The matter of the map-wiping misunderstanding would simply be a cautionary tale, if at the time it hadn’t led to hostile rhetoric on all sides of Iran-Israel (-US) relations… and if it didn’t continue to make the rounds as an unquestioned piece of historical evidence, proving that Iran’s intentions have always been bellicose. Most recently:
- April 25, 2012: Carlo Strenger in the Huffington Post: "Iran's clerical regime makes sure to promise every other week that Israel will be wiped off the map"
- May 16, 2012: Myron Kaplan, in a piece concerning disinformation and "C-SPAN's Israel/Jewish Problem": “For example, on Oct. 26, 2005… [Ahmadinejad] vowed that ‘Israel must be wiped off the map’” (published on the website of CAMERA: the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America)
- May 17, 2012: A wire piece from AFP, hosted on Google News: “Ahmadinejad has repeatedly stated in recent years that Israel will one day be ‘wiped off the map’ and cast doubt on the magnitude or actual occurrence of the Holocaust.”
In most literary acts of translation, the stakes of a wonky rendering are aesthetic. As in, for example, this discussion in The New Yorker of L'Etranger; should the first sentence "Aujourd'hui, maman est morte" be brought into English as "Today, Maman died", or, "Momma died today"? It matters, a bit, beyond the simple matter of the meaning, because we are to understand something about cultural and colonial tensions in Algeria at that historical moment, given the characterization of the protagonist as more or less estranged from feeling. There is, however, a significant difference between "politics of translation" and "the translation of politics", to the end that you don’t often see a book reviewer arguing on the grounds of a translation of Camus that war between (e.g.) France and America is inevitable.
When the words being translated are uttered by the heads of state, the potential outcomes of an error can be frightening. And the possibilities are especially fraught when, an error in translation being noted and corrected, the original mistranslation continues to circulate in the culture, where it continues to insinuate all the wrong things to people who are looking for translated evidence to corroborate their prejudices and pet fears.