- The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) provides
daily English translations of film and print media stories originating
in Arabic, Iranian and Turkish media.
- It also furnishes original analysis of cultural, political
and religious trends in the Middle East.
- It sends its daily postings to every news outlet in the
United States and Europe, in addition to politicians and cultural leaders.
- And it's free, which makes it a Godsend for journalists,
editors and policy analysts.
- But according to its critics, it is also a dangerous,
highly sophisticated propaganda operation, disseminating hate and disinformation
on an unprecedented worldwide basis.
- "They use the same sort of propaganda techniques
as the Nazis," Professor Norman G. Finkelstein, a well-known scholar
on Israel/Palestine, told InFocus. "They take things out of context
in order to do personal and political harm to people they don't like."
- Take the case of Professor Halim Barakat, a novelist
and scholar associated with the Center for Contemporary Arab Studies at
- In 2002, he published an article on Zionism in London's
Al-Hayat Daily, but says that in certain instances, MEMRI selectively edited
what he wrote.
- "I know how to make a distinction between Judaism
and Zionism, but they distorted the article," Barakat told InFocus.
"They left out certain things and tried to make it look anti-Semitic."
- Shortly afterward, Campus Watch, the brainchild of notorious
Islamophobe Daniel Pipes, used the allegedly doctored translation in an
effort to smear Georgetown University.
- Finkelstein, an outspoken critic of Israeli policies
and the U.S. pro-Israel lobby, also had a run-in with MEMRI.
- In 2006, he gave a TV interview in Lebanon on the way
the Nazi Holocaust is used to silence critics of Israel.
- Finkelstein later wrote on his Web site: "MEMRI
recently posted what it alleged was an interview I did with Lebanese television
on the Nazi Holocaust. The MEMRI posting was designed to prove that I was
a Holocaust denier."
- Far from being a Holocaust denier, Finkelstein's own
parents were Holocaust survivors, a fact he has often spoken about.
- But MEMRI was able to create the opposite impression,
as Finkelstein demonstrated on his Web site, by editing out large chunks
of the actual interview.
- When some comments by the moderator were included, it
appeared that Finkelstein's interview was about nitpicking the number of
Jews who died in the Holocaust rather than about Israel/Palestine.
- MEMRI's obsessive interest in protecting Israel derives
from the people and interests that founded, fund and manage the institute's
- It was founded in 1998 by Yigal Carmon, a former colonel
in the Israel Defense Forces (Intelligence Branch) from 1968 until 1988,
acting head of civil administration in the West Bank from 1977 to 1982;
and Israeli-born Meyrav Wurmser, an extreme rightwing neoconservative now
affiliated with the Hudson Institute.
- Meyrav is married to David Wurmser, at one time an American
Enterprise Institute "scholar" and then a State Department apparatchik
under John Bolton.
- Both participated in the collective writing of "A
Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm," a seminal 1996
neocon document that advocated an end to negotiations with the Palestinians
and permanent war against the Arab world.
- They also worked with Douglas Feith, Elliot Abrams, Richard
Perle and other rightwing ideologues who promoted and embellished the fiction
that Saddam Hussein was behind 9/11.
- MEMRI has offices in Jerusalem, Berlin, London, Washington
and Tokyo, and in a 2006 Jerusalem Post interview, Carmon claimed to have
one in Iraq.
- It translates film and print into English, German, Hebrew,
Italian, French, Spanish and Japanese.
- Tax returns for 2004 indicate American funding of between
two to three million dollars, much of it from conservative donors and foundations
- but those who have followed its far-flung operations suspect much higher
- Besides Carmon, several MEMRI staffers are former Israeli
intelligence specialists. Especially troubling are suspected links between
MEMRI and the current Israeli intelligence establishment.
- According to a 2005 article in Israel's Ha'aretz, the
Israeli Defense Forces plants fake stories in the Arab media, which it
then translates and tries to retail to Israeli journalists. How much of
MEMRI is simply an extension of such IDF operations?
- The questions raised by the Ha'aretz story caused Proffesor
Juan Cole to write, "How much of what we 'know' from 'Arab sources'
about 'Hizbullah terrorism' was simply made up by this fantasy factory
in Tel Aviv?"
- British journalist Brian Whitaker, Middle East editor
of the Guardian, dismisses MEMRI as "basically a propaganda machine."
- Ken Livingstone, mayor of London, accuses them of "outright
distortion," and former CIA case officer Vince Cannistraro has written
that "they (MEMRI) are selective and act as propagandists for their
political point of view, which is the extreme-right of Likud."
- With characteristic bluntness. Norman Finkelstein has
written: "MEMRI is a main arm of Israeli propaganda. 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." (Der Sturmer was a rabidly anti-Semitic newspaper, and Streicher
a notoriously cruel Nazi.)
- In an e-mail to InFocus, Cole characterized MEMRI as
"a Right-Zionist propaganda organ, which usually does its propaganda
unobtrusively, by being very selective in what it translates."
- Indeed , MEMRI appears to view the Arab world as a malevolent,
mind-numbing monsters' ball, populated almost exclusively by fanatics,
freaks and fundamentalists.
- Every story that could possibly make Middle Eastern people
look deranged, hateful or diabolical gets translated; anything that could
make them look informed, talented or admirable is ignored.
- MEMRI says it covers reformers in the Arabic-speaking
world, but longtime observers point out that people who make Islam or Arab
culture look attractive rarely get translated, regardless of their position.
- Nor does MEMRI feature stories about Palestinian suffering,
Israeli dissenters, moderate Islamists, Christians in Arab governments
or the growing nonviolent movement against the apartheid wall in the Occupied
Territories, especially around Bal'in.
- Instead, it promotes highly-edited footage featuring
people like Wafa Sultan.
- It was MEMRI that translated the sound bites from her
famous al-Jazeera debate with Dr. Ibrahim al-Kouly that ended up on YouTube,
making her an instant rock star to those who promote an international clash
- It is said by TV viewers who watched the entire debate
that al-Kouly was rather patient with Sultan despite her extreme opinions.
- (Among other things, Sultan has declared herself an atheist.)
But MEMRI never bothered to translate and promote the whole debate.
- MEMRI President Yigal Carmon was contacted to ask why
the entire Sultan debate wasn't translated and circulated, at least in
a print version.
- "MEMRI couldn't do the whole interview because of
the limitations of our resources," Carmon told InFocus. "And
it was just our best judgment of what was fit to translate." He said
he thought there was an "almost" complete version in the archives.
- InFocus asked Carmon why MEMRI didn't post more stories
about domestic events in Israel and the OTC.
- "Eighty percent of such stories are already in English,"
- Then why not buy a few every week and send them out in
order to give a more balanced picture of the Middle East, InFocus asked,
"It probably wouldn't be legal ," he responded.
- That brought up the thorny issue of copyright, ownership
- Why, Carmon was asked, does MEMRI copyright all the stories
it translates, when most stories are written by Arab authors?
- "Of course we copyright," Carmon told InFocus.
"Once we translate a story into another language, it becomes ours,
because it's our work."
- To test this theory in an American context, InFocus contacted
The New York Times.
- "If you translate copy from the Times, it would
still belong to us, because we originated it," said an employee of
the Rights and Royalties Department who did not wish to be named.
- When war and peace hangs on the translation of a single
word or phrase, nuance is everything.
- But can we trust the translator?
- According its critics, until MEMRI starts translating
Hebrew stories about the rightward drift of Israeli society, torture of
Palestinians in Israeli jails, the forced exile of Ilan Pappe and Azmi
Bishara, and the elevation of the neo-fascist Avigdor Lieberman to deputy
prime minister of Israel, they aren't really covering all Middle Eastern
- "I think it's a reliable assumption that anything
MEMRI translates from the Middle East is going to be unreliable,"
- http://groups.google.com/group/total_truth_sciences/topics/ for more real news posts and support the truth! (sorry but don
't have time to email all posts)