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18 Feb, 2007

Is Iran trying to “wipe Israel off the map”? Take a closer look

Originally Published: 18 Feb 2007

It should be no secret by now that the United States and Israel are fishing for a reason to justify an attack on Iran.

Four years after attacking Iraq based on the marketing catch-phrase “Saddam has weapons of mass destruction,” preparations are clearly being made to expand the theatre of conflict into something that will make the Iraq quagmire pale by comparison.

This time, the oft-repeated marketing slogan of justification (also known as a talking point, which is being repeated over and over by the talking heads and embedded journalists in the Western media) is that Iranian President has threatened “to wipe Israel off the map.”

Like the “weapons of mass destruction” line, this, too, is false but has taken on a life of its own.

Over the past few months, a number of analysts have taken a closer look at exactly what was said by the Iranian President. The conclusion, as in the case of Saddam Hussein’s “weapons of mass destruction”, is that while there is plenty of room for reasonable doubt about the veracity of the remark, there is no doubt about the way it is being marketed.

Readers may wish to Google the words: “”Wiped Off The Map” – The Rumor of the Century by Arash Norouzi.”

This article by Norouzi, an Iranian artist and co-founder of The Mossadegh Project, begins thus: “Across the world, a dangerous rumor has spread that could have catastrophic implications. According to legend, Iran’s President has threatened to destroy Israel, or, to quote the misquote, “Israel must be wiped off the map”. Contrary to popular belief, this statement was never made.”

The article goes into a full historical background and circumstances about the misquote, including the precise words used in Farsi, or Persian, the language of Iran. It breaks down the entire comment word for word and does a direct translation, including its meanings and references.

Concludes the article: “The word ‘map’ was never used. The Persian word for map, ‘nagsheh’, is not contained anywhere in his original Farsi quote, or, for that matter, anywhere in his entire speech. Nor was the western phrase ‘wipe out’ ever said. Yet we are led to believe that Iran’s President threatened to ‘wipe Israel off the map, despite never having uttered the words ‘map’, ‘wipe out or even ‘Israel’.

Yet, it says, the phrase “has been repeated infinitely without verification,” and the full context of what was actually said never mentioned.

It also delves into how this false interpretation originated? “The answer is surprising,” it says.

“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.

“Amid heated wrangling over Iran’s nuclear program, and months of continuous, unfounded accusations against Iran in an attempt to rally support for preemptive strikes against the country, the imperialists had just been handed the perfect raison d’être to invade. To the war hawks, it was a gift from the skies.”

IRNA then made other different references to the quote which, according to Mr Norouzi’s article, yield an inconsistent translation which “should be evidence enough of the unreliability of the source, particularly when transcribing their news from Farsi into the English language.”

The article then accurately traces how the misquote has spiralled out of control, “repeated thousands of times in international media, and prompted the denouncements of numerous world leaders. Virtually every major and minor media outlet has published or broadcast this false statement to the masses. Big news agencies such as The Associated Press and Reuters refer to the misquote, literally, on an almost daily basis.”

It adds, “Even if every media outlet in the world were to retract the mistranslated quote tomorrow, the major damage has already been done, providing the groundwork for the next phase of disinformation: complete character demonization.

“Ahmadinejad, we are told, is the next Hitler, a grave threat to world peace who wants to bring about a new Holocaust. According to some detractors, he not only wants to destroy Israel, but after that, he will nuke America, and then Europe!

“An October 2006 memo titled Words of Hate: Iran’s Escalating Threats released by the powerful Israeli lobby group AIPAC opens with the warning, “Ahmadinejad and other top Iranian leaders are issuing increasingly belligerent statements threatening to destroy the United States, Europe and Israel.”

To the many foreign readers of the Bangkok Post who struggle with Thai everyday, including its many variations and nuances, there should be grounds for considerable scepticism about what was said, when and how.

Those who attend classes on familiarising themselves with Thai culture will well understand the importance of ensuring the “correctness” – grammatical as well as social and cultural – of the language, and the often critical consequences that can erupt at a very basic personal level by a wrong turn of the word.

Mr Norouzi’s article makes classic reading, especially as he is NOT a supporter of the current Iranian government. It is a detailed expose of how spin-doctoring, propaganda and deception continue to be used and misused in the marketing and posturing to justify what the US, Israel and the neocon fascists really want to do – attack Iran.

Just recently, the Iranian Ambassador to Thailand was invited by the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand to discuss Iran’s nuclear issue. Perhaps some of the FCCT members also need to explain their own organisations’ penchant for wilfully spreading this canard – especially in view of the disastrous consequences that await.