Long before the Iran nuclear deal was even within reach, hawks in both Israel and the United States repeatedly trotted out the same, tired claim that former Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad threatened to “wipe Israel off the map,” and that Iran maintains this position right up to the present.
This translation of Ahmadinejad’s now infamous speech has been regurgitated so often that it has become established dogma, even among some commentators on “the left.”
But did he really say it? What implications does his speech have on world affairs?
First question first: Many scholars, from Shiraz Dossa to Juan Cole, have been forceful in denouncing the “wiped off the map” translation as faulty and misleading.
According to Cole, “there is no Persian idiom to wipe something off the map.” The correct translation, he writes, is along the lines of:
Both Dossa and Cole note that the phrase in the second, more accurate translation depicts a “spiritual” and “almost metaphysical” hope, not a threat of military force.
Of course, the above interpretations are never given a hearing in the corporate media, as is the case with most facts that happen to oppose the “official” narrative. Fudging this translation to make it appear that Iran is threatening the existence of another nation serves the ideological machine quite perfectly.
It is curious that politicians within Israel and the U.S. are so willing to take Iranian officials at their word (or, at least, what they interpret as their word) in this instance, but not when they have said repeatedly that they will never invade another country, or that they will never pursue a nuclear weapon.
Generally, it’s a good idea to not take politicians at their word; if we haven’t learned this, we haven’t learned anything. While inflammatory rhetoric should not be ignored, it is actions that we should be most concerned with.
It is also curious that Israel was apparently not worried about being “wiped off the map” when the Ayatollah Khomeini first gave the speech from which Ahmadinejad was quoting.
In fact, during this period, Israel — along with the United States — was shuttling arms to Iran (and there have been reports, as recently as last year, that they are continuing to send them military equipment). Hardly the actions of two countries concerned about imminent destruction.
There is no doubt that the Iranian position has been one of desiring regime change in Israel and rights and justice for the Palestinians.
The former position has been the source of attention for warmongers, but I have to ask: How is it any different than U.S. officials repeatedly threatening to bomb Iran, or even the more mild insinuation that they are “leaving all options on the table” (translation: we always reserve the right to bomb you, if we so choose)?
In addition, as Cole and Dossa emphasize, the Iranian position doesn’t seem to be one of military action, but a kind of “metaphysical” prediction: Regime change will happen with time. Hardly the same approach as that of U.S. planners.
The reality is that Iran has not threatened Israel or the United States with military action, and even if it did, this would be “of little moment,” as Noam Chomsky writes. Returning to Shiraz Dossa, “The notion that Iran can ‘wipe out’ U.S.-backed, nuclear-armed Israel is ludicrous.”
Some are worried about the “Death to America” and “Death to Israel” chants and rallies. These are indeed grotesque.
But it’s important to ask: Do these chants represent a distinct policy position or a threat of military action, or do they simply express general opposition to the behavior of these two nations? The latter seems to be the case, but it is open for discussion.
The main concern, again, should be the actions of those in question.
The United States has undoubtedly been the most aggressive nation in the world since the post-WWII period, invading and destroying countries which posed little to no threat, overthrowing governments (including the democratically elected government of Iran in 1953; the CIA just recently admitted involvement), indiscriminately bombing, drone-striking, torturing, you name it.
Israel has been occupying and torturing the Palestinian people for decades, and they are, with a form of sick irony, actually working to wipe the Palestinians off the map, while repeatedly claiming that they are the ones being threatened.
Iran does indeed fight for its own interests in the region, and often against the interests of the U.S. and Israel. This is predictable enough. And they have not invaded another country in quite some time, something that the U.S. and Israel certainly cannot say.
We have to take an honest look at world opinion and the history, along with the present actions of those in question and decide which nation, in reality, is the greatest threat to world peace. It certainly isn’t Iran.
Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly cried wolf about Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons, both before and after an agreement was reached, but he refuses to acknowledge the existence of his own stockpile of nuclear weapons, undoubtedly hoping to maintain some air of vulnerability.
This may be a radical position, but, based on the evidence, provided by both U.S. and Israeli intelligence, Iran poses no credible threat to either nation, and now even less so.
If the propaganda and threats continue, however, and if the U.S. Congress somehow thwarts the nuclear agreement, Israel and the U.S. could push Iran closer to developing more advanced weapon systems for the purpose of deterrence.
Whatever Iran’s internal problems — and they are serious — we can no longer allow our politicians to pretend that they are the greatest threat to world peace. This absurdity has been peddled for far too long, and it’s time for it to die.
Sadly, it seems that it won’t, unless the hawks get the war they’ve been clamoring for over the past several years; a war which would be devastating for all involved.