Bintel Blog reader James Holstun objects to an earlier post of mine in which I quoted Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as having called for Israel to be “wiped off the map.” Holstun writes:
I know that this is a widespread accusation — it’s on THE WEB, after all, so it must be true! But people who speak Farsi note that this is a tendentious mistranslation of Ahmadinejad’s comments, and I haven’t seen any refutation… See http://democracyrising.us/content/view/736/164/.
In the era of pre-emptive attacks, it is appropriate to exercise a little caution in one’s accusations, unless one’s aim is precisely to heat things up and prepare the way for a pre-emptive attack based on a non-existent threat. Ahmadinejad is a Jew-hating scumbag, but that’s not an adequate reason to reduce Tehran to a heap of glowing rubble.
There has, indeed, been a great deal of debate over how to translate Ahmadinejad’s now-infamous remark. University of Michigan historian Juan Cole and others have argued that “wiped off the map” is a mistranslation — a mistranslation, moreover, that is being used to beat the drums of war against Iran. “I smell the whiff of war propaganda,” Cole warned The New York Times.