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Did Ahmadinejad Call For Israel To Be “Wiped Off The Map”?

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has said all sorts of shocking, crazy, horrible things. So many that it shouldn't be hard for someone looking to score points off of the shocking, crazy, horrible things Ahmadinejad has said to base his case on things … Read More

By / June 2, 2008

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has said all sorts of shocking, crazy, horrible things. So many that it shouldn't be hard for someone looking to score points off of the shocking, crazy, horrible things Ahmadinejad has said to base his case on things that have actually come out of Ahmadinejad's mouth. (For example: He described the Israeli state as "a stinking corpse" and described the Holocaust as a "myth." Those are appalling remarks; feel free to quote them.)

However, contra John McCain, Ahmadinejad didn't call for Israel to be "wiped off the map" (as virtually every expert translator from Juan Cole to MEMRI agrees). What Ahmadinejad did say in a thoroughly gruesome October 2005 speech that provided more than enough material to answer any lingering doubts about Ahmadinejad's awfulness, was this:

Imam (i.e., Khomeini) ghoft ('said') een rezhim-e ('this regime') eshghalgar-e ('occupying') Qods ('Jerusalem') bayad ('should' or 'must') az safheh-ye ('from the page of') ruzgar ('time' or 'daily life') mahv shavad ('fade' or 'disappear' or 'be obliterated,' depending on context).

The Persian words for 'country' are keshvar and mamlekat, and the Persian for 'nation' is mellat, which, like English 'nation', can be a synonym for 'a people' (as in the party of the great Iranian democrat Darioush Forouhar, Hebz-e Mellat-e Iran, which could be rendered equally acceptably as "Party of the Nation of Iran" or "Party of the People of Iran"). Yet the object of Ahmadinejad's sentence is rezhim, which is (obviously) a direct importation of 'regime' that only and always refers to a particular government and, as in English, has technical and pejorative connotations. Moreover, Persian has no "wipe off the map" idiom, and even if it did, applying that idiom to 'regime' rather than 'country' or 'nation' is just a category error.

The controversial verb of the sentence, mahv shodan, can range in meaning from 'to fade' or 'to vanish' to 'to be obliterated' or 'to be annihilated.' So which is it? Ahmadinejad uses mahv shodan in reference to the fall of the Soviet Union, of the Shah, and of Saddam Hussein in the same speech. In other words, Ahmadinejad called for the destruction of the Israeli government and possibly for war — which is objectionable enough! — not genocide. (He's also deliberately adopting "regime change" language; I can't say I'm surprised the mistranslators failed to see that.)

So why the unrelenting lying about what Ahmadinejad said, given the surfeit of reality-based material available for condemning him? My hunch is that it has something to do with the unrelenting lying about Ahmadinejad's role in the Iranian government.

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