Hamas And The Holocaust

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ffaker
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Jul 3 2008 11:48

Following up on the rumours about Ha'aretz, there was this article in the Jerusalem Post recently:

Between the lines: A 'purge' at Haaretz?
http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1214492516011&pagename=JPost/JPArticle/ShowFull

schalomlibertad
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Dec 12 2009 19:00
Quote:
the Israeli deputy defence minister Matan Vilnai threatened the people of Gaza with a "holocaust".

Although it makes a good propaganda piece, this statement has been shown to be a mistranslation:

Quote:
Vilnai said:

‘The more Qassam (rocket) fire intensifies and the rockets reach a longer range, they (the Palestinians) will bring upon themselves a bigger “shoah” because we will use all our might to defend ourselves'.

Reuters translated the Hebrew word ‘shoah’ as ‘holocaust’. But ‘shoah’ merely means disaster. In Hebrew, the word ‘shoah’ is never used to mean ‘holocaust’ or ‘genocide’ because of the acute historical resonance. The word ‘Hashoah’ alone means ‘the Holocaust’ and ‘retzach am’ means ‘genocide’. The well-known Hebrew construction used by Vilnai used merely means ‘bringing disaster on themselves’.

http://www.spectator.co.uk/melaniephillips/530786/the-mother-of-all-mistranslations.thtml

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Khawaga
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Dec 12 2009 21:03

I think the difference between hashoa and shoa was discussed somewhere else (one of the war on Gaza threads if I remember correctly). It's an important point though, and interestingly very similar to the claim that Ahmadinejad called for the destruction of Israel when he was merely quoting a speech of Khomeini (who I think simply said that down the line Israel will disappear from the map. I.e more like withering away than nuclear annihilation).

Both statements have been used as "both" sides as propaganda to de-humanize the other, and only very small newspapers or blogs have bothered to report that this is all about crappy translation and sensationalist reporting.

schalomlibertad
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Dec 14 2009 17:15

What is you source for the supposed mistranslation of Ahmadinejad?

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Khawaga
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Dec 14 2009 17:55

Juan Cole over at Informed Comment, who, I might add, is not a fan of Ahmedinjead.

schalomlibertad
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Dec 15 2009 10:50

I am not sure Cole is the best source for your case since he admits to not really care. He wrote: "We don't give a rat's ass ... what pissant speech the little shit [Ahmadinejad] gives." Cole's opposition to US power ambitions leads him to painting Ahmadinejad as a pacifist without political significance or political power. Cole might not like Ahmadinejad, but his reduction of the issue to merely one of US war ambitions, makes Cole out to be a defender of him, if even unintentionally.
I think the parallel between the Vilnai mistranslation and Ahmadinejad is unfitting.

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Khawaga
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Dec 15 2009 16:57

The issue here is about the translation of a speech he gave. In most papers it was misquoted because people don't know Persian or don't care to check the facts. In this case, it does not matter whether Cole is your typical anti-imperialist or not for the same reason that it does not matter whether Vilnai is a militaristic nationalist or not. Either he said 'shoa' or 'hashoa'. Same goes for Ahemdinejad; either he quoted Khomeini or not, and was it mistranslated. Yes on both cases. The comparison with Vilnai is in this case very fitting. I think it is you that is being disingenuous in this case. Are you an anti-nationalist or do you stop short when it comes to the enemies of Israel?

Cole is just one person that has been able to point out the mistake, simply because he speaks Persian and follows Iranian politics. In fact, the wikipedia page on Ahmedinjead covers the translation issue quite well. What's interesting about that page is that the mis-translation appears to come from the political opportunism of Iran itself when the Islamic Republic News Agency covered the 'World Without Zionism' conference.

Anyway, here's the bits from the Wikipedia article.

Wikipedia wrote:
"Wiped off the map" or "Vanish from the pages of time" translation
Many news sources repeated the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) statement that Ahmadinejad had demanded that "Israel must be wiped off the map",[5][6] an English idiom which means to "cause a place to stop existing",[7] or to "obliterate totally",[8] or "destroy completely".[9]
Ahmadinejad's phrase was " بايد از صفحه روزگار محو شود " according to the text published on the President's Office's website, and was a quote of Ayatollah Khomeini.[10]
The translation presented by IRIB has been challenged by Arash Norouzi, who says the statement "wiped off the map" was never made and that Ahmadinejad did not refer to the nation or land mass of Israel, but to the "regime occupying Jerusalem". He says that the Iranian government News Agency IRIB/IRNA translation is the source of the confusion:
One may wonder: where did this false interpretation originate? Who is responsible for the translation that has sparked such worldwide controversy? The answer is surprising. 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.[11][12]
According to Juan Cole, a University of Michigan Professor of Modern Middle East and South Asian History, Ahmadinejad's statement should be translated as:
The Imam said that this regime occupying Jerusalem (een rezhim-e eshghalgar-e qods) must [vanish from] the page of time (bayad az safheh-ye ruzgar mahv shavad).[13]
The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) translates the phrase similarly, as "be eliminated from the pages of history."[14]
According to Cole, "Ahmadinejad did not say he was going to 'wipe Israel off the map' because no such idiom exists in Persian". Instead, "He did say he hoped its regime, i.e., a Jewish-Zionist state occupying Jerusalem, would collapse."[15]
On June 2, 2006 The Guardian columnist and foreign correspondent Jonathan Steele published an article based on this line of reasoning.[16]
Sources within the Iranian government have also denied that Ahmadinejad issued any sort of threat.[17][18][19] On 20 February 2006, Iran's foreign minister denied that Tehran wanted to see Israel "wiped off the map," saying Ahmadinejad had been misunderstood. "Nobody can remove a country from the map. This is a misunderstanding in Europe of what our president mentioned," Manouchehr Mottaki told a news conference, speaking in English, after addressing the European Parliament. "How is it possible to remove a country from the map? He is talking about the regime. We do not recognize legally this regime," he said.[20][21][22]
Shiraz Dossa, a professor of Political Science at St. Francis Xavier University in Nova Scotia, Canada who presented a paper at the International Conference to Review the Global Vision of the Holocaust conference in Iran, believes the text is a mistranslation.[23]
Ahmadinejad was quoting the Ayatollah Khomeini in the specific speech under discussion: what he said was that "the occupation regime over Jerusalem should vanish from the page of time." No state action is envisaged in this lament; it denotes a spiritual wish, whereas the erroneous translation—"wipe Israel off the map"—suggests a military threat. There is a huge chasm between the correct and the incorrect translations. The notion that Iran can "wipe out" U.S.-backed, nuclear-armed Israel is ludicrous.[24][25][26]
In a June 11, 2006 analysis of the translation controversy, New York Times deputy foreign editor and Israeli resident Ethan Bronner argued that Ahmadinejad had called for Israel to be wiped off the map. After noting the objections of critics such as Cole and Steele, Bronner stated:
But translators in Tehran who work for the president's office and the foreign ministry disagree with them. All official translations of Mr. Ahmadinejad's statement, including a description of it on his website, refer to wiping Israel away. Sohrab Mahdavi, one of Iran’s most prominent translators, and Siamak Namazi, managing director of a Tehran consulting firm, who is bilingual, both say “wipe off” or “wipe away” is more accurate than "vanish" because the Persian verb is active and transitive.
Bronner continued: "..it is hard to argue that, from Israel's point of view, Mr. Ahmadinejad poses no threat. Still, it is true that he has never specifically threatened war against Israel. So did Iran's president call for Israel to be 'wiped off the map'? It certainly seems so. Did that amount to a call for war? That remains an open question."[15] This elicited a further response from Jonathan Steele, who took issue with the use of the word "map" instead of the phrase "wipe out" and criticized this Wikipedia entry (as it was on June 14, 2006) for misrepresenting Ethan Bronner.[27]

Link.

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Khawaga
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Dec 15 2009 17:24

Interestingly the wiki article on Matan Vilnai only says this about his comment,

Wikipedia wrote:
After Ehud Barak won the party leadership election in 2007 he appointed Vilnai as Deputy Minister of Defense. In February 2008, Vilnai threatened that Gazan Palestinians "will bring upon themselves a bigger 'shoah' because we will use all our might to defend ourselves." The word shoah (שואה), literally "disaster", is used in Israel to refer to the "holocaust"[4]
schalomlibertad
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Dec 15 2009 21:44

Khawaga,

This

Quote:
I think it is you that is being disingenuous in this case. Are you an anti-nationalist or do you stop short when it comes to the enemies of Israel?

is unnecessary baiting and doesn't deserve a reply.

The following quote is from your citation and contradicts your interpretation:

Quote:
Sohrab Mahdavi, one of Iran’s most prominent translators, and Siamak Namazi, managing director of a Tehran consulting firm, who is bilingual, both say “wipe off” or “wipe away” is more accurate than "vanish" because the Persian verb is active and transitive.
Bronner continued: "..it is hard to argue that, from Israel's point of view, Mr. Ahmadinejad poses no threat. Still, it is true that he has never specifically threatened war against Israel. So did Iran's president call for Israel to be 'wiped off the map'? It certainly seems so. Did that amount to a call for war? That remains an open question."[15]

The issue of translation is a difficult one, and that's why the surrounding statements should be taken into context. As far as I know, Vilnai had made only this one statement, which, as was shown, is in fact a mistranslation. Ahmadinejad's multiple statements and the elaborations which he places his rhetoric in is also material to think through what he is saying. In Vilnai's case, I haven't seen any material to make the argument that he was threatening a Holocaust. In Ahmadinejad's case, his apocalyptic rants lead one to make the strong argument that he is propagating genocidal rhetoric, as Bronner's comment also argues.

I found the following statement quite clear on what Ahmadinejad's views are, despite him wearing the Palestine human rights activist and democrat costume:

Quote:
In a September 2008 interview with Juan Gonzalez and Amy Goodman on the radio and television program Democracy Now!, Ahmadinejad was asked: "If the Palestinian leaders agree to a two-state solution, could Iran live with an Israeli state?" and replied:

If they [the Palestinians] want to keep the Zionists, they can stay ... Whatever the people decide, we will respect it. I mean, it's very much in correspondence with our proposal to allow Palestinian people to decide through free referendums.[31]

Is this not clear admission that he is considering whether Israeli Jews should be allowed to remain or not (99% of them are zionists, in the sense that they believe in the legitimacy of the Jewish state)? Non-Jews should be able to decide whether the Jews must leave or not. Gimme a break. This is war provocation. These types of statements clarify what he means by "wiping Israel off the map" or Cole's politically correct version "vanish from the page of time." He is promoting a popular fantasy of sending Jews into flight. He is trying his best to give war mongering an acceptable appeal, and he is succeeding in convincing people like Cole to believe he is a peacenik, by a friendly manipulation of translation. That is really amazing!

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Khawaga
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Dec 15 2009 22:28

Fair enough, that comment was baiting. However, I do believe that you're more ready to excuse Vilnai's comment for some weird reason. Vilnai is not a nobody.

He was a high ranking officer in the IDF and when making the shoa comment he was deputy minister of defense, so his statement can rightly be interpreted as being aggressive towards the Palestinians as they

Matan Vilnai wrote:
will bring upon themselves a bigger 'shoah' because we will use all our might to defend ourselves

While not threatening a Holocaust, he is certainly threatening with excessive use of force. And in the case of Israel they have actually acted upon threats like these. They're not empty threats at all. If you want to use Ahmedinjead's position of power in relation to the statement, then you have to do that for Vilnai as well.

Quote:
In Ahmadinejad's case, his apocalyptic rants lead one to make the strong argument that he is propagating genocidal rhetoric, as Bronner's comment also argues.

While I can agree that in general he's anti-Israeli, in this case we're talking about a particular translation. Ffs, even MEMRI agrees with Cole's translation on this. The reference to history/time is important in this context.

While the quote from Democracy Now! can be interpreted the way you do, it's a bit of a slippery slope to claim that he is referring to all Jews since "99% of Jews in Israel are Zionists".

Still, I am a bit surprised that you've not critiqued Vilnai's comment with the same rigour. You just brush that away with, meh, mistranslation and do not bother to contextualize it at all. Just an observation.

schalomlibertad
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Dec 16 2009 10:03

I absolutely agree with you that Vilnai's

Quote:
statement can rightly be interpreted as being aggressive towards the Palestinians

and that

Quote:
he is certainly threatening with excessive use of force.

. I don't dispute that in the slightest. And your point that his position of power and the IDF's actual use of force needs to be taken into account, is well taken.

It doesn't however lead me to accept the conflation of *that* and that of threatening the extermination of the Palestinians - which is what he is being accused of doing, and which I was responding to.

I also think he could have chosen better words, but I am not aware of other statements of his that lead one to think that he really does intend to make such insinuations. And as I said earlier about translation and political meaning, I think other statements need to be taken into account in order to get a sense of what a few words mean. And this is precisely the point about Cole's translation. MEMRI might have agreed to it, as you said, but one has to take into account the surrounding statements in order to make sense of it. Cole shows a certain refusal to do so, rambling on about Israeli arms trade with Iran in the previous decades, and painting Ahmadinejad as powerless and for all intents and purposes, peaceful. Cole appears to see it as his only responsibility to stop a US war against Iran, and doesn't consider Ahmadinejad's propagation of war against Israelis.

You seem to be saying that Ahmadinejad has not acted on his propaganda, and has only used words. I am wondering what you think of the regime's weapon shipments and training of Hamas, Hezbollah, and Shiite militias in Iraq? Do you not see Iran following their own imperialist interests in these countries and the broader region? And is Israel not Iran's "scapegoat" in order to broaden the regime's appeal and support, to become a major player in a new power Bloc?

I think Cole simply doesn't address this -- at least not in the article you referenced, and much of the Left wants to hide it's head in the sand, justifying it by their one-sided opposition to US aggression. Yes, we should oppose US aggression and imperial interests, but the US is not the only actor, and not the only threat.

In response to Ahmadinejad's statement in which he expresses that he is actually considering sending Israelis in flight, you make a very vague and banal statement (and here I am really referring to your statement, and nothing more) that

Quote:
I can agree that in general he's anti-Israeli

.

But what do you mean by that? There's no denying that he's "anti-Israel." It is official state policy since decades, with the propaganda Al Quds Days and everything. But what do you actually mean by your statement? It is my impression that anti-zionism in this case is being used to cover up a hostility towards Israeli Jews.

Is his statement not a clarification that he is *not* speaking about "the Zionist regime," (ie. the government) but rather about *Israeli Jews*? I am not sure what you mean about my interpretation being a "slippery slope." Can you explain how this statement does not refer to Israeli Jews rather than the government? (My statement that 99% of Israelis are Zionists, is of course not based on a survey of the topic, but it is clear that the vast majority support a Jewish state (many of whom support a 2-state solution). These are "the Zionists." And it is against them who I think Ahmadinejad is provoking, with the threat of sending them in flight.)

bootsy
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Dec 16 2009 10:22
schalomlibertad wrote:
I also think he could have chosen better words,

Perhaps he could have said "we're going to give you a little slap" before an entire city was reduced to rubble?

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Khawaga
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Dec 17 2009 00:45
schalomlibertad wrote:
It doesn't however lead me to accept the conflation of *that* and that of threatening the extermination of the Palestinians - which is what he is being accused of doing, and which I was responding to.

I don't think anyone here would dispute that. What we're really discussing here are mistranslations that are used for political effect by nationalists/anti-imperialists (mainly) in the West.

Quote:
Cole shows a certain refusal to do so, rambling on about Israeli arms trade with Iran in the previous decades, and painting Ahmadinejad as powerless and for all intents and purposes, peaceful. Cole appears to see it as his only responsibility to stop a US war against Iran, and doesn't consider Ahmadinejad's propagation of war against Israelis

.

I don't know if you follow his blog, but I've read it for about 5-6 years and what I've gather is that Cole certainly does not excuse Ahmedinejad at all. Cole sees him as powerful within certain segments of the population (the bazaaris and the urban poor), though his power in Iran is constrained as he has to answer to the mullahs. He certainly does not see him as "peaceful", as Cole obviously knows (and has written extensively) about Iran propping up Hezbollah and Hamas. I guess Cole's view on him would be that Ahmedinejad is not exactly the sharpest knife in the international diplomacy drawer.

I don't see why you bring in arming Shiites in Iraq into a discussion about Israel, though. How do you see this as "propagation of war against the Israelis"? Surely, this is a proxy power struggle with the US in the region (which I guess on a macro level Hamas and Hezbollah is as well, but then it's not about Israel per se anymore).

Quote:
Do you not see Iran following their own imperialist interests in these countries and the broader region? And is Israel not Iran's "scapegoat" in order to broaden the regime's appeal and support, to become a major player in a new power Bloc?

Of course I see this. Israel is the scapegoat in countries that are nominally allied with them as well (I am thinking in particular of Egypt, but also Jordan and Saudi Arabia).

Quote:
I think Cole simply doesn't address this -- at least not in the article you referenced, and much of the Left wants to hide it's head in the sand, justifying it by their one-sided opposition to US aggression. Yes, we should oppose US aggression and imperial interests, but the US is not the only actor, and not the only threat.

As I said above, Cole does address this but from a typical liberal-leftist/ anti-imperialist point of view. Internationalists should of course oppose all states,nations and non-state bourgeoise groups in the Middle East.

Quote:
But what do you mean by that? There's no denying that he's "anti-Israel." It is official state policy since decades, with the propaganda Al Quds Days and everything. But what do you actually mean by your statement? It is my impression that anti-zionism in this case is being used to cover up a hostility towards Israeli Jews.

I used the term anti-Israeli, which for me refers both to the state and its inhabitants. Though, I can see that it is unclear. I dislike the term anti-zionist as it points to the exceptionalism of Israeli nationalism (esp. among leftists), and I guess in the case of Ahmedinejad it is structurally anti-semitic (what with his Holocaust denial etc.)

Quote:
Is his statement not a clarification that he is *not* speaking about "the Zionist regime," (ie. the government) but rather about *Israeli Jews*? I am not sure what you mean about my interpretation being a "slippery slope." Can you explain how this statement does not refer to Israeli Jews rather than the government? (My statement that 99% of Israelis are Zionists, is of course not based on a survey of the topic, but it is clear that the vast majority support a Jewish state (many of whom support a 2-state solution). These are "the Zionists." And it is against them who I think Ahmadinejad is provoking, with the threat of sending them in flight.)

I am not sure about this. The question is whether they would keep the Israeli state, which Ahmedinejad then refers to as the Zionists. The reply can certainly be interpreted the way you have, though I still believe that it's a bit of slippery slope as you interpret a reply to question about a state/government to refer to Jews living in that state. Although I do believe Ahmedinejad is a nutter, I also believe that he is perfectly capable of separating between the state/govt and the population (like almost any man in the Arab Street is capable of).
.....

Apart from a few differences of interpretation I do think that we agree on the fundamentals. My original reply to you was all about two translations, as I said above, that were used to demonize Israel and Iran as genocidal maniacs. In and of themselves, I don't think either translation have anything to about genocide but that both, when taken in the context of previous utterances of both regimes and the realities of power struggle in the region, could be taken as anti-Palestinian and anti-Israeli respectively.

schalomlibertad
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Dec 17 2009 14:29

Hi Khawaga,
Was nice discussing with you. We could continue, but I will be away for some weeks. Will probably see you around again sometime on some other libcom forum.
take care,
s.l.

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shug
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Dec 17 2009 17:23

Useful piece on anti-zionism and anti-semitism in the CWO's latest 'Revolutionary Perspectives' (and on their site http://www.ibrp.org/ ).

Black Badger
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Dec 18 2009 01:58

I went to the site and wasn't able to open that essay. Any hints/tips?

Cleishbotham
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Dec 18 2009 12:13

That is because it is not yet posted as it is in the current RP (52) We generally post only the immediately topical articles and then nearer the end of the quarter we put up the rest. If you take out a sub though...

Cleishbotham
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Dec 19 2009 12:58

It is now online at

http://www.ibrp.org/en/articles/2009-11-24/anti-zionism-anti-semitism-and-revisionism.

Our next issue will have an article on Hamas and the Palestinian issue.