There was some controversy over what Ahmadinejad said in a speech in 2005.

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.

What is the difference in meaning between these two phrases?

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    PotAto, potato. Every language has its own idiomatic expressions, this sound like a typical case.
    – user4012
    Commented Jul 29, 2013 at 3:26
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    Unless these are each specific idioms in Farsi, I'm not sure we can answer this question beyond our own analysis of the literal meaning of the translations. Maybe a Farsi speaker could clarify?
    – Publius
    Commented Jul 29, 2013 at 4:33
  • @Avi, I have seen several farsi clarifications. They all seem to day about the same thing. "Wipe out" "vanish from", etc. What is odd is that the translations coming from the people complaining about "wipe off the map," give translations that mean he same thing (IMHO).
    – user1873
    Commented Jul 29, 2013 at 13:34
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    Translator1, he said, "he wants to kill your wife." Farsi expert, "No, no, no. You have it all wrong. He said he wants to chew the marrow from your wife's bones." Translator1, "That is what I said."
    – user1873
    Commented Jul 29, 2013 at 13:41
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    There is a subculture of Western apologists for the mullahcracy that never tires of claiming that "wipe the zionist entity off the map" was a mistranslation by neo-cons bent on harming the Iranians. At the same time, Iran's government-run news agency keeps putting out news items on its own English-language website that say exactly that. But maybe IRNA is also infiltrated by the neo-cons ;) Commented Jul 29, 2013 at 23:07

5 Answers 5


To “wipe [a country] off the map” literally means to have the aggressors annex all of its territory so that the country ceases to exist, and doesn't appear on maps. This, for example, happened to Poland in 1795 and again in 1939. Its inhabitants may be repatriated, oppressed, expelled, or killed in the process.

I would interpret ”erase from the page of time” to mean “erase from history” or damnatio memoriae. This is an even stronger statement: Not only would Israel be wiped off the map, but Iran would destroy or suppress all evidence that Israel ever existed.

However, the blog article seems to be using the phrase differently. Perhaps it was inaccurately translated from Farsi.

  • "Wipe off the map" is related to the legality of a country and its boundary. it means Israel should not be recognized officially as a legitimate country and United Nation should not recognize it as a legal country, but an occupying regime. It's the map not the earth.
    – Ahmad
    Commented Feb 3, 2015 at 6:47
  • It should be noted that he was talking about the current Israel leadership, not the country as such. So what he was saying is that the leadership will change in time.
    – liftarn
    Commented Feb 3, 2015 at 12:24

Unlike the Palestinian Authority, which pays lip service to peace and reconciliation in English but puts out a rather different message in Arabic, the regime of the Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI) has not been very shy about saying in English what they say in Persian:

Israel must be destroyed.

Little more than a year ago -- on May 20th, 2012 -- their official Fars News Agency reported on a call from the Chief of Staff of Iran's Armed Forces:

Top Commander Reiterates Iran's Commitment to Full Annihilation of Israel

(Note: The above link goes to the Internet Archive's copy of the page from Fars News' English-language service.)

A few quotes from that news item:

Top Commander Reiterates Iran's Commitment to Full Annihilation of Israel: TEHRAN (FNA)- Chief of Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces Major General Hassan Firouzabadi said threats and pressures cannot deter Iran from its revolutionary causes and ideals, and stressed that the Iranian nation will remain committed to the full annihilation of the Zionist regime of Israel to the end. (...) Earlier this year, Supreme Leader of Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei stressed in explicit remarks Iran's direct involvement in the Palestinian and Lebanese confrontation with Israel, including the Lebanese Summer 2006 33-day resistance against the Zionist regime. (...) "In future too, we will support and help everyone who opposes the Zionist regime," the Leader underscored. "The Zionist regime is a real cancerous tumor that should be cut and will be cut, God Willing," Ayatollah Khamenei underscored.

Again, this is not a dubious translation done by someone trying to twist the Iranians' words and put them in a bad light. This is straight from the horse's mouth. The page is currently not being hosted by the Fars News Agency, but the Internet Archive recorded it still being shown by FNA as late as May 31st, 2013.

So, whenever someone tries to whitewash the well-known statements by Ahmadinejad and other leading figures of the IRI's government, no need to engage in tedious debate over what this phrase or that phrase in Farsi means in English and who has provided the most faithful translations. Instead, ask the Iranians how they themselves say it in English. To find out, visit their official English-language news sites. As the example that I cite above shows, there can be no doubt as to their stated aims. When they say "wipe off the map", they are talking war and genocide ("full annihilation of Israel"). The only ones who still don't get it are fools and liars.

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    Another example: Alef.ir is not an official government news agency, but nothing gets published there without official permission. Scroll 1/2 way down the page: 'Israeli People Must be Annihilated: Residents of Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Hifa can be targeted ... target urban settlements until final annihilation of Israel people ... Destruction of Israeli infrastructure like railroad stations, airports and nuclear facilities by Sejjil missiles ... Missiles that Can Destroy Israel ... Iran could destroy Israel in less than 9 minutes.' Commented Jul 30, 2013 at 1:38
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    While this certainly makes Iran's goals clear (as if they weren't already), it doesn't really answer the question. Also, while you're correct about the PA, that isn't relevant either.
    – Publius
    Commented Jul 30, 2013 at 3:59
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    @Avi I did answer the question. The only reference given was to an attack piece in the 'New Statesman' recycling the same old lies that "wipe Israel off the map" was never meant to be taken literally, it was a civilized phrase used legitimately yada yada. I disagree with the premise, disagree with the soft-pedaling, disagree with the scurrilous propaganda of calling a government elected in a free and fair election a "regime", disagree with the whitewashing of IRI's warmongering, period. If you don't like my answer, downvote it but don't expect any further responses from me. Commented Jul 30, 2013 at 4:07
  • The question was whether the New Statesman's proposed translation meant something different from the original text. It was not what Iran's intentions are. You have legitimate problems with the article, just not relevant ones.
    – Publius
    Commented Jul 30, 2013 at 4:25

Your focus is wrong. The difference between the two phrases isn't in the verb ("wipe off the map" versus "erase from the page of time") - it's in the object: "Israel" v "occupation regime over Jerusalem". The first calls for the destruction of the state, the second for Jerusalem to be 'liberated', which could be done through the Israelis leaving Jerusalem.

In short the first means "Israel must be destroyed" and the second means "Israel must leave Jerusalem". That's the important difference.

Not that I think Israel is likely to do that, or that we need to spend a lot of time analysing Ahmadinejad's rhetoric, but you did ask about the meaning.

  • That creates a new problem, in that Israel is the government currently governing Jerusalem.
    – Publius
    Commented Aug 2, 2013 at 6:46
  • The statement creates many problems, but the question was about the meaning. Commented Aug 2, 2013 at 13:12
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    No, I mean it doesn't clarify the distinction because "occupation regime over Jerusalem" and "Israel" ultimately refer to the same thing.
    – Publius
    Commented Aug 2, 2013 at 20:28
  • Actually no. If Israel were to withdraw from Jerusalem, that would be the end of the occupation regime over Jerusalem. It would not be the end of Israel. Commented Dec 6, 2017 at 15:55

The following is my interpretation of Iran's position toward Israel.

"Wipe off the map" is related to the legitimacy of a country and its borders. It means that Israel should not be recognized as a legitimate country by the world and the United Nation. Note that map is a key point here; so existing on the map means the country is recognized by other countries.

"Erased from the page of time" is stronger and relates to the history and time. It means it should be cut from the history as it has never existed and never will appear again (maybe the Israel regime and its ideology).

Both phrases show Iran's position toward Israel. Iran's regime believes that Israelis have occupied the territory of Palestinians. Then this land is, in fact, Palestine and not Israel. They consider the Israel's regime illegitimate. It's interesting that they don't use the word Israel in their documents and no country on the map is named Israel in Iran.They call it occupation regime over Jerusalem as it is in the second sentence.

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    what i said is the meaning of the phrases and Iran position, I don't know why some give down votes
    – Ahmad
    Commented Oct 8, 2014 at 13:18
  • Uh-yeah, you are right with an admirable answer. Commented Feb 14, 2016 at 15:50

I suggest you read these links:




He never said "Erase from the Map", and the part of the speech that was such erroneously translated, was about the Iranian Shan and how his regime was replaced - not about Israel at all.

Then he quotes Khomeini and what Khomeini said about the regime that occupies Qods/Jerusalem: Here Khomeini talked about erasing the regime - not Israel the country or the Israelis - from the pages of history. Ie. he talks about a regime-change in Israel. Surely it must be allowed to wish for change in Israel to a regime that doesn't occupy Palestine, kills Palestinians and generally harasses it's neighbors?

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