08 February 2007

Translation revisited

I blogged earlier about how Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's “wipe Israel off the map” comment is a misleading translation. Not that Ahmadinejad isn't obviously a vicious hater of Jews, and Israel, or that he isn't playing to these sentiments among many Iranians. He is. And that's bad. But the misleading translation overstates the case in implying military intentions that don't exist, as Juan Cole describes.

Ahmadinejad, however, has condemned mass killing of any sort and was not threatening military action (he is in any case not in command of the Iranian military). He compares his hope for an end to any Zionist regime in geographical Palestine to Khomeini's prediction that the Soviet Union would one day vanish. It wasn't a hope to kill Soviet citizens, but a desire for regime change. Ahmadinejad's hostility to Israel and his Holocaust denial and bigotry are beneath contempt. But he has not threatened military action, and has no unconventional weapons, and his words, however hurtful, do not constitute a legitimate basis for a war of aggression on Iran.

For folks interested in the story of the quote, I find that Arash Norouzi at Global Research has a thorough overview of the story, starting from a close reading of the original statement ...

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”.

... and then walking through the story's repetition in the media.

What has just been demonstrated is irrefutable proof of media manipulation and propaganda in action. The AP deliberately alters an IRNA quote to sound more threatening. The Israeli media not only repeats the fake quote but also steals the original authors' words. The unsuspecting public reads this, forms an opinion and supports unnecessary wars of aggression, presented as self defense, based on the misinformation.

Found via a very spooked Ken MacLeod, who is worried about the troubling signs that the Bush administration is plotting an attack on Iran, and doubly worried about the consequences if this guess is correct.

1 comment:

ET said...


I am not an expert in the Persian language, but I do have some insight as to why the press keeps repeating "Wipe Israel off the map." It's because the regime itself uses that translation. Every day for several months I looked at billboards with just those words (in English)on them. (I'm in Tehran)

This is not a problem with translation. This is a problem with how Iran chooses to portray itself. The regime has never questioned the translation. (This article from the NYT will give you more info.) They have used it themselves over and over and over again.

I am opposed to comparisons with Nazi Germany or pre-WW 2 Europe. I'll give you that. I, too, do not think we should go to war based on rhetoric. To act as though Iranian regime is the hapless victim of an evil press corps is not correct. By now, they could have corrected the translation. They know what it means to us. It is their choice to keep it and to use it.