The Biggest Lie Told To The American People: Ahmadinejad's Alleged Remarks On Israel

As the Bush Administration beats the drums for another war of choice with another country that had nothing to do with 9/11, they are using another series of fabricated facts to indoctrinate the American people into thinking that Iran poses a serious threat to our security. At the core of these fabrications is the claim that on October 25, 2005, during a speech at the Ministry of Interior conference hall, the then newly-elected President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad remarked that "Israel must be wiped off the map." As someone who was born in Tehran, lived there for seventeen years and is a native Farsi speaker, I have read the original transcripts of the speech in Farsi and want to inform you that Ahmadinejad never said "Israel must be wiped off the map," but rather, his statement was grossly mistranslated and taken out of context, perhaps to help make a case for military action against Iran.

Let's analyze what Ahmadinejad said. His exact words in Farsi were as follows: "Emam goft een rezhim-e eshghalgar-e qods bayad az safheh-ye ruzegar mahv shavad."

The correct translation of the statement is as follows: "Imam said this occupying regime in Jerusalem must vanish from the page of times."

And the word-to-word translation of the statement is as follows: Emam: Imam (Khomeini, leader of the 1979 revolution); Goft: said; Een: this; Rezhim-e eshghalgar: occupying regime; Qods: Jorusalem; Bayad: must; Az: from; Safheye: page of; Ruzegar: times; Mahv shaved: vanish.

There are several important points to understand about this quote:

1) The original transcript does not contain the words "Israel," "wipe off" or "map."

2) Ahmadinejad in fact misquoted Imam Khomeini who really said "sahneyeh roozegar," or "stage of times," not "safheyeh roozegar."

3) "Occupying regime in Jerusalem " does not refer to the state of Israel because the word "regime" does not mean "state" or "country." Merriam-Webster defines the term "regime" as a "mode of rule or management" or "a government in power." Furthermore, the terms "stage of times" or "page of times" both are highly abstract and metaphorical terms and cannot possibly be translated to "map," which is a real object illustrating countries with defined political borders. To translate "page of times" to "map" shows a conscious effort to give people the idea that Ahmadinejad's statement was not a metaphorical expression of discontent but a real foreign policy declaration. This effort becomes even clearer when one learns that Ahmadinejad used the verb "vanish" - not "wiped off" - to describe what he wished would happen to the regime in Israel. Vanish is a transitive verb, meaning "to disappear." By definition, disappearance is something that an object does to itself or naturally happens to it without an outside party's intervention. "Wipe off," on the other hand, has a strong emphasis on the party that does the wiping off. In other words, as opposed to vanishing, things can't wipe themselves off; they require some external force to do the wiping off. By translating "mahv shavad" to "wiped off" instead of the correct translation "vanish," the translators consciously framed Ahmadinejad as implying that an outside party - i.e. Iran, by implication - should have a role in wiping off the regime in Israel while he was merely wishing an outcome on a regime he did not agree with. He could have said "wiped off" or "Iran will (or shall) wipe Israel (or the regime in Israel) off the map," but he did not. The U.S.'s official translation of his statement misrepresents what Ahmadinejad said or meant.

4) The fact that Ahmadinejad specifically mentioned the occupation of Jerusalem indicates the main reason for his discontent. It is certainly legitimate for one to wish the fall or disappearance of a regime - "a government in power" - based on the policies that that government has pursued. American presidents, public officials and various activists - including this blogger - have openly expressed hope that the regime in Iran would vanish, although for different reasons. The United States ' official policy throughout the entire Cold War was to actively pursue policies that would lead to communist regimes vanishing, and some may argue, that policy continues today. And groups like "The World Can't Wait" openly hope for the end of what they call the "Bush Regime." And it only takes basic research to find out that the Israeli "regime" has been illegally occupying the West Bank and Gaza Strip, built settlements, built roads, expropriated land, deported, tortured and killed Palestinians, restricted freedom of movement, harmed the economy and made them impoverished for four decades, all in direct violation of international law and the Fourth Geneva Convention. And they have done all of this with U.S.'s aid and 47 vetoes of UN Security Council resolutions against Israel since the beginning of Reagan administration alone (Chomsky). Israeli regime has also militarily supported the military regime of Burma, which recently used Israeli weapons to kill pro-democracy civilians (British Jane's Intelligence Review). That is state sponsorship of terrorism. America is also a partner in this enterprise as it continues to give Israel 3 Billion Dollars of military aid every year. In fact, between one-third to one-fifth of the entire U.S.'s foreign aid goes to Israel each year.

Within that context, it is certainly a legitimate position to wish an outlaw regime that has defied the will and moral standards of the international community vanished and perhaps see it replaced with one that opposes apartheid. But to say that wishing a ruling regime, system of government of or ideology in a country vanished equates wishing that country vanished or the people in it harmed is an egregious departure from the truth.

Iranian regime's position on Israel is that there should be a referendum with both Jews and Arabs participating based on their right of self-determination to decide whether they want a single- or double-state solution. While Iran believes in a single-state solution, the country's official policy is to support the referendum. Besides, Iran has been issuing empty rhetoric against America and Israel since the 1979 revolution. Yet that is what they have been; empty rhetoric for domestic consumption, not a foreign policy doctrine. In fact, as opposed to the United States or Israel, Iran has not attacked a foreign country without provocation for over a hundred years.

I am fundamentally against the theocratic regime in Iran for its human rights violations and know that the reformist students' movement in Tehran can gain momentum again and lead to a nonviolent democratic change if given the time and opportunity. But as I speak with some of these students everyday, I sense how much anti-Ahmadinejad rhetoric from America is hurting their movement - especially when the rhetoric is based on lies - because those lies make it easier for the outlaw Iranian regime to call America out on those lies, undercut the West's legitimacy, rally the people around itself and cut the legs from under the pro-western reformers. One of these pro-democracy activists wrote to me the following in English on Sunday: "One should try to mainstream discussion of Israel in the US media. Israel is paranoid and paranoia in a place like the mid east is extremely dangerous. I dislike and despise A[h]madinejad, but I disagree with the way he's been portrayed and treated in the US. His reception at Colombia, for example, was every bit as despicable as he himself is! I think the greatest threa[t] to American hegemony is America's double standards. That's far more dangerous than Al Qaida."

The mistranslation originated from AlJazeera. Nonetheless, this blogger finds it difficult to believe that not a single Iran expert or Farsi speaker within the government has voiced concerns about the mistranslation. But this is not surprising as this oversight fits nicely into the larger pattern of this administration's - and Israel lobby's - distortion of facts to manufacture a false image of world affairs and create a false context within which he could sell another disastrous war of choice to the American people.