I doubt Jeffrey Goldberg entirely believes what he’s implying in today’s shocked and awed post on very, very scary words from the chief of staff of the Iranian armed forces:
Addressing a defense gathering here in Tehran on Sunday, General (Hassan) Firouzabadi said that nations should realize the threats and dangers posed by the Zionist regime of Israel.
He reiterated the Iranian nation and Supreme Leader’s emphasis on the necessity of support for the oppressed Palestinian nation and its causes, and noted, “The Iranian nation is standing for its cause that is the full annihilation of Israel.”
Says Goldberg: “What he probably meant to say was, ‘I would love the opportunity to visit Eilat because I understand the snorkeling is wonderful.'” The intention seems to be to pre-empt anyone who might consider the statement rationally, since, for a polemicist, the distinction between rationality and rationalization is always suspicious enough. How dare you pause to think when the Devil Incarnate Is Poised Not Just to Annihilate You, but to Annihilate You Fully?
The translation in question is obviously awkward from “is” to “Israel.” It reads almost like Sarah Palin wrote it. Whatever the words signify – implacable genocidal determination, a rhetorical flourish, or, in my view much more likely, familiar Islamic revolutionary boilerplate – it ain’t real good English.
It wouldn’t do any harm to find out what the man really said, and how an educated native speaker, as opposed to a smart-alecky pro-Israeli blogger, understands it within its immediate rhetorical context, but Goldberg is not interested, and trusts that, if anyone ever gets around to it – in the unlikely event that someone somewhere decides that there would be some point in doing so – it will be long after the non-event of his blog post has excited the usual round of reflexive reactions and reflexive reactions to reactions.
It’s not a news flash that the establishment of “the Zionist regime” is considered an act of grand larceny by many in the region and the larger world – including, if you read between the lines, many of the most ardent Zionists themselves, who consider it from the perspective of the Jewish interest to have been a justifiable necessity. Those on the side of the injured parties believe the “arc of history” bends toward a rather different justice than Mr. Goldberg does. Since they utterly lack the power to achieve their goal via military action, they conjure it up in words, then receive the predictable responses from their counterparts in demagogy on the other side.
Well that is my only quibble, he would say, something like the Zionist state, however that reads in Farsi, but you’re surprised by this, after Rafsanjani in 2001, after Ahmadinejad in 2006,