, has lauded the Saudi pledge to support the budget of UN agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA.
Saudi Arabia has reportedly pledged to contribute $63 million for projects to be implemented in Gaza, the West Bank and Jordan.
“The additional financial support provided by Saudi Arabia will contribute to the continuation of UNRWA’s vital services, in its five areas of operation for nearly 5.9 million Palestinian refugees,” Abu Houli said, in a statement issued on Saturday.
This Saudi decision will motivate other donors to pledge more funds to support UNRWA to compensate for the cuts in US aid, he said.
Abu Houli said Saudi Arabia has donated more than $160 million to UNRWA in 2018. UNRWA had counted on a budget of $1.2 billion for 2018 but faced a gap of $446 million when the Trump administration announced it was cutting support. UNRWA responded to its “unprecedented” financial pressures by seeking support across UN member states and raised an additional $382 million, bringing the shortfall for the year down to just $64 million.


Saudi Hajj ministry investigating how gift to pilgrims was wrongly labelled ‘anthrax’ 

Updated 37 min 48 sec ago

Saudi Hajj ministry investigating how gift to pilgrims was wrongly labelled ‘anthrax’ 

  • The Arabic word “jamarat" was inaccurately translated to “anthrax",  a dangerous infectious disease
  • Citing possible repercussions of the mistranslation, scholars want a probe to pinpoint responsibility

RIYADH: The Hajj and Umrah Ministry is investigating the inaccurate translation of the word “jamarat” into “anthrax,” which led to Sheikh Yusuf Estes making a video warning pilgrims of the mistake and its possible repercussions.

The translation concerned a bag that was a gift to pilgrims, containing small pebbles to use for the “stoning of the devil” upon their return from Muzdalifah. The bag had the correct original Arabic description, which roughly translates as “jamarat pebble bag,” whereas the English version of “jamarat” was translated into “anthrax,” a dangerous infectious disease.

According to SPA, the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah was notified and opened an investigation with the contractor and translator on August 10, before handing them to authorities to take the necessary disciplinary action.

“Anthrax, where did they get that? They get it from Google, it’s not Google’s fault. Google allows people to tell the meaning of the different languages of words,” Sheikh Yusuf said in the video.

Google Translate, the free multilingual machine translator, relies on comparing large quantities of content between pairs of languages to establish patterns and, in most cases, determine the probability that certain words in one language will correspond with a set of words in another. 

Putting Google Translate to the test, Arab News used the platform to translate a name of a type of fish known in the region as “sha’oor” from Arabic to English. The scientific term for the fish is Lethrinus nebulosus, a type of emperor fish most commonly known as the green snapper or sand snapper.  

Google Translate’s translation was “thickness of feeling.”

Though it yields imperfect results, the service can be used at a pinch, though real human translators rather than artificial intelligence are far more likely to lead to more accurate translations.  

Speaking to Arab News, Dr. Gisele Riachy, director of the Center for Languages and Translation at the Lebanese University in Beirut, explained how the mistranslation of “jamarat” could have happened.

“We have two possibilities, it was either translated by Google Translate or the translator was provided with a single sentence and therefore didn’t understand the meaning of “jamarat,” she said.

“The translator may have not taken into consideration the general context of the word, which has certain religious connotations, therefore it should have been borrowed, translated by the “Stoning of the Devil” or even left as it is.”

Dr. Riachy said that the word anthrax cannot be translated without an accompanying adjective for a better explanation of the term.

“What surprised me is that when translating the word “jamarat” from Arabic to English, the word should have been accompanied with the adjective “khabitha,” or malignant in Arabic, for it to be translated to “anthrax” in English. That is why I am confused and I do not think Google Translate would have translated it into “anthrax” if the Arabic version didn’t include the word “khabitha.”

Sheikh Yusuf Estes’ video was intended for those who would like to take the small bags home as a souvenir or gift, sending a message that the mistranslation could cause the traveler trouble with customs in their own countries.