Wednesday, June 27, 2007

  • Wednesday, June 27, 2007
  • Elder of Ziyon
From the "Atlantic Free Press", by Juan Cole:
Dennis Kucinich and Ron Paul continue to show themselves among the few in Congress with any integrity and backbone. They declined to go along with a resolution charging Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad with incitement to genocide, given his alleged call for Israel to be 'wiped off the face of the map.'

As most of my readers know, Ahmadinejad did not use that phrase in Persian. He quoted an old saying of Ayatollah Khomeini calling for 'this occupation regime over Jerusalem" to "vanish from the page of time.' Calling for a regime to vanish is not the same as calling for people to be killed. Ahmadinejad has not to my knowledge called for anyone to be killed.

I was talking to two otherwise well-informed Israeli historians a couple of weeks ago, and they expressed the conviction that Ahmadinejad had threatened to nuke Israel. I was taken aback. First of all, Iran doesn't have a nuke. Second, there is no proof that Iran even has a nuclear weapons program. Third, Ahmadinejad has denied wanting a bomb. Fourth, Ahmadinejad has never threatened any sort of direct Iranian military action against Israel. In other words, that is a pretty dramatic fear for educated persons to feel, on the basis of . . . nothing.

I renew my call to readers to write protest letters to newspapers and other media every time they hear it alleged that Ahmadinejad (or "Iran"!) has threatened to "wipe Israel off the map." There is no such idiom in Persian and it is not what he said, and the mistranslation gives entirely the wrong impression. Wars can start over bad translations.

It was apparently some Western wire service that mistranslated the phrase as 'wipe Israel off the map', which sounds rather more violent than calling for regime change. Since then, Iranian media working in English have themselves depended on that translation. One of the tricks of Right-Zionist propagandists is to substitute these English texts for Ahmadinejad's own Persian text. (Ethan Bronner at the New York Times tried to pull this, and more recently Michael Rubin at the American Enterprise Institute.) But good scholarship requires that you go to the original Persian text in search of the meaning of a phrase. Bronner and Rubin are guilty disregarding philological scholarship in favor of mere propagandizing.
Cole is engaging in the usual dishonesty so endemic among the terror-supporting Left where he attempts to use semantics to stupidly argue a point. (Those who claim that the term "anti-semite" means "hating Arabs, who are Semites" do this all the time.)

(His argument that Iran has no nuclear weapons program, based entirely on Iranian denials, is so absurd as to seem almost a parody of intellectualism.)

Let's look at exactly what Michael Rubin wrote, as he was demolishing Cole (and note that Cole does not address his point here:)
Revisionism is in full swing in Washington as some academics and policymakers bend over backwards to convince themselves and others that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad does not mean what he says.

Today, the National Iranian American Council—a lobby group advocating the normalization of ties between the United States and the Islamic Republic—published this analysis, which ends:

The proper translation of Ahmadinejad’s quotes has been the subject of some debate. Kucinich argued that the translations used in the bill were either misquoted or out of context, offering alternative translations from the New York Times to convey his point.

It's a line which originated with Juan Cole, a University of Michigan professor, has peddled. Indeed, Cole wrote:

I have a suggestion for my readers. Every time you see a newspaper article that alleges that Ahmadinejad said that Israel should be wiped off the face of the map, please write the editor. Say that this idiom does not exist in Persian, and that what Ahmadinejad actually said was, "This occupation regime over Jerusalem must vanish from the page of time." And you can cite me.

Perhaps one can quibble over how to render a translation. Here, the Islamic Republic provides its own clarification. In its official translations, it headlined Ahmadinejad's call to "wipe Israel off the map."

There is a tendency among academics to feel they have to advocate for those countries they study. They should not. Nor should they advocate for the U.S. government. They should analyze dispassionately. But, ignoring or burying evidence that reflects badly on a regime is more likely to advance misunderstanding than advance rapprochement. It is time academics and policymakers both deal with reality as it is, rather than a sanitized version they would wish it to be.
Note Cole's dishonesty as he pretends that the official Iranian translation was just copying from American mistranslations.

The best proof that Cole knows his argument is weak is that he freely links to Kucinich's comments, but not to Michael Rubin's - because he knows that he is not saying anything that disproves Rubin's point. Rubin, on the other hand, has no such problem linking to Cole.

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