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In an address to the "World without Zionism" Conference held in Teheran on October 26, 2005, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said: "Our dear Imam [Khomeini] ordered that this Jerusalem-occupying regime [Israel] must be erased from the page of time. This was a very wise statement."
The New York Times translated the statement as Israel "must be wiped off the map," a non-literal translation which nevertheless conveyed the meaning of the original - the destruction of Israel.
Juan Cole of the University of Michigan argues that Ahmadinejad was not calling for the destruction of Israel, saying, "Ahmadinejad did not say he was going to wipe Israel off the map because no such idiom exists in Persian." The British Guardian's Jonathan Steele argued that Ahmadinejad was simply remarking that "this regime occupying Jerusalem must vanish from the page of time." Steele continues: "He was not making a military threat. He was calling for an end to the occupation of Jerusalem at some point in the future. The 'page of time' phrase suggests he did not expect it to happen soon."
Translating Ahmadinejad's statements is not purely an academic matter. When in 2007 the US House of Representatives debated a resolution calling on the UN Security Council to charge Ahmadinejad with violating the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide and the United Nations Charter because of his repeated calls for the destruction of Israel (H. Con. Res. 21), the issue of the accuracy of the translation of his remarks came up in the House debate.
Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) requested that alternative translations of Ahmadinejad's language - like that of South African political scientist Virginia Tilley - be introduced into the Congressional Record. These versions assert the Iranian president was only seeking a change of regime in Israel and not the physical elimination of the country. H. Con. Res. 21 was adopted by a majority of 411 to 2, with Rep. Kucinich and Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) voting against.
Juan Cole of the University of Michigan argues that Ahmadinejad was not calling for the destruction of Israel, saying, "Ahmadinejad did not say he was going to wipe Israel off the map because no such idiom exists in Persian."
What emerges from a comprehensive analysis of what Ahmadinejad actually said - and how it has been interpreted in Iran - is that the Iranian president was not just calling for "regime change" in Jerusalem, but rather the actual physical destruction of the State of Israel. After all, it is hard to wipe a country off the map without destroying its population as well.
"The Zionist regime will be wiped out soon the same way the Soviet Union was, and humanity will achieve freedom," Ahmadinejad said at Tuesday's meeting with the conference participants in his offices, according to Iran's official news agency, IRNA.
He said elections should be held among "Jews, Christians and Muslims so the population of Palestine can select their government and destiny for themselves in a democratic manner."
"As the Soviet Union disappeared, the Zionist regime will also vanish and humanity will be liberated