Iran's President Did Not Say
"Israel must be wiped off the map"
By Arash Norouzi
Clearing House" -- -- 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, as this article will prove.
On Tuesday, October 25th, 2005 at the Ministry of
Interior conference hall in Tehran, newly elected
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad delivered a speech
at a program, reportedly attended by thousands, titled
"The World Without Zionism". Large posters surrounding
him displayed this title prominently in English,
obviously for the benefit of the international press.
Below the poster's title was a slick graphic depicting
an hour glass containing planet Earth at its top. Two
small round orbs representing the United States and
Israel are shown falling through the hour glass' narrow
neck and crashing to the bottom.
Before we get to the infamous remark, it's important to
note that the "quote" in question was itself a quote—
they are the words of the late Ayatollah Khomeini, the
father of the Islamic Revolution. Although he quoted
Khomeini to affirm his own position on Zionism, the
actual words belong to Khomeini and not Ahmadinejad.
Thus, Ahmadinejad has essentially been credited (or
blamed) for a quote that is not only unoriginal, but
represents a viewpoint already in place well before he
ever took office.
THE ACTUAL QUOTE:
So what did Ahmadinejad actually say? To quote his exact
words in farsi: "Imam ghoft een rezhim-e ishghalgar-e
qods bayad az safheh-ye ruzgar mahv shavad."
That passage will mean nothing to most people, but one
word might ring a bell: rezhim-e. It is the word
"Regime", pronounced just like the English word with an
extra "eh" sound at the end. Ahmadinejad did not refer
to Israel the country or Israel the land mass, but the
Israeli regime. This is a vastly significant
distinction, as one cannot wipe a regime off the map.
Ahmadinejad does not even refer to Israel by name, he
instead uses the specific phrase "rezhim-e ishghalgar-e
qods" (regime occupying Jerusalem).
So this raises the question.. what exactly did he want
"wiped from the map"? The answer is: nothing. That's
because 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".
The full quote translated directly to English:
"The Imam said this regime occupying Jerusalem must
vanish from the page of time".
Word by word 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).
Here is the full transcript of the speech in farsi,
archived on Ahmadinejad's web site
THE SPEECH AND CONTEXT:
While the false "wiped off the map" extract has been
repeated infinitely without verification, Ahmadinejad's
actual speech itself has been almost entirely ignored.
Given the importance placed on the "map" comment, it
would be sensible to present his words in their full
context to get a fuller understanding of his position.
In fact, by looking at the entire speech, there is a
clear, logical trajectory leading up to his call for a
"world without Zionism". One may disagree with his
reasoning, but critical appraisals are infeasible
without first knowing what that reasoning is.
In his speech, Ahmadinejad declares that Zionism is the
West's apparatus of political oppression against
Muslims. He says the "Zionist regime" was imposed on the
Islamic world as a strategic bridgehead to ensure
domination of the region and its assets. Palestine, he
insists, is the frontline of the Islamic world's
struggle with American hegemony, and its fate will have
repercussions for the entire Middle East.
Ahmadinejad acknowledges that the removal of America's
powerful grip on the region via the Zionists may seem
unimaginable to some, but reminds the audience that, as
Khomeini predicted, other seemingly invincible empires
have disappeared and now only exist in history books. He
then proceeds to list three such regimes that have
collapsed, crumbled or vanished, all within the last 30
(1) The Shah of Iran- the U.S. installed monarch
(2) The Soviet Union
(3) Iran's former arch-enemy, Iraqi dictator Saddam
In the first and third examples, Ahmadinejad prefaces
their mention with Khomeini's own words foretelling that
individual regime's demise. He concludes by referring to
Khomeini's unfulfilled wish: "The Imam said this regime
occupying Jerusalem must vanish from the page of time.
This statement is very wise". This is the passage that
has been isolated, twisted and distorted so famously. By
measure of comparison, Ahmadinejad would seem to be
calling for regime change, not war.
One may wonder: where did this false interpretation
originate? Who is responsible for the translation that
has sparked such worldwide controversy? The answer is
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'Ítre to invade. To the war
hawks, it was a gift from the skies.
It should be noted that in other references to the
conference, the IRNA's translation changed. For
instance, "map" was replaced with "earth". In some
articles it was "The Qods occupier regime should be
eliminated from the surface of earth", or the similar
"The Qods occupying regime must be eliminated from the
surface of earth". The inconsistency of the IRNA's
translation should be evidence enough of the
unreliability of the source, particularly when
transcribing their news from Farsi into the English
The mistranslated "wiped off the map" quote attributed
to Iran's President has been spread worldwide, 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.
Following news of Iran's remark, condemnation was swift.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair expressed "revulsion"
and implied that it might be necessary to attack Iran.
U.N. chief Kofi Annan cancelled his scheduled trip to
Iran due to the controversy. Ariel Sharon demanded that
Iran be expelled from the United Nations for calling for
Israel's destruction. Shimon Peres, more than once,
threatened to wipe Iran off the map. More recently,
Israel's Benjamin Netanyahu, who has warned that Iran is
"preparing another holocaust for the Jewish state" is
calling for Ahmadinejad to be tried for war crimes for
The artificial quote has also been subject to additional
alterations. U.S. officials and media often take the
liberty of dropping the "map" reference altogether,
replacing it with the more acutely threatening phrase
"wipe Israel off the face of the earth". Newspaper and
magazine articles dutifully report Ahmadinejad has
"called for the destruction of Israel", as do senior
officials in the United States government.
President George W. Bush said the comments represented a
"specific threat" to destroy Israel. In a March 2006
speech in Cleveland, Bush vowed he would resort to war
to protect Israel from Iran, because, "..the threat from
Iran is, of course, their stated objective to destroy
our strong ally Israel." Former Presidential advisor
Richard Clarke told Australian TV that Iran "talks
openly about destroying Israel", and insists, "The
President of Iran has said repeatedly that he wants to
wipe Israel off the face of the earth". In an October
2006 interview with Amy Goodman, former UN Weapons
Inspector Scott Ritter referred to Ahmadinejad as "the
idiot that comes out and says really stupid, vile
things, such as, 'It is the goal of Iran to wipe Israel
off the face of the earth' ". The consensus is clear.
Confusing matters further, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
pontificates rather than give a direct answer when
questioned about the statement, such as in Lally
Weymouth's Washington Post interview in September 2006:
Are you really serious when you say that Israel should
be wiped off the face of the Earth?
We need to look at the scene in the Middle East — 60
years of war, 60 years of displacement, 60 years of
conflict, not even a day of peace. Look at the war in
Lebanon, the war in Gaza — what are the reasons for
these conditions? We need to address and resolve the
Your suggestion is to wipe Israel off the face of the
Our suggestion is very clear:... Let the Palestinian
people decide their fate in a free and fair referendum,
and the result, whatever it is, should be accepted....
The people with no roots there are now ruling the land.
You've been quoted as saying that Israel should be wiped
off the face of the Earth. Is that your belief?
What I have said has made my position clear. If we look
at a map of the Middle East from 70 years ago...
So, the answer is yes, you do believe that it should be
wiped off the face of the Earth?
Are you asking me yes or no? Is this a test? Do you
respect the right to self-determination for the
Palestinian nation? Yes or no? Is Palestine, as a
nation, considered a nation with the right to live under
humane conditions or not? Let's allow those rights to be
enforced for these 5 million displaced people.
The exchange is typical of Ahmadinejad's interviews with
the American media. Predictably, both Mike Wallace of 60
Minutes and CNN's Anderson Cooper asked if he wants to
"wipe Israel off the map". As usual, the question is
thrown back in the reporter's face with his standard
"Don't the Palestinians have rights?, etc." retort
(which is never directly answered either). Yet he never
confirms the "map" comment to be true. This did not
prevent Anderson Cooper from referring to earlier
portions of his interview after a commercial break and
lying, "as he said earlier, he wants Israel wiped off
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." These
claims not only fabricate an unsubstantiated threat, but
assume far more power than he actually possesses.
Alarmists would be better off monitoring the statements
of the ultra-conservative Supreme Leader, Ayatollah
Khamenei, who holds the most power in Iran.
As Iran's U.N. Press Officer, M.A. Mohammadi, complained
to The Washington Post in a June 2006 letter:
It is not amazing at all, the pick-and-choose approach
of highlighting the misinterpreted remarks of Iranian
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in October and ignoring
this month's remarks by Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah
Ali Khamenei, that "We have no problem with the world.
We are not a threat whatsoever to the world, and the
world knows it. We will never start a war. We have no
intention of going to war with any state."
The Israeli government has milked every drop of the
spurious quote to its supposed advantage. In her
September 2006 address to the United Nations General
Assembly, Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni accused
Iran of working to nuke Israel and bully the world.
"They speak proudly and openly of their desire to 'wipe
Israel off the map.' And now, by their actions, they
pursue the weapons to achieve this objective to imperil
the region and threaten the world." Addressing the
threat in December, a fervent Prime Minister Ehud Olmert
inadvertently disclosed that his country already
possesses nuclear weapons: "We have never threatened any
nation with annihilation. Iran, openly, explicitly and
publicly threatens to wipe Israel off the map. Can you
say that this is the same level, when they are aspiring
to have nuclear weapons, as America, France, Israel,
On December 13, 2006, more than a year after The World
Without Zionism conference, two leading Israeli
newspapers, The Jerusalem Post and Haaretz, published
reports of a renewed threat from Ahmadinejad. The
Jerusalem Post's headline was Ahmadinejad: Israel will
be 'wiped out', while Haaretz posted the title
Ahmadinejad at Holocaust conference: Israel will 'soon
be wiped out'.
Where did they get their information? It turns out that
both papers, like most American and western media, rely
heavily on write ups by news wire services such as the
Associated Press and Reuters as a source for their
articles. Sure enough, their sources are in fact
December 12th articles by Reuter's Paul Hughes [Iran
president says Israel's days are numbered], and the AP's
Ali Akbar Dareini [Iran President: Israel Will be wiped
The first five paragraphs of the Haaretz article,
credited to "Haaretz Service and Agencies", are
plagiarized almost 100% from the first five paragraphs
of the Reuters piece. The only difference is that
Haaretz changed "the Jewish state" to "Israel" in the
second paragraph, otherwise they are identical.
The Jerusalem Post article by Herb Keinon pilfers from
both the Reuters and AP stories. Like Haaretz, it uses
the following Ahmadinejad quote without attribution:
["Just as the Soviet Union was wiped out and today does
not exist, so will the Zionist regime soon be wiped
out," he added]. Another passage apparently relies on an
"The Zionist regime will be wiped out soon the same way
the Soviet Union was, and humanity will achieve
freedom," Ahmadinejad said at Tuesday's meeting with the
conference participants in his offices, according to
Iran's official news agency, IRNA.
He said elections should be held among "Jews, Christians
and Muslims so the population of Palestine can select
their government and destiny for themselves in a
Once again, the first sentence above was wholly
plagiarized from the AP article. The second sentence was
also the same, except "He called for elections" became
"He said elections should be held..".
It gets more interesting.
The quote used in the original AP article and copied in
The Jerusalem Post article supposedly derives from the
IRNA. If true, this can easily be checked. Care to find
out? Go to:
There you will discover the actual IRNA quote was:
"As the Soviet Union disappeared, the Zionist regime
will also vanish and humanity will be liberated".
Compare this to the alleged IRNA quote reported by the
"The Zionist regime will be wiped out soon the same way
the Soviet Union was, and humanity will achieve
In the IRNA's actual report, the Zionist regime will
vanish just as the Soviet Union disappeared. Vanish.
Disappear. In the dishonest AP version, the Zionist
regime will be "wiped out". And how will it be wiped
out? "The same way the Soviet Union was". Rather than
imply a military threat or escalation in rhetoric, this
reference to Russia actually validates the intended
meaning of Ahmadinejad's previous misinterpreted
What has just been demonstrated is irrefutable proof of
media manipulation and propaganda in action. The AP
deliberately alters an IRNA quote to sound more
threatening. The Israeli media not only repeats the fake
quote but also steals the original authors' words. The
unsuspecting public reads this, forms an opinion and
supports unnecessary wars of aggression, presented as
self defense, based on the misinformation.
This scenario mirrors the kind of false claims that led
to the illegal U.S. invasion of Iraq, a war now widely
viewed as a catastrophic mistake. And yet the Bush
administration and the compliant corporate media
continue to marinate in propaganda and speculation about
attacking Iraq's much larger and more formidable
neighbor, Iran. Most of this rests on the unproven
assumption that Iran is building nuclear weapons, and
the lie that Iran has vowed to physically destroy
Israel. Given its scope and potentially disastrous
outcome, all this amounts to what is arguably the rumor
of the century.
Iran's President has written two rather philosophical
letters to America. In his first letter, he pointed out
that "History shows us that oppressive and cruel
governments do not survive". With this statement,
Ahmadinejad has also projected the outcome of his own
backwards regime, which will likewise "vanish from the
page of time".