Few world leaders have created as much controversy on the issue of Israel and Palestine as Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Much of what Mr. Ahmadinejad says on the issue seldom surfaces in the Western world due to a lack of good translations. However, on October 26, 2005, at a conference on "The World Without Zionism", he was widely reported as calling for Israel to be "wiped off the map". That translation, from a transcript in the New York Times just days after the speech, is disputed. Several scholars and other media outlets say that he said that Israel "must be eliminated from the pages of history." For the record, here is a portion of that speech, as translated by Nazila Fathi of the New York Times Tehran bureau. Bracketed explanatory material is from Ms. Fathi.

I thank God that I have had the opportunity to participate in the event today ….

We need to examine the true origins of the issue of Palestine: is it a fight between a group of Muslims and non-Jews? Is it a fight between Judaism and other religions? Is it the fight of one country with another country? Is it the fight of one country with the Arab world? Is it a fight over the land of Palestine? I guess the answer to all these questions is ‘no.’

The establishment of the occupying regime of Qods [Jerusalem]was a major move by the world oppressor [the United States] against the Islamic world. The situation has changed in this historical struggle. Sometimes the Muslims have won and moved forward and the world oppressor was forced to withdraw.

Unfortunately, the Islamic world has been withdrawing in the past 300 years. I do not want to examine the reasons for this, but only to review the history. The Islamic world lost its last defenses in the past 100 years and the world oppressor established the occupying regime. Therefore the struggle in Palestine today is the major front of the struggle of the Islamic world with the world oppressor and its fate will decide the destiny of the struggles of the past several hundred years.

The Palestinian nation represents the Islamic nation [Umma] against a system of oppression, and thank God, the Palestinian nation adopted Islamic behavior in an Islamic environment in their struggle and so we have witnessed their progress and success. I need to thank you for choosing this valuable title for the conference.

Many who are disappointed in the struggle between the Islamic world and the infidels have tried to spread the blame. They say it is not possible to have a world without the United States and Zionism. But you know that this is a possible goal and slogan.

Let’s take a step back. We had a hostile regime in this country which was undemocratic, armed to the teeth and, with SAVAK, its security apparatus of SAVAK [the intelligence bureau of the Shah of Iran’s government] watched everyone. An environment of terror existed. When our dear Imam [Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder the Iranian revolution] said that the regime must be removed, many of those who claimed to be politically well-informed said it was not possible. All the corrupt governments were in support of the regime when Imam Khomeini started his movement. All the Western and Eastern countries supported the regime even after the massacre of September 7 [1978] and said the removal of the regime was not possible. But our people resisted and it is 27 years now that we have survived without a regime dependent on the United States. The tyranny of the East and the West over the world must should end, but weak people who can see only what lies in front of them cannot believe this.

Who could believe that one day we could witness the collapse of the Eastern Empire? But we have seen its fall during our lives and it collapsed in such a way that we have to refer to libraries because no trace of it is left. Imam [Khomeini] said Saddam must go and he said he would grow weaker than anyone could imagine. Now you see the man who spoke with such arrogance ten years ago that one would have thought he was immortal, is being tried in his own country in handcuffs and shackles by those who he believed supported him and with whose backing he committed his crimes.

Our dear Imam said that the occupying regime must be wiped off the map and this was a very wise statement. We cannot compromise over the issue of Palestine. Is it possible to create a new front in the heart of an old front. This would be a defeat and whoever accepts the legitimacy of this regime [Israel] has in fact, signed the defeat of the Islamic world. Our dear Imam targeted the heart of the world oppressor in his struggle, meaning the occupying regime. I have no doubt that the new wave that has started in Palestine, and we witness it in the Islamic world too, will eliminate this disgraceful stain from the Islamic world. But we must be aware of tricks.

For over 50 years the world oppressor tried to give legitimacy to the occupying regime and it has taken measures in this direction to stabilize it. About 27 or 28 years ago they took a major step and unfortunately one of the leading countries made a mistake which we hope will correct it.[an apparent reference to the peace treaty between Egypt and Israel].

Recently they [the Israelis] tried a new trick. They want to show the evacuation from the Gaza strip, which was imposed on them by Palestinians, as a final victory for the Palestinians and end the issue of Palestine with the excuse of establishing a Palestinian government next to themselves. Today, they want to involve Palestinians with mischief and trick them into fighting with one another over political positions so that they would drop the issue of Palestine.

They want to convince some of the Islamic countries that, since they evacuated the Gaza strip with good intentions, the legitimacy of their corrupt regime should be recognized. I hope Palestinian groups and people are aware of this trick.

The issue of Palestine is not over at all. It will be over the day a Palestinian government, which belongs to the Palestinian people, comes to power; the day that all refugees return to their homes; a democratic government elected by the people comes to power. Of course those who have come from far away to plunder this land have no right to choose for this nation.

I hope the Palestinian people will remain alert and aware in the same way that they have continued their struggle in the past ten years.

If we get through this brief period successfully, the path of eliminating the occupying regime will be easy and downhill.

I warn all leaders of the Islamic world that they should be aware of this trick. Anyone who recognizes this regime because of the pressure of the World oppressor, or because of naiveté or selfishness, will be eternally disgraced and will burn in the fury of the Islamic nations.

Those who are sitting in closed rooms cannot decide for the Islamic nation and cannot allow this historical enemy to exist in the heart of the Islamic world.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is President of Islamic Republic of Iran.