Without doubt Juan Cole writes a most thoughtful and well researched blog. There's a link in my Blogroll. It is essential reading for anyone interested in current Middle Eastern Affairs.
He has recently written here about Christopher Hitchens. How Hitchens managed to get hold of a private e-mail on which he based this piece in Slate.
The substance of Cole's e-mail is the statement attributed to the President of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, in which he is alleged to have said Israel "should be wiped off the map".
Cole is a fluent Persian speaker and has thus returned to the text of Ahmadinejad's speech. The offending phrase is in fact a direct quote from a speech by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and Cole continues:
"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."
But it suits the NeoCons in the Bush administration and their acolytes like the wretched Hitchens to allow this mis-translation to gain currency.
Bill Sher here gives sound advice:
Every time you see a newspaper article that alleges that Ahmadinejad said that Israel should be wiped off the face of the map, please write the editor. Say that this idiom does not exist in Persian, and that what Ahmadinejad actually said was, "This occupation regime over Jerusalem must vanish from the page of time."