In a private email which was hijacked by Christopher Hitchens without permission and subsequently published on Prof. Cole's blog, he wrote:
Ahmadinejad was not making a threat, he was quoting a saying of Khomeini and urging that pro-Palestinian activists in Iran not give up hope-- that the occupation of Jerusalem was no more a continued inevitability than had been the hegemony of the Shah's government.There are those who argue that this is a triviality, that the two translations have essentially the same meaning but there are important differences. Prof. Cole has alluded to one of them in the above.
Whatever this quotation from a decades-old speech of Khomeini may have meant, Ahmadinejad did not say that "Israel must be wiped off the map" with the implication that phrase has of Nazi-style extermination of a people. He said that the occupation regime over Jerusalem must be erased from the page of time.
Firstly, the notion that Ahmadinejad wants to wipe Israel from the map can be used to evoke Hitler and the Holocaust. Yesterday, everyone's favourite propagandist, Con Coughlin, provided a perfect example of how this is done:
Most Israelis believe their country will do the same again if the outside world fails to call a halt to Iran's controversial uranium enrichment programme, which few in Israel doubt is ultimately aimed at giving the ayatollahs a nuclear weapons arsenal to fulfil Ahmadinejad's pledge to erase the Jewish state from the map.Textbook.
Having already suffered a near-apocalypse in the form of the Holocaust, the Jewish people have no intention of being the hapless victims of Ahmadinejad's genocidal designs.
Secondly, the phrase "wipe Israel from the map" evokes a literal meaning which conjures up images of mushroom clouds over Tel Aviv.
For those attempting to portray the Iranians as desperate to acquire nuclear weapons so that they can physically destroy Israel, the initial translation of Ahmadinejad's phrase was a gift. With bows on. No wonder they've been so reluctant to give it back.
But there are a number of problems with this whole line of reasoning. The most glaring is the fact that Israel is home to some of Islam's most holy sites. The idea that the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran would turn the Dome of the Rock into radioactive slag seems rather far-fetched. Also, the right of return of Palestinian refuges, one of the keys to the continuing antagonism towards Israel in the Middle East, isn't going to be greatly aided by destroying the country. And, like pretty much any other government, the Iranians are strongly motivated by a desire to hold on to power. They know that an Iranian nuclear attack on Israel would mean the end of the Islamic Republic.
And what does Ahmadinejad himself say about the infamous quotation? TIME magazine asked him:
TIME: You have been quoted as saying Israel should be wiped off the map. Was that merely rhetoric, or do you mean it?There is no doubt that Ahmadinejad wants to see the end of the "occupying regime over Jerusalem"; he has said so repeatedly. There is, however, an enormous difference between that and the suggestion that he has said he wants to physically destroy the country of Israel along with all of the people living in it.
Ahmadinejad: People in the world are free to think the way they wish. We do not insist they should change their views. Our position toward the Palestinian question is clear: we say that a nation has been displaced from its own land. Palestinian people are killed in their own lands, by those who are not original inhabitants, and they have come from far areas of the world and have occupied those homes. Our suggestion is that the 5 million Palestinian refugees come back to their homes, and then the entire people on those lands hold a referendum and choose their own system of government. This is a democratic and popular way. Do you have any other suggestions?
Iraqis are already suffering the disastrous consequences of one war justified by spin and misrepresentation. It would be the direst of follies to allow that to happen again with Iran.
Strawman Disclaimers in Full
- None of the above is meant to suggest an opinion as to whether Iran is developing nuclear weapons. Evidence is thin on the ground but there is a possibility that they are.
- None of the above is meant to suggest that it would be no bad thing if Iran developed nuclear weapons. It would be a bad thing.
- None of the above is meant to suggest that Ahmadinejad is a good President of Iran He's not.
- None of the previous disclaimers are a sop to those on hawks on "the right". They are my actual views