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Commentary :: International
What iranian president Ahmadinejad really said
04 May 2006
The recent kerfuffle over Amhadinejads alleged remarks about israel have been scrutinised by Juan Cole, who says the presidents words have been manufactured by the western press.
Pass this on.
Hitchens the Hacker; And, Hitchens the Orientalist
And, "We don't Want Your Stinking War!

Christopher Hitchens owes me a big apology.

I belong to a private email discussion group called Gulf2000. It has academics, journalists and policy makers on it. It has a strict rule that messages appearing there will not be forwarded off the list. It is run, edited and moderated by former National Security Council staffer for Carter and Reagan, Gary Sick, now a political scientist at Columbia University. The "no-forwarding" rule is his, and is intended to allow the participants to converse about controversial matters without worrying about being in trouble. Also, in an informal email discussion, ideas evolve, you make mistakes and they get corrected, etc. It is a rough, rough draft.

Hitchens somehow hacked into the site, or joined and lurked, or had a crony pass him things. And he has now made my private email messages the subject of an attack on me in Slate. (I am not linking to the article because it is highly unethical and Slate does not deserve any direct traffic from my site for it.) Moreover, he did not even have the decency to quote the final outcome of the discussions.

I'd like to take this opportunity to complain about the profoundly dishonest character of "attack journalism." Journalists are supposed to interview the subjects about which they write. Mr. Hitchens never contacted me about this piece. He never sought clarification of anything. He never asked permission to quote my private mail. Major journalists have a privileged position. Not just anyone can be published in Slate. Most academics could not get a gig there (I've never been asked to write for it). Hitchens is paid to publish there because he is a prominent journalist. But then he should behave like a journalist, not like a hired gun for the far Right, smearing hapless targets of his ire. That isn't journalism. For some reason it drives the Right absolutely crazy that I keep this little web log, and so they keep trotting out these clowns in amateurish sniping attacks. It is rather sad, that one person standing up to them puts them into such piranha-like frenzy.

The precise reason for Hitchens' theft and publication of my private mail is that I object to the characterization of Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as having "threatened to wipe Israel off the map." I object to this translation of what he said on two grounds. First, it gives the impression that he wants to play Hitler to Israel's Poland, mobilizing an armored corps to move in and kill people.

But the actual quote, which comes from an old speech of Khomeini, does not imply military action, or killing anyone at all. The second reason is that it is just an inexact translation. The phrase is almost metaphysical. He quoted Khomeini that "the occupation regime over Jerusalem should vanish from the page of time." It is in fact probably a reference to some phrase in a medieval Persian poem. It is not about tanks.

Since Mr. Hitchens wants to splash my private mail all over the internet against my will, as though he were himself an agent of the Bush Administration's electronic spying on the private conversations of Americans, I'm glad to share the message that encapsulates the results of our deliberations at Gulf2000.



Date: Sun, 23 Apr 2006 15:34:18 -0400 From: "Cole, Juan"

The speech in Persian is here:

Sorry that I misremembered the exact phrase Ahmadinejad had used. He made an analogy to Khomeini's determination and success in getting rid of the Shah's government, which Khomeini had said "must go" (az bain bayad berad). Then Ahmadinejad defined Zionism not as an Arabi-Israeli national struggle but as a Western plot to divide the world of Islam with Israel as the pivot of this plan.

The phrase he then used as I read it is "The Imam said that this regime occupying Jerusalem (een rezhim-e ishghalgar-e qods) must [vanish from] from the page of time (bayad az safheh-ye ruzgar mahv shavad)."

Ahmadinejad was not making a threat, he was quoting a saying of Khomeini and urging that pro-Palestinian activists in Iran not give up hope-- that the occupation of Jerusalem was no more a continued inevitability than had been the hegemony of the Shah's government.

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. He said that the occupation regime over Jerusalem must be erased from the page of time.

Again, Ariel Sharon erased the occupation regime over Gaza from the page of time.

I should again underline that I personally despise everything Ahmadinejad stands for, not to mention the odious Khomeini, who had personal friends of mine killed so thoroughly that we have never recovered their bodies. Nor do I agree that the Israelis have no legitimate claim on any part of Jerusalem. And, I am not exactly a pacifist but have a strong preference for peaceful social activism over violence, so needless to say I condemn the sort of terror attacks against innocent civilians (including Arab Israelis) that we saw last week. I have not seen any credible evidence, however, that such attacks are the doing of Ahmadinejad, and in my view they are mainly the result of the expropriation and displacement of the long-suffering Palestinian people.

It is not realistic for Americans to call for Iran to talk directly to the Israeli government (though in the 1980s the Khomeinists did a lot of business with Israel) when the US government won't talk directly to the Iranians about most bilateral issues. In fact, an American willingness to engage in direct talks might well pave the way to an eventual settlement of these outstanding issues.

cheers

Juan Cole



I don't have any intention of making a point by point reply to Hitchens's completely inaccurate screed. He blames me for not referring to some other speech of Khomeini, when in fact I never instanced any speeches of Khomeini at all in this discussion except the snippet cited by Ahmadinejad-- I was arguing that there is no Persian idiom to wipe something off the map, and that Ahmadinejad has been misquoted.

Hitchens imagines a whole discourse of mine (which mostly never took place) that he now sets out to refute-- from English translations! But I was saying that the wire service translations were the problem in the first place. Hitchens seems to think that he can over-rule my reading of a Persian text by reference to some hurried journalist's untechnical rendering into English.

Hitchens alleges that I said that Khomeini never called for wiping Israel from the face of the map. Actually, I never said anything at all about Khomeini's own speeches or intentions. I was solely discussing Ahmadinejad. Hitchens should please quote me on Khomeini and Israel. He cannot. He is making it up out of whole cloth. He should retract.

I write so much with which the Far Right disagrees so vehemently. I publish it here. Why is it that they keep having to invent quotations and put them in my mouth. Now, Cole is alleged to deny that Khomeini's rhetoric was hostile to Israel. Is that even a plausible allegation?

But, by the way, Khomeini sold oil to Israel, and Israel sold him weapons and spare parts, and put the Reagan administration up to doing the same thing. You will note that when Khomeini originally made the statement about the occupation regime over Jerusalem vanishing from the page of time, that was not front page news. In fact, secret Israeli arms shipments were arriving in Tehran as Khomeini was speaking. So whatever is going on now is not about the rhetoric, is it?
etc
http://www.juancole.com/2006/05/hitchens-hacker-and-hitchens.html

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Comments

The Bush Tribunal on Free Press
04 May 2006
Bush: "Sorry to Oil the Translation and the Mass Media but Oil comes First. Fill her up???????"
Re: What iranian president Ahmadinejad really said
04 May 2006
What President Abracadabra said was: YYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY the Jews!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Boring. I can read that on Boston Indymedia.