Israeli police arrest Palestinian for ‘good morning’ Facebook post
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Israeli police arrest Palestinian for ‘good morning’ Facebook post

Relying on web translation service, officers erroneously conclude worker wrote ‘hurt them’ and was planning an attack

Jacob Magid is the settlements correspondent for The Times of Israel.

A photo posted to Facebook on October 15, 2017, by a Palestinian worker that led to his mistaken arrest by Israeli police (courtesy)
A photo posted to Facebook on October 15, 2017, by a Palestinian worker that led to his mistaken arrest by Israeli police (courtesy)

Relying on an automatic translation, Israeli police mistakenly arrested a Palestinian man last week because they thought he had published a Facebook post saying “Hurt them” when what he had really written was “Good morning.”

A spokeswoman for the Israel Police’s West Bank district confirmed to The Times of Israel on Sunday that the man, a construction worker, was arrested “on suspicion of incitement” and released shortly thereafter when the assumption turned out to have been false.

The post that led to the arrest on October 15 was a picture of the man smiling and holding a cup of coffee and a cigarette while standing alongside a bulldozer at a construction site in the Beitar Illit settlement.

No Arabic-speaking officer read the post prior to the arrest, which was carried out by officers who relied solely on Facebook’s automatic translation, Haaretz reported.

There is only one letter’s difference between the colloquial Arabic phrase for “good morning to you all” and “hurt them.”

Police combined the false translation with the image of the bulldozer — a vehicle that has been used in terror attacks in the past — and assumed the man was intending to do the same.

It was only while they interrogated the man that police realized their mistake and released him.

The Palestinian, who has since deleted the post, declined a request by The Times of Israel for comment.

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