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The Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said, 'Israel must be wiped off the map'


Updated: 2008/05/20 AM 10:15:46   Comment

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"Vanish from the page 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",[1][2][3] an English idiom which means to "cause a place to stop to exist",[4] or to "obliterate totally",[5] or "destroy completely".[6]

Ahmadinejad's phrase was " بايد از صفحه روزگار محو شود " according to the text published on the President's Office's website.[7]

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 myth:

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.[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.[12] 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: "..it 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 'Wipe Israel' phrase also appeared elsewhere: Iranian military parades in Ahmadinedjad's reign featured ballistic missiles adorned with slogans such as 'Israel must be uprooted and erased from history'.[25]


  1. Eyewitness News WPRI / FOX Providence - Providence, Rhode Island News, Weather, Traffic and Sports | Our Apologies
  2. NYTimes Article.
  3. Reuters Article.
  4. wipe off the map - Idioms - by the Free Dictionary, Thesaurus and Encyclopedia
  5. AskOxford: map
  6. Cambridge Dictionaries Online - Cambridge University Press
  7. Ahmadinejad, Mahmoud (2005-10-26). (speech by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad 26 October 2005). The President's Office (Iran). Retrieved on 2007-09-30.
  8. Western media coverage of 'wipe off the map' speechYoutube video compilation
  9. Ahmadinejad on Israel — Youtube video
  10. "Iran's Jews Learn to Live with Ahmadinejad"
  11. Contrived Fury
  12. "Wiped off the Map" - the Rumor of the Century by Arash Norouzi, The Mossadegh Project website.
  13. Cole, Juan (May 03, 2006). Hitchens the Hacker; And, Hitchens the Orientalist And, "We don't Want Your Stinking War!. Retrieved on 2006-05-04.
  14. Ethan Bronner (June 11, 2006). Just How Far Did They Go, Those Words Against Israel?. Week in Review. New York Times. Retrieved on 2007-02-06.
  15. Special Dispatch Series — No. 1013. MEMBRI (October 28, 2005). Retrieved on 2006-05-03.
  16. Steele, Jonathan. If Iran is ready to talk, the US must do so unconditionally, The Guardian, June 2, 2006.
  17. Iran denies wanting to 'wipe Israel off the map' [Archive] - Iran Defence Forum
  18. Daily Times - Leading News Resource of Pakistan
  19. http://www.deepika.com/english/archives/ENG4_sub.asp?hcode=132746&ccode=ENG4&newsdate=02/22/2006
  20. Steele, Jonathan. Lost in translation, The Guardian, June 14, 2006.
  21. http://today.reuters.com/news/GBUStories.aspx
  22. Erase Israel slogans spotted on Iranian ballistic missiles in Teheran Army Parade
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Israel. (2008, May 20). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 16:50, May 20, 2008, from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Mahmoud_Ahmadinejad_and_Israel&oldid=213670834

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