Earlier this month I wrote about Israel’s threat to attack Iran with nuclear weapons. In the preamble on that post I mentioned how Western politicians and the media have been using an alleged statement from President Ahmadinejad in which he supposedly said that “Israel must be wiped off the map”. I pointed out that this was an inaccurate translation of what he actually said which was more like:
“The Imam said this regime occupying Jerusalem must vanish from the page of time“
I also lamented the fact that that this mistranslation has been used as a pretext to apply heavy military and diplomatic pressure on Iran and that no media outlet (to my knowledge) has attempted to correct this error. As I said in my original post, it was an extraordinarily effective piece of propaganda.
Up until now the only reporting I have seen on this error has been in blogs. However, I have now seen a news source deal with this issue. Not a major news source unfortunately, but what appears to be a news source nonetheless, and it tackles the subject in some detail.
Here are some extracts from the article:
Across the world, a dangerous rumor has spread that could have catastrophic implications. According to legend, Iran’s President has threatened to destroy Israel, or, to quote the misquote, “Israel must be wiped off the map”. Contrary to popular belief, this statement was never made, as this article will prove.
So what did Ahmadinejad actually say? To quote his exact words in farsi:
“Imam ghoft een rezhim-e ishghalgar-e qods bayad az safheh-ye ruzgar mahv shavad.”
That passage will mean nothing to most people, but one word might ring a bell: rezhim-e. It is the word “Regime”, pronounced just like the English word with an extra “eh” sound at the end. Ahmadinejad did not refer to Israel the country or Israel the land mass, but the Israeli regime. This is a vastly significant distinction, as one cannot wipe a regime off the map. Ahmadinejad does not even refer to Israel by name, he instead uses the specific phrase “rezhim-e ishghalgar-e qods” (regime occupying Jerusalem).
So this raises the question.. what exactly did he want “wiped from the map”? The answer is: nothing. That’s because the word “map” was never used. The Persian word for map, “nagsheh”, is not contained anywhere in his original farsi quote, or, for that matter, anywhere in his entire speech. Nor was the western phrase “wipe out” ever said. Yet we are led to believe that Iran’s President threatened to “wipe Israel off the map”, despite never having uttered the words “map”, “wipe out” or even “Israel”.
I’m sure anyone who follows current events could not have failed to notice top politicians and reputable news sources like the BBC quote this misquote and see the current danger there is of a conflict with Iran. This does not mean that President Ahmadinejad is not anti-Semitic and hostile towards Israel, or that his regime is a bastion of democratic liberty. Despite Iran still having the largest Jewish community in the Middle East outside of Israel, the Jewish population has dwindled from about 80,000 before the 1979 revolution to about 30,000 today. While there isn’t much overt persecution of Jews, they do seem to be second class citizens in their own country and the remaining Jews seem to live in fear. However, to say that Ahmadinejad wanted Israel ‘wiped off the map’ is a lie and the mainstream media has a duty to correct it.
It turns out that someone in the mainstream media has written about this mistranslation. Jonathan Steele in the Guardian wrote a comment piece about it which I obviously missed. Many thanks to Septicisle. from Obsolete for pointing that out to me (I wonder how many others I missed). It’s a pity the article hasn’t made news outlets and politicians more cautious about using the quote.