If America goes to war with Iran, undoubtedly the phrase “wipe Israel off the map” will be used as a motivator. But did President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad actually utter these words?
In Oct 2006, the newly elected Ahmadinejad gave a speech at the conference “The World Without Zionism.” The topic of interest, as evident by the conference’s title, was Zionism, not the nation of Israel.
Before making the now infamous statement, Ahmadinejad prefaced it by speaking about the Zionist regime and compared it to the regimes of Saddaim Hussein, the Shah of Iran and the Soviet Union — all which have ceased to exist. He then proceeded to say:
“The Iman said this regime occupying Jerusalem must vanish from the page of time. This statement is very wise.”
The “Iman” that Ahmadinejad spoke of was the father of the 1979 Iranian Islamic Revolution, Ayatollah Khomeini. It’s important to note that the words are actually Khomeini’s, not Ahmadinejad’s.
Here is the quote in Farsi, courtesy of Arash Norouzi, co-founder of Mossadegh Project:
“Imam ghoft een rezhim-e ishghalgar-e qods bayad az safheh-ye ruzgar mahv shavad.”
And here is the word-for-word English translation:
Imam (Khomeini) ghoft (said) een (this) rezhim-e (regime) ishghalgar-e (occupying) qods (Jerusalem) bayad (must) az safheh-ye ruzgar (from page of time) mahv shavad (vanish from).
The one word that is recognizable to westerners is the word “rezhim-e,” or regime. It is clear that Ahmadinejad was speaking of a regime, not of a nation. This distinction is a vital one.
However, where some translators differ is over the phrase “safheh-ye ruzgar.” As Jonathan Steele with The Guardian points out, this phrase has been translated by experts to mean both “the pages of history” and “the pages of time.”
Professor Juan Cole, a Middle East specialist at the University of Michigan, says Ahmadinejad was not making a threat but encouraging pro-Palestinian activists in Iran and suggesting that, just like former regimes, the Zionist one will come to an end.
“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,” Cole said. “He said that the occupation regime over Jerusalem must be erased from the page of time.”