Thursday, October 9, 2008

Get It Right

Media talking heads and politicians, especially but not only in the US, keep referring to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's statement that "Israel must be wiped from the map". If he really said this, it could be accurately characterized as a threat. But he didn't say that. He said: "Emam goft een rezhim-e eshghalgar-e qods bayad az safheh-ye ruzegar mahv shavad."  Persian speakers are generally agreed*** on the following translation: "Imam said this occupying regime in Jerusalem must vanish from the page of times." The Imam was Khomeini, who is slightly mis-quoted by Ahmadinejad. Khomeini said "stage of times", not "page of times". But both are still pretty abstract and neither could be construed to mean "map". Its an important distinction because "map" implied a literalness that "page of times" does not. The Persian word translated as "regime" does not mean state or nation, but government or ruling group. Anyone who believes peace is not possible until Israel returns to the 1967 borders is in basic agreement with his premise, even if they disagree with the sentiment. Lastly, the statement is a generality, it does not propose Iran as the sweeping agent. There has been no threat uttered.

This is important enough to make a post because there have been objections to the "wiped off the map" translation since day one. Despite being frequently debunked, the quote lives on. Sarah Palin said it last week. It has become propaganda. Policy should be based on facts. There are plenty of reasons to criticize Ahmadinejad and the Iranian theocratic regime. We don't need to make things up.
*** I want to note that there is no controversy I'm aware of in this translation.  There are not Persian speakers who argue that he said or meant "wiped off the map".  The initial "wiped off the map" translation came from Aljazeera.  Since they are nobody's propaganda outlet, we have to give them the benefit of the doubt and call it an error.  In any case, the "wiped off the map" statement was so incendiary that it made news all over the world.