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Was Wiping Israel off the Map a misquote?


Revisionism is in full swing in Washington as some academics and policymakers bend over backwards to convince themselves and others that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad does not mean what he says.

Today, the National Iranian American Council–a lobby group advocating the normalization of ties between the United States and the Islamic Republic–published this analysis, which ends:

The proper translation of Ahmadinejad’s quotes has been the subject of some debate. Kucinich argued that the translations used in the bill were either misquoted or out of context, offering alternative translations from the New York Times to convey his point.

It’s a line which originated with Juan Cole, a University of Michigan professor, has peddled. Indeed, Cole wrote:

I have a suggestion for my readers. Every time you see a newspaper article that alleges that Ahmadinejad said that Israel should be wiped off the face of the map, please write the editor. Say that this idiom does not exist in Persian, and that what Ahmadinejad actually said was, “This occupation regime over Jerusalem must vanish from the page of time.” And you can cite me.

Perhaps one can quibble over how to render a translation. Here, the Islamic Republic provides its own clarification. In its official translations, it headlined Ahmadinejad’s call to “wipe Israel off the map.”

There is a tendency among academics to feel they have to advocate for those countries they study. They should not. Nor should they advocate for the U.S. government. They should analyze dispassionately. But, ignoring or burying evidence that reflects badly on a regime is more likely to advance misunderstanding than advance rapprochement. It is time academics and policymakers both deal with reality as it is, rather than a sanitized version they would wish it to be.


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