Middle East Media Research Institute

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Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) is a Israeli propaganda organization that selectively translates materials from the Arab/Muslim/Iranian press purportedly demonstrating hostility against Israel/Jews. According to the MEMRI web site: "MEMRI emphasizes the continuing relevance of Zionism to the Jewish people and to the state of Israel."[1] It "explores the Middle East through the region's media. MEMRI bridges the language gap which exists between the West and the Middle East, providing timely translations of Arabic, Farsi, and Hebrew media, as well as original analysis of political, ideological, intellectual, social, cultural, and religious trends in the Middle East."[2]

MEMRI has several offices around the world. Americans work in D.C.; British, Spaniards, Italians, Germans, and Norwegians work in the European Union; Israelis in Israel; Japanese in Japan; Arabs also make up some of the people who work for MEMRI.

The MEMRI Web site also says, "selected subtitled clips from mainly arabic and Iranian television have been published since 2004." [3]

History

According to its website, founded in February 1998 by former/current Israeli intelligence officers "to inform the debate over U.S. policy in the Middle East, MEMRI is an independent. MEMRI's headquarters is located in Washington, DC with branch offices in Berlin, London, and Jerusalem, where MEMRI also maintains its Media Center. MEMRI research is translated to English, German, Hebrew, Italian, French, Spanish, Turkish, and Russian."

MEMRI's stance is that it is opposed to Islamic fundamentalism, not Islam itself, although the integrity of this position may be questioned because of links on MEMRI's website to certain evangelical Christian organizations who take a harder line on Islam. Yigal Carmon, MEMRI's founder, is a former advisor on terrorism to the Israeli Prime Ministers, Yitzhak Shamir and Yitzhak Rabin, so he actually worked for both Labor and Likud governments.

MEMRI has gained currency with most pro-Israel writers, as well as right-wing publications. For example, New York Times writer Thomas Friedman, an influential foreign affairs columnist, has used MEMRI translations a number of times in his columns. MEMRI is cited in several publications, such as The Times, The Washington Times, The Weekly Standard, The Jerusalem Post, The National Review, The Toronto Sun, Wall Street Journal, Libertad, FrontPageMagazine, Columbia Journalism Review, Associated Press, etc. [4]

Threatening Critics

In November 2004, MEMRI threatened Middle East scholar Juan Cole (Univ. of Michigan) with a SLAPP lawsuit unless he retracted some of his claims.[5]

Nature of the charges pace Cole:

"Colonel Carmon's letter makes three charges: 1) that I alleged that MEMRI receives $60 million a year for its operations. 2) That I alleged that MEMRI cherry-picks the vast Arab press for articles that make the Arabs look bad. 3) That I said that MEMRI was affiliated with the Likud Party."

Cole replies:

  1. I think he would find that in democratic countries, in any case, a dispute over an organization's level of funding would be laughed out of court as a basis for a libel action. In fact, I am giggling as I write this.
  2. "I continue to maintain that MEMRI is selective and biased against the Arab press, and that it highlights pieces that cast Arabs, especially committed Muslims, in a negative light."
  3. "I did not allege that MEMRI or Colonel Carmon are "affiliated" with the Likud Party. What I said was that MEMRI functions as a PR campaign for Likud Party goals."

Issues of reliability and veracity

MEMRI is operated by a group closely associated with the Israeli intelligence organizations. Now, in an article in Haaretz, we find that the Israeli Army has sought to plant stories about "terrorism" in the press, and

"Psychological warfare officers were in touch with Israeli journalists covering the Arab world, gave them translated articles from Arab papers (which were planted by the [Israel Defense Forces] IDF) and pressed the Israeli reporters to publish the same news here." --Amos Harel, IDF reviving psychological warfare unit, Haaretz, January 25, 2005.

This should raise a question or two about the reliability and veracity of the stories peddled by MEMRI.

This is what Prof. Juan Cole had to say about this:

"So is MEMRI, which translates articles from the Arabic press into English for thousands of US subscribers, in any way involved in all this? Its director formerly served in… Israeli military intelligence. How much of what we "know" from "Arab sources" about "Hizbullah terrorism" was simply made up by this fantasy factory in Tel Aviv?
As someone who reads the Arabic press quite a lot, this sort of revelation is extremely disturbing.
I also saw an allegation that British military intelligence had planted stories in the US press about Saddam's Iraq.
You begin to wonder how much of what you think you know is just propaganda manufactured by some bored colonel. No wonder post-Baath Iraq looks nothing like what we were led to to expect by the press, including the Arab press!" [6]

Another assessment:

If you rely on MEMRI for your knowledge of Arab discourse, you are really not informed. Arab public opinion, based on MEMRI's releases, is reduced or caricatured to either Bin Laden fans or Bush fans, while Arab public opinion is mosty a fan of neither people. --As'ad AbuKhalil[7]
Although widely used in the mainstream media as a source of information on the Arab world, it is as trustworthy as Julius Streicher's Der Sturmer was on the Jewish world. --Norman Finkelstein [8]

Wafa Sultan

Los Angeles based Syrian/American Psychiatrist Wafa Sultan appeared on an al-Jazeera television show opposite Dr. Ibrahim al-Khouly, a lecturer at Cairo's Al-Azhar University. Memri offered a heavily edited version of the show, and mistranslated several of the exchanges, making it appear that al-Khouly had issued a death fatwa against Sultan. Wafa Sultan became known as someone who had her life threatened because of her "Clash of Civilizations" point of view.

It turns out that Sultan had appeared on a daytime al Jazeera show, roughly equivalent to Jerry Springer, that Western Educated Dr. Ibrahim al-Khouly had not issued a fatwa, and as he is not a recognized Mufti, had he issued a fatwa, it would not be considered in any way, authoritarian.

A secularist blog covering topics broadly related to MENA, named Aqoul, took a tape of the whole show, and translated it, making it available in a PDF file: Transcript Translation: al-Jazeera - The Opposite Direction (26/02/2006). Posts on Aqoul, as well as one on the Winds of Change blog offer a great deal of insight into the distortions:

Funding

According to the National Review, 250 donors—foundations and individuals—fund MEMRI's activities. Among these private donors is the right-wing Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation , which gave MEMRI $100,000 from 1999 to 2000. In 2001, the Randolph Foundation gave MEMRI $100,000, and in 2004 the John M. Olin Foundation gave $5,000, according to Media Transparency .

Founders

MEMRI was co-founded by Meyrav Wurmser and Colonel Yigal Carmon, formerly of Israeli military intelligence, "both of whom were early critics of the Oslo accords." [11]

Principals and Staff: 2012

Board of Directors: 2012
Oliver "Buck" Revell Chairman Elliott Abrams Steve Emerson
Jeffrey Kaufman Robert Reilly
Board of Advisors: 2012
Bernard Lewis Elie Wiesel Gen. Michael V. Hayden
Jose Maria Aznar Stephen J. Trachtenberg Donald Rumsfeld
James Woolsey John Bolton John Ashcroft
Ehud Barak Irwin Cotler Mort Zuckerman
Chin Ho Lee Michael Mukasey Deborah Lipstadt
Norman Podhoretz William Bennett Christopher DeMuth
Paul Bremer George Weidenfeld Yehuda Bauer
Alfred Moses Herb London Stuart Eizenstat
Josef Joffe Natan Sharansky James Q. Wilson
Edgar Bronfman Max Kampelman Jana Hybaskova
Alan Dershowitz Yohanan Friedmann Khaled Fouad Allam
Lafif Lakhdar Shaker Al-Nabulsi Magdi Khalil
Faraj Sarkouhi
In Memoriam:
Richard Holbrooke Jack Kemp Jeane Kirkpatrick
Irving Kristol
Staff
Yigal Carmon
President and founder
Steven Stalinsky
Executive Director
Menahem Milson
chairman of Board of Advisors
Tufail Ahmad
Director of South Asia Studies Project
Nimrod Raphaeli
Senior Analyst
Mansour Al-Hadj
director of the Reform in The Arab and Muslim World project
Source
Memri: About Us[9]

MEMRI previous Principals and Staff

Users of MEMRI materials (alpha order)

"The role that MEMRI is playing in bringing the voices of the Arab and Muslim Reform – from Arabic into English, to the world – has been absolutely invaluable for everyone who cares about this process and wants to follow it."
- Thomas Friedman, May 6, 2003 [10]
  • Kevin Myers – writes for the Irish Times and The Telegraph. He writes:
I receive an invaluable service from the Middle East Media Research Institute, which translates material from the region. What is impossible to appreciate without such translations is the sheer scale of genocidal anti-Semitism which infuses Palestinian Authority propaganda.[11]
In the kingdom of Saudi Arabia, where the ultraextreme sect of Wahhabism is the state religion, various sermons and other declamations were heard, alleging that Allah punished the Hindus, Christians, Buddhists, and non-Wahhabi Muslims of the South Asian countries for their failure to accept Islam, above all in its Saudi form (as recorded and translated by the Middle East Media Research Institute).[12]
Numerous articles and commentary in the Saudi press are openly anti-Jewish, offensive, and discriminatory: the "Zionist movement" is labeled as evil; blood libel accusations are made; hatred toward Jews is encouraged; Jews are said to be trying to take over the world; and the existence of the Holocaust is denied.[60]
[60]See multiple translated articles with anti-Semitic and discriminatory language from the Saudi press at the Middle East Media Research Institute ( MEMRI ) Web site: [followed by four links]
  • Elie Wiesel – Professional Holocaust survivor (as Uri Avnery refers to him), member of the Irgun Zvei Leumi [13], and professional moralist.
"I hope you receive MEMRI's publications. I do. I find its material – translations and analyses of poisonous articles, hate-filled statements and slanderous accusations – vitally needed for the fight against antisemitism in the Arab world. Policy makers, legislators, teachers, and news commentators greatly benefit from its efforts to use truth in the service of peace."
- Elie Wiesel, May 22, 2003 [14]
"… the excellent Middle East Media Research Institute"
-Former CIA director James Woolsey, June 10, 2002 [15]

Contact

MEMRI
PO Box 27837
Washington, DC 20038-7837
Phone: (202) 955-9070
Email: memri AT memri.org
Web: www.memri.org

Articles and Resources

Related SourceWatch Articles

References

  1. Middle East Media Research Institute, About The Institute: Mission Statement, MEMRI website, archived from November 1999.
  2. Middle East Media Research Institute, "About Us", Middle East Media Research Institute website, accessed March 2009.
  3. www.memritv.org
  4. [1]
  5. MEMRI tries a SLAPP Juan Cole's website, November 2004.
  6. [2]
  7. [3]
  8. [4]
  9. MEMRI: About Us (Accessed: 29 January 2012)
  10. [5]
  11. [6]
  12. [7]
  13. [8]
  14. [9]
  15. [10]

External links