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21 July 2008


Peter Harvey


A lot of things get lost in translation. As a translator myself, I know full well that no translation can ever possibly be perfect: there are words in every language that express concepts that may not exist in the same form, or even may not exist at all, in others. To that extent the row is artificial. Anyway, dictators are not on oath when they make public statements, and all politicians are judged by their actions not by their words.

Whether or not Ahmadinejad spoke of wiping Israel from the map, his actions in developing his nuclear programme, and his apparent total lack of desire to deny that interpretation of his words, lead me to suppose that that is exactly what he has in mind. Or at least that he doesn't object to people thinking that it is what he has in mind.

To suggest, as Jonathan Steele does, that the words "the regime occupying Jerusalem must vanish from the page of time" refer merely to the present Israeli government, and that all the man wants is a bit of Bush-style regime change brought about by a bit of illiberal intervention to produce a different Israeli government run by a different lot of Jews, is ingenuous at best. What the man wants – and all the evidence points that way – is the destruction of the State of Israel so that his own regime can run things there, as part of a renewed Persian Empire of the Middle East. Ahmadinejad is, remarkably, doing something that I have thought quite impossible for the last 26 years: he is making me feel just the tiniest bit kindly towards the Saudis. They too are in range of Iran's nuclear ambitions. When push comes to shove, they won't make too much fuss about bringing Ahmadinejad down and getting a comparatively sane government in Iran. Though they will want some say in running it.

And what on earth is this about 'vanishing from the page of time'? I can't see how anything can vanish from the page of time if it does not first vanish materially from the present. Then and only then can the dictators set about making it vanish from the history books. Or indeed making the books themselves vanish.

I have stated my view of Ahmadinejad and his proposals for the Jews here, with a fact that has not, as far as I know, been reported in Britain. There is a slight glimmer of hope from the meeting in Geneva the other day. If the man is willing to make concessions – and that is far from clear – let us not get bogged down in futile arguments about semantics. But if my reading of the man is true, isn't it convenient for him that this controversy has surfaced in the British media at this precise time!

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