Do Not Bomb Iran

The case for war with Iran is Iran’s supposed pursuit of nuclear weapons. The Iranians deny this. Additionally the reasoning is that Iran would use nuclear weapons by using it in a war against Israel. This is propagated by quoting Ahmadinejad as saying that Israel is to be “Wiped off the map”.

Now going to war is an extremely serious matter, it should at the longest be avoided. Even at very very high domestic cost war should be avoided since the alternative (war) is potentially infinitely more costly than any civilian measures. Any reasoning for war should be scrutinized very very carefully.

We believe the political establishment in USA, Israel and the rest of the world have a bias for war as war strengthens their grip on power. They will thus twist the truth to justify war.

We do not believe the way Ahmadinejad is interpreted in this infamous and widely published quote necessarily is correct. The fact that there are many Jews living peacefully within Iran indicates a different more nuanced truth. We do not believe Iran poses an imminent threat to the millions of great peace-loving people living in Israel, who we fully support.

Before justifying the bombing of Iran based on this argument please take the time to read the Wikipedia article about what Ahmadinejad has actually said and what it means.


“Wiped off the map” or “Vanish from the pages of time” translation

Many news sources have presented one of Ahmadinejad’s phrases in Persian as a statement that “Israel must be wiped off the map”,[5][6] an English idiom which means to “cause a place to stop existing”,[7] or to “obliterate totally”,[8] or “destroy completely”.[9]

Ahmadinejad’s phrase was ” بايد از صفحه روزگار محو شود ” according to the text published on the President’s Office’s website.[10]

The translation presented by IRIB has been challenged by Mr. Arash Norouzi, who proposes that the statement “wiped off the map” was never made and that Ahmadinejad did not refer to the nation or land mass of Israel, but to the “regime occupying Jerusalem”. He says that the Iranian government News Agency IRIB/IRNA translation is the source of the confusion:

One may wonder: where did this false interpretation originate? Who is responsible for the translation that has sparked such worldwide controversy? The answer is surprising. The inflammatory ‘wiped off the map’ quote was first disseminated not by Iran’s enemies, but by Iran itself. The Islamic Republic News Agency, Iran’s official propaganda arm, used this phrasing in the English version of some of their news releases covering the World Without Zionism conference. International media including the BBC, Al Jazeera, Time magazine and countless others picked up the IRNA quote and made headlines out of it without verifying its accuracy, and rarely referring to the source. Iran’s Foreign Minister soon attempted to clarify the statement, but the quote had a life of its own. Though the IRNA wording was inaccurate and misleading, the media assumed it was true, and besides, it made great copy.[11]

The phrase ‘wiped away’ can still be seen on Mr Ahmadinejad’s Presidential website:

He further expressed his firm belief that the new wave of confrontations generated in Palestine and the growing turmoil in the Islamic world would in no time wipe Israel away.[12]

According to Juan Cole, a University of Michigan Professor of Modern Middle East and South Asian History, Ahmadinejad’s statement should be translated as:

The Imam said that this regime occupying Jerusalem (een rezhim-e eshghalgar-e qods) must [vanish from] the page of time (bayad az safheh-ye ruzgar mahv shavad).[13]

Norouzi’s translation is identical.[11] According to Cole, “Ahmadinejad did not say he was going to ‘wipe Israel off the map’ because no such idiom exists in Persian”. Instead, “He did say he hoped its regime, i.e., a Jewish-Zionist state occupying Jerusalem, would collapse.”[14]

The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) translates the phrase similarly.[15] On June 2, 2006 The Guardian columnist and foreign correspondent Jonathan Steele published an article based on this reasoning.[16]

Sources within the Iranian government have also denied that Ahmadinejad issued any sort of threat.[17][18][19] On 20 February 2006, Iran’s foreign minister denied that Tehran wanted to see Israel “wiped off the map,” saying Ahmadinejad had been misunderstood. “Nobody can remove a country from the map. This is a misunderstanding in Europe of what our president mentioned,” Manouchehr Mottaki told a news conference, speaking in English, after addressing the European Parliament. “How is it possible to remove a country from the map? He is talking about the regime. We do not recognise legally this regime,” he said.[20][21][22]

In a June 11, 2006 analysis of the translation controversy, New York Times deputy foreign editor Ethan Bronner stated that Ahmadinejad had said that Israel was to be wiped off the map. After noting the objections of critics such as Cole and Steele, Bronner said: “But translators in Tehran who work for the president’s office and the foreign ministry disagree with them. All official translations of Mr. Ahmadinejad’s statement, including a description of it on his website, refer to wiping Israel away. Bronner stated: “ is hard to argue that, from Israel’s point of view, Mr. Ahmadinejad poses no threat. Still, it is true that he has never specifically threatened war against Israel. So did Iran’s president call for Israel to be ‘wiped off the map’? It certainly seems so. Did that amount to a call for war? That remains an open question.”[14] This elicited a further response from Jonathan Steele.[23]

The same idiom in his speech on December 13, 2006 was translated as “wiped out” by Reuters:

Just as the Soviet Union was wiped out and today does not exist, so will the Zionist regime soon be wiped out.[24]

The Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, rather than being “wiped out” by another force. Shiraz Dossa, a professor of Political Science at St. Francis University in Nova Scotia, Canada who presented a paper at a conference in Iran, defended Ahmadinejad:

Ahmadinejad was quoting the Ayatollah Khomeini in the specific speech under discussion: what he said was that “the occupation regime over Jerusalem should vanish from the page of time.” No state action is envisaged in this lament; it denotes a spiritual wish, whereas the erroneous translation—”wipe Israel off the map”—suggests a military threat. There is a huge chasm between the correct and the incorrect translations. The notion that Iran can “wipe out” U.S.-backed, nuclear-armed Israel is ludicrous.[25][26][27]

Clarifying comments by Ahmadinejad

President Ahmadinejad has been asked to explain his comments at subsequent press conferences. At a later news conference on January 14, 2006, Ahmadinejad stated his speech had been exaggerated and misinterpreted.[28] “There is no new policy, they created a lot of hue and cry over that. It is clear what we say: Let the Palestinians participate in free elections and they will say what they want.”

Speaking at a D-8 summit meeting in July 2008, when asked to comment on whether he has called for the destruction of Israel he denied that his country would ever instigate military action, there being “no need for any measures by the Iranian people”. Instead he claimed that “the Zionist regime” in Israel would eventually collapse on its own. “I assure you… there won’t be any war in the future,” both the BBC and AP quoted him as saying.[29][30]

And asked if he objected to the government of Israel or Jewish people, he said that “creating an objection against the Zionists doesn’t mean that there are objections against the Jewish”. He added that Jews lived in Iran and were represented in the country’s parliament.[29]

Interpretation of speech as call for genocide

The speech was interpreted by some as a call for genocide. For example, Canada‘s then Prime Minister Paul Martin said, “this threat to Israel’s existence, this call for genocide coupled with Iran’s obvious nuclear ambitions is a matter that the world cannot ignore.”[31]

In 2007, more than one hundred members of the United States House of Representatives co-sponsored a bill,[32] “Calling on the United Nations Security Council to charge Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad with violating the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide and the United Nations Charter because of his calls for the destruction of the State of Israel.”[33]

Cole interprets the speech as a call for the end of Jewish rule of Israel, but not necessarily for the removal of Jewish people:

His statements were morally outrageous and historically ignorant, but he did not actually call for mass murder (Ariel Sharon made the “occupation regime” in Gaza “vanish” last summer [sic]) or for the expulsion of the Israeli Jews to Europe.[34]

However, the Iranian government IRIB News in English published a story reporting on the Ahmadinejad speech on ‘Qods Day’ on Oct 5 2007, stating that the president ‘repeated an earlier suggestion to Europe on settlement of the Zionists in Europe or big lands such as Canada and Alaska so they would be able to own their own land.’[35]

Gawdat Bahgat, Director of Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, commenting on this saying of Ahmadinejad and Iran’s nuclear program states: “The fiery calls to destroy Israel are meant to mobilize domestic and regional constituencies. Iran has no plan to attack Israel with its nuclear arsenal and powerful conventional military capabilities. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khameni summed up his country’s stand on the Arab-Israeli conflict by stressing, ‘[The] Palestine issue is not Iran’s jihad.'” In fact, Bahgat says that according to most analysts a military confrontation between Iran and Israel is unlikely.[36]

In the speech, Ahmadinejad gave the examples of Iran under the Shah, the Soviet Union and Saddam Hussein‘s regime in Iraq as examples of apparently invincible regimes that ceased to exist. Ahmadinejad used these examples to justify his belief that the United States and the State of Israel can also be defeated claiming, “they say it is not possible to have a world without the United States and Zionism. But you know that this is a possible goal and slogan.”[2]

In April 2006, Iran’s ambassador was asked directly about Ahmadinejad’s position towards Israel by CNN correspondent Wolf Blitzer:

BLITZER: But should there be a state of Israel?

SOLTANIEH: I think I’ve already answered to you. If Israel is a synonym and will give the indication of Zionism mentality, no. But if you are going to conclude that we have said the people there have to be removed or they have to be massacred or so, this is fabricated, unfortunate selective approach to what the mentality and policy of Islamic Republic of Iran is. I have to correct, and I did so.[37]

Interpretation of speech as call for referendum

Iran’s stated policy on Israel is to urge a one-state solution through a countrywide referendum. Juan Cole and others interpret Ahmadinejad’s statements to be an endorsement of the one-state solution, in which a government would be elected that all Palestinians and all Israelis would jointly vote for; which would normally be an end to the “Zionist state”.[38]

In November 2005 Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei, rejecting any attack on Israel, called for a referendum in Palestine:

We hold a fair and logical stance on the issue of Palestine. Several decades ago, Egyptian statesman Gamal Abdel Nasser, who was the most popular Arab personality, stated in his slogans that the Egyptians would throw the Jewish usurpers of Palestine into the sea. Some years later, Saddam Hussein, the most hated Arab figure, said that he would put half of the Palestinian land on fire. But we would not approve of either of these two remarks. We believe, according to our Islamic principles, that neither throwing the Jews into the sea nor putting the Palestinian land on fire is logical and reasonable. Our position is that the Palestinian people should regain their rights. Palestine belongs to Palestinians, and the fate of Palestine should also be determined by the Palestinian people. The issue of Palestine is a criterion for judging how truthful those claiming to support democracy and human rights are in their claims. The Islamic Republic of Iran has presented a fair and logical solution to this issue. We have suggested that all native Palestinians, whether they are Muslims, Christians or Jews, should be allowed to take part in a general referendum before the eyes of the world and decide on a Palestinian government. Any government that is the result of this referendum will be a legitimate government.[39]

Ahmadinejad himself has also repeatedly called for such solution.[40][41][42][43] Most recently in an interview with Time magazine:[44]

TIME: You have been quoted as saying Israel should be wiped off the map. Was that merely rhetoric, or do you mean it?

Ahmadinejad: […] 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.

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