Tag Archives: Khomeini

We Are All Persian Grammarians Now

Sohrab Ahmari and James Kirchick//As the Iranian mullahs’ nuclearization drive reaches its end goal, Western policymakers face a narrowing range of bad options. There are difficult choices ahead, and those choices are made all the more difficult by Tehran’s long track record of vicious rhetoric directed at Israel—the most notorious example of which was Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s call in 2005 for Israel to be “wiped off the map” (as the phrase has frequently been translated in the English-speaking world). It’s no wonder that some in the West, faced with such venom, seek palliatives.

How do you palliate a call for another country’s destruction? Simple: You quibble over minor points of grammar. Instant experts in Persian grammar have been doing this to Ahmadinejad’s speech ever since he delivered it in 2005 (at a conference ominously titled “The World Without Zionism”). The latest round of grammatical henpecking came a short while ago, when Israeli intelligence minister Dan Meridor told Al-Jazeera English that Ahmadinejad’s 2005 utterance did not signal an immediate intent to nuke Israel. In response, Robert Mackey took to his New York Times blog to underline the apparent concession:

A senior Israeli official has acknowledged that Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, never actually said that Israel ‘must be wiped off the map.’ . . . Although there is general agreement . . . that Mr. Ahmadinejad did not commit his country to the project of destroying the state of Israel in [his] 2005 speech, the phrase that was wrongly attributed to him then remains so firmly rooted in the popular imagination that it is frequently used as evidence of Iran’s genocidal intentions.

Citing the Iranian-American pundit and one-time Ahmadinejad interpreter Hooman Majd, Mackey sought to frame Ahmadinejad’s remark as a dire prediction rather than a threat, noting that “in the original speech, the Iranian president had argued that, while the end of Israeli rule over Jerusalem, the third holiest city in Islam, might seem impossible to imagine, the end of the Shah’s rule and the collapse of the Soviet Union both proved that change on that scale was possible.” Viewed in this light, Ahmadinejad’s remarks don’t sound all that different from those of any other proponent of a two-state solution that includes ending Jewish sovereignty over parts of Jerusalem.

Mackey’s foray into Persian grammar fits into a heated and long-running debate originally sparked in part by the New York Times’s own reporting on the infamous speech. In that piece, the Times’s Tehran correspondent, Nazila Fathi, quoted Ahmadinejad as follows: “As the imam [Khomeini] said, Israel must be wiped off the map.” A day later, the Middle East Media Research Institute provided a more accurate translation of the quote: “Imam [Khomeini] said: ‘This regime that is occupying Qods [Jerusalem] must be eliminated from the pages of history.’ This sentence is very wise.”

Either translation, of course, should be cause for alarm. Whether Israel must be “wiped off the map” or from “the pages of history,” the rhetoric evinces an unmistakably eliminationist bent. Yet because Fathi’s initial, inexact translation (“wiped off the map”) seemed to carry connotations of the horrors of nuclear warfare—and because that phrase has been repeated by journalists and politicians countless times since 2005—some have seized on the mistranslation as a way of downplaying what was otherwise clearly a call for the destruction of the Jewish state. It was as if, by repeatedly pointing out the error, supporters of engagement could set a lower bar for the benevolence of the Iranian regime’s intentions toward Israel: If Ahmadinejad had not really called for Israel to be “wiped off” the map, they seemed to say, then it followed that concerns over Tehran’s nuclear weapons program were exaggerated or unserious.

“I’m not sure there is even such an idiom in Persian,” claimed University of Michigan Professor Juan Cole. “In Farsi, it means not that Israel should be eliminated,” explained author Reza Aslan, “but that the existing political borders should literally be wiped from a literal map and replaced with those of historic Palestine.”

In fact, the pivotal term in Ahmadinejad’s speech was baayad, an injunctive verb meaning “must.” Persian speakers do not use baayad to make passive predictions; the word is used to command action. But the arguments over grammar are just a way of avoiding the central fact: The Iranian regime has repeatedly acted on its murderous rhetoric about Israelis and Jews. Tehran remains the largest sponsor of Hizballah and Hamas, two terrorist groups constitutionally committed to the destruction of Israel and the murder of Jews around the world. In 1992, Hizballah bombed the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires, killing 29 people; two years later, the city’s Jewish Community Center was rocked by another Hizballah bomb that took the lives of 87. In 2009, one of the authors of this piece attended a Hizballah rally in Beirut that featured a giant poster depicting a nuclear mushroom cloud composed of Arabic letters, translated on the side as, “Oh Zionists, if you want this type of war, SO BE IT.” The Khomeini quotation that Ahmadinejad considered “very wise” has also appeared on banners adorning Iranian missiles during military parades.

Extinguishing the Jewish state has been a central tenet of the Iranian regime since its founding by the Ayatollah Khomeini more than three decades ago. “Ever since coming to this revolution,” Khomeini declared in a televised speech not long before his death, “one of our major points has been that Israel must be destroyed.” Khomeini’s successor, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has been equally clear. Last February, he described Israel as a “cancerous tumor” that must be “cut.” Iran’s military leaders frequently echo such calls. “The Iranian nation is standing for its cause that is the full annihilation of Israel,” the semi-official Fars News Agency quoted Major General Hassan Firouzabadi, chief of staff of the Iranian armed forces, less than two weeks ago. And the unsubtle cry of “Death to Israel” is a regular incantation at Friday prayers. These are not empty threats or nebulous hopes, but murderous exhortations backed up by concrete policies.

There is something deeply pernicious about the attempt to whitewash the grossly anti-Semitic ideology of Iran’s leadership—as if nitpicking over repeated mistranslations of one statement could exonerate Iran when nearly two dozen other choice utterances refer to Israel in eliminationist terms. Reasonable people can disagree about what should be done with respect to Iran’s nuclear ambitions, but not about the overt hostility embedded in the Iranian leadership’s rhetoric on Israel.


Iranian UAVs In Africa

March 18, 2012: Sudanese rebels claimed to have recently shot down an Iranian Ababil UAV near the border with South Soudan. The Sudanese government eventually admitted it had lost another UAV, but said it went down do to component failure, not ground fire. Whatever the case, it is not the first time the Sudanese have lost one of their Iranian made UAVs. Several have been reported lost over the last three years.

English: An Iranian ababil made by me.

The Iranians have been developing UAVs since the 1980s. The ones used by Sudan are the Ababil. This is an 82 kg (183 pound) UAV with a 3.2 meter (ten foot) wing span, a payload of about 35 kg (77 pounds), a cruising speed of 290 kilometers an hour and an endurance of 90 minutes. The Ababil is known to operate as far as 150 kilometers from its ground controller. But it also has a guidance system that allows it to fly a pre-programmed route and then return to the control by its ground controllers for a landing (which is by parachute). The Ababil can carry a variety of day and night still and video cameras. There are many inexpensive and very capable cameras available on the open market, as is the equipment needed to transmit video and pictures back to the ground.

The Ababil is also used in Lebanon, where Iranian backed Hezbollah has received about a dozen of them. The Israelis feared that the low flying Ababils could come south carrying a load of nerve gas, or even just explosives. Using GPS guidance, such a UAV could hit targets very accurately. Moreover, there’s nothing exotic about UAV technology, at least for something like the Ababil. Iranian UAV development got a boost from American UAVs received in the 1970s (Firebee target drones.)

Iran also has a larger (174 kg/382 pounds) Mohajer IV UAV, the latest model of a line that began in the 1980s. The Mohajer II is about the same size as the Ababil.

From Strategy Page

Muslim Antisemitism: What everyone needs to hear

Great read: :Muslim Antisemitism: What My Daughter’s Friend and Ambassador Gutman Need to Know by Richard Landes.

One of my daughters recently wrote me about a friend who thought
that “most of the Muslim antisemitism in Europe wasn’t based on their
dislike of what is going on in Israel and not so much on religion.” I knew
this belief was widely held not only by anti-Zionists, but also by liberals in
general, including Jews. It includes the widely held assumption that suicide
bombings were a response to the despair that Palestinians felt because of
how Israel treated them. It is also directly related to the problem of
“Islamophobia is the new Antisemitism,” in which speaking of Muslim
antisemitism becomes a new form of racist antisemitism. Of course, I did
not expect a Jewish U.S. ambassador to make those kinds of remarks, which
is just what Howard Gutman said to a group of Jewish lawyers in Belgium:
What I do see as growing, as gaining much more attention in the newspapers
and among politicians and communities, is a different phenomena

Antisemitic caricature by C.Léandre (France, 1898)

. . . It is the problem within Europe of tension, hatred and sometimes
even violence between some members of Muslim communities or Arab
immigrant groups and Jews. It is a tension and perhaps hatred largely
born of and reflecting the tension between Israel, the Palestinian Territories,
and neighboring Arab states in the Middle East over the continuing
Israeli-Palestinian problem.

Either the good ambassador has no awareness of just how paranoid,
genocidal, and depraved Muslim antisemitism is, or he is contemptuous in
his lack of standards.

He would never excuse virulent Jewish hatred for Palestinians “merely” on the basis of the fact that Palestinians target Israeli children, dance in the street when they succeed, and display exhibits honoring the dead Jews. And yet, somehow, virulent Palestinian hatred is

Of course, the actual situation differs radically from this benign contempt.
Most of this regional tension is a product of the mainstream [news]
media (MSM), both ours and theirs. Virtually none of the people who hate
Israel have seen this matter up close: their impressions and beliefs about
what’s happening are the product of what they read in the media, and
reports from activists who document the “apartheid” ways.

The argument, of course, can work inversely: Palestinians have produced
a constant stream of lethal narratives describing Israelis as baby-killers,
and have spread the virus throughout the Muslim world. These
narratives inspire suicide bombers and their cheering supporters, and the
violence that Israel does against the Palestinians—from targeted killings to
the separation barrier, to the Gaza blockade responding directly to
antisemitic propaganda.

Because the Western mainstream news media has focused some of this
propaganda, people, including my daughter’s friend, have formed beliefs
that are based on the television images and justify their disdain. “No wonder
French Muslims hate you,” the French Christians say to their French
Jewish co-citizens, “look at what your brethren in Israel do to their cousins
in Palestine.” To grant the Palestinians and other Muslims permission to
hate the Jews reveals unthinking racism: I don’t really expect anything
remotely rational or balanced from these folks. If you piss them off, you
deserve their rage.

The MSM not only report lethal narratives as news, but omit reporting
the hatreds that inspired such narratives. In the summer of 2000, the PA was
blasting hatred of Israel. If the MSM were surprised by Arafat’s Camp
David “no,” it’s because they ignored what he and his friends were saying
in Arabic. On the contrary, driven by a belief that peace was around the
corner, they felt that dwelling on such bad news would queer the peace
process. Nor did the Oslo war make a difference. Sheikh Halabiya gave a
sermon calling on Muslims to “slaughter the Jews everywhere.” William
Orme wrote a piece on Palestinian incitement in which he quoted Halabiya
saying: “Labor, Likud, they’re all Jews.”

As a result, the ferocious strain of antisemitism in Palestinian irredentism
transferred easily from the mufti’s contribution to the Final Solution,
Nazi propaganda, and helping Nazism flourish in Egypt and Syria, to
Arafat’s national liberation and Hamas’s apocalyptic paranoia. Nor is this
merely a quirk of journalism, but a widespread practice of the “post-colonial” field of Middle East studies in the wake of Edward Said’s masterpiece
of cognitive warfare forbidding Westerners from othering Muslims.

Yet, what are we to make of crowds rallied by the moderate Muslim
Brotherhood chant, “One day we will kill all Jews”? Since 2000, Arab and
Muslim news media have been awash with gory video depictions of the
Elders of Zion carrying out their blood sacrifices of innocent Muslim youth.
Specialists disagree over whether this is primarily an import from the worst
of European hate-mongering, or an indigenous growth with roots in the
Koran. European anti-Zionists may like their fantasy that their attitude is
not antisemitic, but in the case of the Arab and Muslim world, the slide
from opposing Israel to ranting about al Yahud everywhere is effortless.1
Phillip (Mondo) Weiss’s response to Ambassador Gutman offers additional
insight. Citing two other comments, Weiss proves Gutman’s thesis by
pointing to a study showing that antisemitic incidents in England spiked
after the Mavi Marmara incident. Of course, the near doubling of
antisemitic incidents did not arise in response to Israel’s behavior, but to the
reports of them, in which the MSM reported unfiltered anti-Zionist lethal
narratives about the IDF coming down spraying bullets and killing 19
peaceful, humanitarian activists. He also omits data showing that, compared
to Arabs, Israelis commit a faction of violence. Weiss, who never met a
lethal anti-Zionist narrative he didn’t like, probably still believes the initial
reports. But unless you are willing to argue that when Israeli soldiers carrying
paint-gun rifles, defending themselves from a lethal assault by Jihadis
posing as activists, kill nine of their assailants, that justifies a wave of
antisemitism, this case hardly supports Gutman’s analysis. On the contrary,
it proves the opposite.

No violent anti-Arab demonstrations exploded on British soil when
Lebanese soldiers killed seventy Palestinian refugees in a massive air
assault in 2007, or during the last year while the Syrian army killed over
3,000 of its own people. If you were to argue that Islamophobia is caused
by Muslim behavior, would you not get accused of Islamophobia by the
same people so ready to blame Israel for antisemitism?
All of it is linked to a particularly dangerous form of political correctness,
in which criticism of Muslims is the new form of antisemitism. As a
Parisian colleague insisted, “The experience of the Muslims in Europe
today is exactly the same as the Jews a century ago.” Of course, that’s not
the case at all: both in terms of the wildly different behavior of the two
minorities, and in terms of how the European elites reacted to their presence.

By that logic, however, any attack on Islam is immediately comparable to an attack on Jews a century ago.

Even those Jewish organizations designed to protect Jews from
antisemitism share this attitude. Berlin’s Zentrum f ¨ur Antisemitismusforschung
held a conference whose main theme was the close identity of
Islamophobia and Judaeophobia. In the United States, the Anti-Defamation
League released only 2.6 percent of 4,269 press releases since 1995 on
either Islamic extremism or Arab antisemitism, of which only .005 were
released since September 11, 2001—precisely when the threat to Jews from
Islamic extremism dramatically increased. That is almost as small as the
percentage of Jews in the world, or the percentage of the Arab world “occupied”
by Israel: 0.002.

Which brings us to the dilemma that faces the morally concerned
Western observer. We are faced with two opposing narratives: one in which
the Muslims/Palestinians are victims who might be forgiven their imperialist
Israelis hate; and one in which the Israelis are victims, who might be
forgiven their resistance to assaults from paranoid, sadistic antisemitism.
Why not toss a coin? Aside from the fact that in so doing one would
greatly increase support for the imperialist Zionists to 50 percent, there are
serious consequences to misreading this situation.

If I am wrong, and Palestinian hatred is merely a result of the occupation,
then Israeli concessions should lessen Palestinian hatred. Of course, if
the Palestinians really are rational—really want their own state rather than
to destroy Israel, then they should be amenable to making some important
moves toward reconciliation, such as, for example, cutting off the hate
incitement on TV, and resettling their refugees out of the miserable camps
they’ve been confined to since 1948.

If I am right, if Muslim antisemitism is profoundly rooted among
Arabs and Muslims today, then it’s another story entirely. Solving the refugee
problem by allowing these poor victims of war to have a real home is
not on the Palestinian agenda. On the contrary, these refugees are designated
victim-weapons in a war of annihilation.

If I am right, then every time Israel makes concessions, it encourages
further aggressions. So despite the politically correct paradigm, each time
Israel engages in anti-imperialist activities—withdrawing from most of the
West Bank (1994-2000), southern Lebanon (2000), and Gaza (2005)—
increased aggression occurred.
There is a widespread fantasy that throwing Israel into the maw of the
beast will somehow solve the problem. Ultimately, the dilemma of
antisemitism is not a Jewish but a Christian problem. Granted, the Jews
suffer from antisemitism, but the ultimate price is paid by those foolish enough to get sucked into the vortex of hatred and paranoia that antisemites
peddle. As any historian of World War II can tell you, if six million Jews
were murdered, more than ten times as many Christians died in that

The Arab world in the latter half of the 20th century offers a striking
parallel to Spain in the 16th century. Both worlds had expelled their Jews
(Spain in 1492, Arabs in 1948); both experienced a flood of wealth (New
World gold and petrodollars); and both failed to parlay that wealth into a
thriving culture that made life better for its people.

In a recent article, Jeffrey Goldberg tried to acknowledge the problem
of antisemitic sentiments pervading the Arab Spring, all the while preserving
the belief that “the people of the Middle East are finally awakening to
the promise of liberty.” But the two are intimately related. Indeed, Judeophobia
is not the problem, but the symptom.

It’s the conspiracy thinking that blames everything on the other—Muslims
attack Copts? It’s the Jews. Arab Spring turning into Islamist Winter?
It’s the Jews. If you’re the BBC, it’s the Jews, aka “outside forces.” How
can one possibly inaugurate, foster, and sustain a democratic culture of freedom,
one that, in words of Isaiah Berlin, considers it “shameful not to grant
to others the freedom one wants to exercise oneself,” without an ability to

Antisemitism is everyone’s problem—my daughter’s friend, Ambassador
Gutman, and the Muslims. The sooner well-meaning progressives stop
feeding their antisemitic vulnerabilities and begin critical thinking, the
sooner we will see a real Arab Spring—one in which all people can rejoice.