Iran upgrades Israel from ‘cancer’ to ‘sore’

Iran upgrades Israel from ‘cancer’ to ‘sore’

This NY Jewish Week editorial, “Willful Dissonance,” asks if the ascendency of Pres. Rouhani in Iran will lead to a peaceful resolution of the problems posed by Iran’s nuclear program. It opens with a probing question emanating from Rouhani’s much quoted (and somewhat misquoted) remarks in the midst of Iran’s annual Al Quds Day, about two weeks ago:

… Hassan Rouhani, is being described as a moderate in the American press. Compared to his predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, maybe he is. After all, while Ahmadinejad denied the Holocaust and openly and repeatedly called for doing away with Israel, so far Rouhani, appearing at an Al Quds Day event in Iran on Friday where marchers shout “Death to Israel,” “only” referred to the Jewish state as “a sore that has been sitting on the body of the Islamic world for many years.” In fact, much was made over the translation of his remarks, which were downgraded from saying the “sore” must be removed.
This is supposed to ease our concerns about an Iran still actively building a nuclear arsenal? . . .

Prime Minister Netanyahu reacted with typical alarm, employing the misquote — but clearly the quote was bad enough.  This episode is reminiscent of the time when Rouhani’s predecessor Ahmadinejad was misquoted as saying that “Israel should be erased from the map” rather than the more accurate “Zionism will be erased from the pages of history” remark (undoubtedly during a Kumbaya moment at the “World Without Zionism” conference in Teheran).

When it comes to Israel, expressions of hostility are often given the benefit of doubt or explained away diplomatically by liberal or neutral observers, while right-wingers tend to ring alarm bells.
The fact is that Iran remains dangerously hostile toward Israel.  Still, we can only hope that Rouhani will act rationally to settle the nuclear issue peacefully, and that his boss, the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei, will permit him to do so.  Hopefully, provocative rhetoric from either Israelis or Iranians will not get in the way.  

I’m including links to articles in the New York Times and from the JTA that further explore this matter: 

Iran’s President-Elect Provokes Furor Abroad With Remarks on Israel
Video Shows Iran’s President-Elect Was Misquoted on Israel
From JTA:
Rohani’s statement, its distortion, and what it all means  

Citing misreported statement, Netanyahu says Rohani’s ‘true face revealed’

By | 2013-08-15T14:11:00-04:00 August 15th, 2013|Blog|10 Comments


  1. Anonymous August 15, 2013 at 9:13 pm - Reply

    Dear Ralph,

    I cannot understand why you are posting and pushing incorrect information here while linking to the correct information.

    What you posted here is not even an accurate correction: Rouhani, “‘only’ referred to the Jewish state as ‘a sore that has been sitting on the body of the Islamic world for many years.’ In fact, much was made over the translation of his remarks, which were downgraded from saying the “sore” must be removed.

    Not only did Rouhani not say Israel, or a sore must be removed, but he never called Israel a sore. He called the occupation a sore.

    Why not be factually accurate rather than adding to the hype with a willful misrepresentation?


  2. Ralph Seliger August 16, 2013 at 1:32 am - Reply

    “Willful misrepresentation”? I’m impressed that Ted knows Farsi. As for the English of this post, I’m accurately quoting a NY Jewish Week editorial.

    The point it makes is that how ever one slices Rouhani’s remarks, the scene is hostile. Yet as the editorial acknowledges, there’s an improvement over the sort of thing that Ahmadinejad used to say. Regardless of what was said exactly, we can only hope that a peaceful resolution is negotiated between Iran and the world community — which is what this post is all about.

  3. Anonymous August 16, 2013 at 5:46 pm - Reply

    Dear Ralph,

    The New York Jewish Week quote was a misrepresentation, according the other articles you linked to, as you would have known had you bothered to follow the story. No, I am not a Farsi speaker, but I read a number of accounts from Farsi speakers, and think you can rely on Ron Kampeas here, whose article you linked to. The Lede, who you linked to gives essentially the same translation. Make the effort to get the facts straight and don’t sensationalize:


    Here’s the video, for Farsi speakers, and a translation posted on Twitter by Thomas Erdbrink, the New York Times correspondent in Tehran, which I’ve confirmed with other Farsi speakers as essentially correct:

    The day of Quds, which is one of the mementos of the Imam [Khomeini], may he be admitted to God’s paradise, is the day that the people display the unity of the Islamic world against any form of tyranny and aggression. In any case, in our region, a sore has been sitting on the body of the Islamic world for many years, in the shadow of the occupation of the Holy Land of Palestine and the dear Quds. This day is in fact a reminder of the fact that Muslim people will not forgot their historic right and will continue to stand against aggression and tyranny.

    There is no “remove.” And it’s not entirely clear what “sore” he’s talking about: Is he being hyper-specific, referring to the Temple Mount, the third holiest site in Islam known as Haram al Sharif? Or is he referring generally to Israel itself? Or to Israel’s occupation of the West Bank?


    Most people who read the accurate translation suggest the sore refers to “the shadow of the Occupation of the Holy Land of Palestine and the dear Al Quds,” which makes sense to me as that is the most immmediate related phrase.


  4. Ralph Seliger August 16, 2013 at 6:17 pm - Reply

    What Ted is confirming is that it’s hard for us non-Farsi speakers to get exactly right what Rouhani said, even if we want to see him as a new moderate Iranian leader who will peacefully end tensions revolving around Iran’s nuclear program (as I do). There was no “willful misrepresentation” on my part, as Ted has alleged; this should be clear both from my hopeful conclusion and the fact that I link to the NY Times and JTA articles.

    What Ted is also dismissing is that regardless of the translation of Rouhani’s words, the context is still hostile to Israel, although perhaps less so than his predecessor. Al Kuds Day (al Kuds being the Arabic/Islamic name for Jerusalem) is an annual Iranian holiday dedicated to solidarity with the Palestinians and features throngs of thousands or tens of thousands shouting “Death to Israel.”

    On another al Kuds Day about ten or twelve years ago, a previous Iranian president, the moderate cleric Rafsanjani, openly suggested that Israel could be destroyed with one nuclear weapon while the Islamic world would survive a number of hits because of how much larger these countries are relative to Israel.

  5. Anonymous August 17, 2013 at 5:25 pm - Reply

    Dear Ralph,

    There is no such thing as Al Kuds Day, nor is there a city of Al Kuds. An appropriate transliteration is Al Quds. Kaf (transliteration) is a different letter and sound from Qaf (transliteration).

    Again, it would seem appropriate to learn something about the language of 20% of Israel’s population, of people held under Israeli occupation and the languages of countries in the region where Israel is located. If not at least exercise some care and caution in interpreting what people are saying in those languages by being careful and reviewing multiple sources.

    For now you are not even rising to the level of MEMRI.


  6. Ralph Seliger August 17, 2013 at 9:47 pm - Reply

    So sorry that I disappoint you, Ted. I’ve seen transliterations of that sound with either K or Q. Or maybe I’m lying.

  7. Anonymous August 18, 2013 at 4:17 pm - Reply

    Dear Ralph,

    There is no credible transliteration of Al Quds with a K. Look it up, and/or ask any Arabic speaker (I am one). The Qaf sound is entirely different from the Kaf sound.

    This shows a rather shocking lack of interest in the truth and lack of respect for another culture, that you claim some concern for.


  8. Ralph Seliger August 18, 2013 at 5:32 pm - Reply

    I agree. I must be an awful person for committing such an error.

  9. Ralph Seliger August 19, 2013 at 6:33 pm - Reply

    All sarcasm aside, the fact that Ted uses this matter of spelling or misspelling to assert bad faith on the part of myself and others associated with this blog, is both wrong-headed and nasty. Despite all that we write in favor of Palestinian rights, he evidently hates us. Otherwise, he’d find ways to disagree with us, if he must, without insulting us.

  10. Anonymous August 19, 2013 at 9:40 pm - Reply

    Dear Ralph,

    First and primarily, as the beginning of this exchange, you misrepresented a quote in Farsi, failing to perform due diligence by recognizing that the NY Jewish Week version you posted was contradicted by Ron Kampeas, the Lede and everyone else, in links that you had even posted. So your post ended up overhyping Rouhani’s language, on an already execssively hyped subject – Iran and Israel.

    In your response, you made a second linguistic error in reference to Arabic, seeming to confirm your earlier displayed lack of knowledge and concern with getting it right in reference to the languages and cultures of people you express interest in. And then after being called on it, you even insisted you were right!

    On the latter, much lesser point, seriously though, after a few years in this business, much less decades, how many people who are not ethno-centric really haven’t learned about Al Quds?


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