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Putting Words in Ahmadinejad's Mouth

Putting Words in Ahmadinejad's Mouth

Putting Words in Ahmadinejad's Mouth
Date:   Thu, 31 Aug 2006 10:33:09 -0400

http://www.counterpunch.org/tilley08282006.html
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*August 28, 2006*


 /Is Iran's President Really a Jew-hating, Holocaust-denying
 Islamo-fascist who has threatened to "wipe Israel off the map"?/


 Putting Words in Ahmadinejad's Mouth

By VIRGINIA TILLEY
/Johannesburg, South Africa/
//
In this frightening mess in the Middle East, let's get one thing
straight. Iran is not threatening Israel with destruction. Iran's
president has not threatened any action against Israel. Over and over,
we hear that Iran is clearly "committed to annihilating Israel" because
the "mad" or "reckless" or "hard-line" President Ahmadinejad has
repeatedly threatened to destroy Israel But every supposed quote, every
supposed instance of his doing so, is wrong.

The most infamous quote, "Israel must be wiped off the map", is the most
glaringly wrong. In his October 2005 speech, Mr. Ahmadinejad never used
the word "map" or the term "wiped off". According to Farsi-language
experts like Juan Cole and even right-wing services like MEMRI, what he
actually said was "this regime that is occupying Jerusalem must vanish
from the page of time."
Putting Words in Ahmadinejad's Mouth
Date:   Thu, 31 Aug 2006 10:33:09 -0400
From:   Claude Saldanha <csaldanha44@hotmail.com>



http://www.counterpunch.org/tilley08282006.html
<javascript:ol('http://www.counterpunch.org/tilley08282006.html');>

*August 28, 2006*


 /Is Iran's President Really a Jew-hating, Holocaust-denying
 Islamo-fascist who has threatened to "wipe Israel off the map"?/


 Putting Words in Ahmadinejad's Mouth

By VIRGINIA TILLEY
/Johannesburg, South Africa/
//
In this frightening mess in the Middle East, let's get one thing
straight. Iran is not threatening Israel with destruction. Iran's
president has not threatened any action against Israel. Over and over,
we hear that Iran is clearly "committed to annihilating Israel" because
the "mad" or "reckless" or "hard-line" President Ahmadinejad has
repeatedly threatened to destroy Israel But every supposed quote, every
supposed instance of his doing so, is wrong.

The most infamous quote, "Israel must be wiped off the map", is the most
glaringly wrong. In his October 2005 speech, Mr. Ahmadinejad never used
the word "map" or the term "wiped off". According to Farsi-language
experts like Juan Cole and even right-wing services like MEMRI, what he
actually said was "this regime that is occupying Jerusalem must vanish
from the page of time."

What did he mean? In this speech to an annual anti-Zionist conference,
Mr. Ahmadinejad was being prophetic, not threatening. He was citing Imam
Khomeini, who said this line in the 1980s (a period when Israel was
actually selling arms to Iran, so apparently it was not viewed as so
ghastly then). Mr. Ahmadinejad had just reminded his audience that the
Shah's regime, the Soviet Union, and Saddam Hussein had all seemed
enormously powerful and immovable, yet the first two had vanished almost
beyond recall and the third now languished in prison. So, too, the
"occupying regime" in Jerusalem would someday be gone. His message was,
in essence, "This too shall pass."

But what about his other "threats" against Israel? The blathersphere
made great hay from his supposed comment later in the same speech,
"There is no doubt: the new wave of assaults in Palestine will erase the
stigma in [the] countenance of the Islamic world." "Stigma" was
interpreted as "Israel" and "wave of assaults" was ominous. But what he
actually said was, "I have no doubt that the new movement taking place
in our dear Palestine is a /wave of morality/ which is spanning the
entire Islamic world and which will soon remove this stain of disgrace
from the Islamic world." "Wave of morality" is not "wave of assaults."
The preceding sentence had made clear that the "stain of disgrace" was
the Muslim world's failure to eliminate the "occupying regime".

For months, scholars like Cole and journalists like the London
Guardian's Jonathan Steele have been pointing out these mistranslations
while more and more appear: for example, Mr. Ahmadinejad's comments at
the Organization of Islamic Countries meeting on August 3, 2006. Radio
Free Europe reported that he said "that the 'main cure' for crisis in
the Middle East is the elimination of Israel." "Elimination of Israel"
implies physical destruction: bombs, strafing, terror, throwing Jews
into the sea. Tony Blair denounced the translated statement as ""quite
shocking". But Mr. Ahmadinejad never said this. According to
/al-Jazeera/, what he actually said was "The real cure for the conflict
is the elimination of the Zionist regime, but there should be an
immediate ceasefire first."

Nefarious agendas are evident in consistently translating "eliminating
the occupation regime" as "destruction of Israel". "Regime" refers to
governance, not populations or cities. "Zionist regime" is the
government of Israel and its system of laws, which have annexed
Palestinian land and hold millions of Palestinians under military
occupation. Many mainstream human rights activists believe that Israel's
"regime" must indeed be transformed, although they disagree how. Some
hope that Israel can be redeemed by a change of philosophy and
government (regime) that would allow a two-state solution. Others
believe that Jewish statehood itself is inherently unjust, as it embeds
racist principles into state governance, and call for its transformation
into a secular democracy (change of regime). None of these ideas about
regime change signifies the expulsion of Jews into the sea or the
ravaging of their towns and cities. All signify profound political
change, necessary to creating a just peace.

Mr. Ahmadinejad made other statements at the Organization of Islamic
Countries that clearly indicated his understanding that Israel must be
treated within the framework of international law. For instance, he
recognized the reality of present borders when he said that "any
aggressor should go back to the Lebanese international border". He
recognized the authority of Israel and the role of diplomacy in
observing, "The circumstances should be prepared for the return of the
refugees and displaced people, and prisoners should be exchanged." He
also called for a boycott: "We also propose that the Islamic nations
immediately cut all their overt and covert political and economic
relations with the Zionist regime." A double bushel of major Jewish
peace groups, US church groups, and hordes of human rights organizations
have said the same things.

A final word is due about Mr. Ahmadinejad's "Holocaust denial".
Holocaust denial is a very sensitive issue in the West, where it
notoriously serves anti-Semitism. Elsewhere in the world, however,
fogginess about the Holocaust traces more to a sheer lack of
information. One might think there is plenty of information about the
Holocaust worldwide, but this is a mistake. (Lest we be snooty,
Americans show the same startling insularity from general knowledge
when, for example, they live to late adulthood still not grasping that
US forces killed at least two million Vietnamese and believing that
anyone who says so is anti-American. Most French people have not yet
accepted that their army slaughtered a million Arabs in Algeria).

Skepticism about the Holocaust narrative has started to take hold in the
Middle East not because people hate Jews but because that narrative is
deployed to argue that Israel has a right to "defend itself" by
attacking every country in its vicinity. Middle East publics are so used
to western canards legitimizing colonial or imperial takeovers that some
wonder if the six-million-dead argument is just another myth or
exaggerated tale. It is dismal that Mr. Ahmadinejad seems to belong to
this sector.

Still, Mr. Ahmadinejad did not say what the US Subcommittee on
Intelligence Policy reported that he said: "They have invented a myth
that Jews were massacred and place this above God, religions and the
prophets." He actually said, "In the name of the Holocaust they have
created a myth and regard it to be worthier than God, religion and the
prophets." This language targets the myth of the Holocaust, not the
Holocaust itself - i.e., "myth" as "mystique", or what has been done
with the Holocaust. Other writers, including important Jewish
theologians, have criticized the "cult" or "ghost" of the Holocaust
without denying that it happened. In any case, Mr. Ahmadinejad's main
message has been that, if the Holocaust happened as Europe says it did,
then Europe, and not the Muslim world, is responsible for it.

Why is Mr. Ahmadinejad being so systematically misquoted and demonized?
Need we ask? If the world believes that Iran is preparing to attack
Israel, then the US or Israel can claim justification in attacking Iran
first. On that agenda, the disinformation campaign about Mr.
Ahmadinejad's statements has been bonded at the hip to a second set of
lies: promoting Iran's (nonexistent) nuclear weapon programme.

The current fuss about Iran's nuclear enrichment program is playing out
so identically to US canards about Iraq's WMD that we must wonder why it
is not meeting only roaring international derision. With multiple
agendas regarding Iran -- oil, US hegemony, Israel, neocon fantasies of
a "new Middle East" -- the Bush administration has raised a great
international scare about Iran's nuclear enrichment program. (See Ray
Close, Why Bush Will Choose War Against Iran.) But, plowing through
Iran's facilities and records, International Atomic Energy Agency
inspectors have found no evidence of a weapons program. The US
intelligence community hasn't found anything, either.

All experts concur that, even if Iran has such a program, it is five to
ten years away from having the enriched uranium necessary for an actual
weapon, so pre-emptive military action now is hardly necessary. Even the
recent report by the Republican-dominated Subcommittee on Intelligence
Policy, which pointed out that the US government lacks the intelligence
on Iran's weapons program necessary to thwart it, effectively confirms
that the supposed "intelligence" is patchy and inadequate.

The Bush administration's casual neglect of North Korea's nuclear
program indicates that nuclear weapons are not, in fact, the issue here.
The neocons are intent on changing the regime in Iran and so have
deployed their propagandists to promote the "nuclear weapons" scare just
they promoted the Iraqi WMD scare. Republican rhetoric and right-wing
news commentators have fallen into line, obediently repeating baseless
assertions that Iran has a "nuclear weapons program," is threatening the
world and especially Israel with its "nuclear weapons program," and must
not be allowed to complete its "nuclear weapons program." Those who
nervously point out that hard evidence is actually lacking about any
Iranian "nuclear weapons program" are derided as naïve and spineless
patsies.

Worse, the Bush administration has brought this snow-job to the UN,
wrangling the Security Council into passing a resolution (SC 1696)
demanding that Iran cease nuclear enrichment by August 31 and warning of
sanctions if it doesn't. Combined with its abysmal performance regarding
Israel's assault on Lebanon, the Security Council has crumbled into
humiliating obsequious incompetence on this one.

Like all phantasms, the nuclear-weapons charge is hard to defeat because
it cannot be entirely disproved. Maybe some Iranian scientists, in some
remote underground facility, are working on nuclear weapons technology.
Maybe feelers to North Korea have explored the possibilities of getting
extra components. Maybe an alien spaceship once crashed in the Nevada
desert. Normally, just because something can't be disproved does not
make it true. But in the neocon world, possibilities are realities, and
a craven press is there to click its heels and trumpet the
scaremongering headlines. It doesn't take much, through endless
repetition of the term "possible nuclear weapons program," for the word
"possible" to drop quietly away.

Evidence is, in any case, a mere detail to the Bush administration, for
which the /desire/ for nuclear weapons is sufficient cause for a
pre-emptive attack. In US debates prior to invading Iraq, people
sometimes insisted that any real evidence of WMD was sorely lacking. The
White House would then insist that, because Saddam Hussein "wanted" such
weapons, he was likely to have them sometime in the future. Hence
thought crimes, even imaginary thought crimes, are now punishable by
military invasion.

Will the US really attack Iran? US generals are rightly alarmed that
bombing Iran's nuclear facilities would unleash unprecedented attacks on
US occupation forces in Iraq, as well as US bases in the Gulf. Iran
could even block the Straits of Hormuz, which carries 40 percent of the
world's oil. Spin-off terrorist militancy would skyrocket. The potential
damage to international security and the world economy would be
unfathomably dangerous. The Bush administration's necons seems capable
of any insanity, so none of this may matter to them. But even the
neocons must be taking pause since Israel failed to knock out Hizbullah
using the same onslaught from the air planned for Iran.

But Israel can attack Iran, and this may be the plan. Teaming up, the
two countries could compensate for each other's strategic limitations.
The US has been contributing its superpower clout in the Security
Council, setting the stage for sanctions, knowing Iran will not yield on
its enrichment program. Having cultivated a (mistaken) international
belief that Iran is threatening a direct attack on Israel, the Israeli
government could then claim the right of self-defense in taking
unilateral pre-emptive action to destroy the nuclear capacity of a state
declared in breach of UN directives. Direct retaliation by Iran against
Israel is impossible because Israel is a nuclear power (and Iran is not)
and because the US security umbrella would protect Israel. Regional
reaction against US targets might be curtailed by the (scant) confusion
about indirect US complicity.

In that case, what we are seeing now is the US creating the
international security context for Israel's unilateral strike and
preparing to cover Israel's back in the aftermath.

Is this really the plan? Some evidence suggests that it is on the table.
In recent years, Israel has purchased new "bunker-busting" missiles, a
fleet of F-16 jets, and three latest-technology German Dolphin
submarines (and ordered two more)- i.e., the appropriate weaponry for
striking Iran's nuclear installations. In March 2005, the Times of
London reported that Israel had constructed a mock-up of Iran's Natanz
facility in the desert and was conducting practice bombing runs. In
recent months, Israeli officials have openly stated that if the UN fails
to take action, Israel will bomb Iran.
But Hizbullah, Iran's ally, still threatens Israel's flank. Hence
attacking Hizbullah was more than a "demo" for attacking Iran, as
Seymour Hersh reported; it was necessary to attacking Iran. Israel
failed to crush Hizbullah, but the outcome may be better for Israel now
that Security Council Resolution 1701 has made the entire international
community responsible for disarming Hizbullah. If the US-sponsored 1701
effort succeeds, the attack on Iran is a go.

As Israel and the US try to make that deeply flawed plan work, we will
doubtless continue to read in every forum that Iran's president - a
hostile, irrational, Jew-hating, Holocaust-denying Islamo-fascist who
has threatened to "wipe Israel off the map" -- is demonstrably
irrational enough to commit national suicide by launching a
(nonexistent) nuclear weapon against Israel's mighty nuclear arsenal.
The message is being hammered home: against /this/ media-created myth,
Israel must truly "defend itself".

*Virginia Tilley *is a professor of political science, a US citizen
working in South Africa, and author of The One-State Solution: A
Breakthrough for Peace in the Israeli-Palestinian Deadlock
<javascript:ol('http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0472115138/counterpunchmaga');>
(University of Michigan Press and Manchester University Press, 2005).
She can be reached at tilley@hws.edu
<http://by119fd.bay119.hotmail.msn.com/cgi-bin/compose?mailto=1&msg=D2377700-54BA-421D-B3C4-4D5C12C08A72&start=0&len=34595&src=&type=x&to=tilley@hws.edu&cc=&bcc=&subject=&body=&curmbox=00000000-0000-0000-0000-000000000001&a=51d1e013342d8052b83ff7197f1150d2b16b2c0313039fe61316bc44027b8715>.
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