Jour 203-BDP

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Selective MEMRI by Brian Whitaker


1. MEMRI, which stands for Middle East Research Institute, provides translations of Arabic, Farsi, and Hebrew media to the west, where few speak Arabic. Its headquarters are located in Washington D.C., but has recently opened offices in London, Berlin, and Jerusalem.

2. MEMRI does not give any contact information on its website or an office address. Its reason according to a former employee, “they don't want suicide bombers walking through the door on Monday morning" (Washington Times, June 20). Brian Whitaker, author of “Selective Memri”, thinks this is an extreme precaution for an organization that simply wants to break down east-west language barriers.
3. The fact that all of MEMRI’s articles reflect badly on the Arab character or promote the political agenda of Israel causes Whitaker to believe that this is not a non-partisan organization.
4. The Hudson Institute is a non-partisan policy research organization that promotes “global security, prosperity, and freedom.” Its current research includes the war on terror and future of Islam and human rights in Asia and Africa. According to the International Relations Center, “Several of Hudson's leaders have ties to neoconservative and rightist pro-Israel organizations” and the institute “consistently reveals partisan inclinations. Richard Perle is a board member of the Hudson Institute and an authority on national security and defense. The International Relations Center characterizes Perle as “a vocal advocate of expansive U.S. military action in the Middle East,” who champions “U.S. intervention in Iran and Syria and consistently advocated for U.S. support of hard-line Israeli policies in the Palestinian territories and Lebanon.”
5. Mr. Ahwad’s ulterior motive in writing about Saddam Hussein’s terror is that this accusation formed part of his application for political asylum in the United States. At that point he was a suspected terrorist or Iraqi Intelligence Agent and sought to prove that Americans had made a mistake.
6. One propaganda success that MEMRI scored against Saudi Arabia is a translation from the Al-Riyadh newspaper “in which a columnist wrote that Jews use the blood of Christian or Muslim children in pastries for the Purim religious festival.” This was based on an anti-Semitic myth from the middle ages and solely illustrates Arabs lack of knowledge about Judaism. This is a columnist’s ignorance, not an official statement from the Arab government as MEMRI implied. Another propaganda success came when Saudi Arabia’s ambassador wrote a poem entitled The Martyrs and MEMRI translated extracts from the poem that were “praising suicide bombers.” A more likely interpretation is that the ambassador is critical of ineffective Arab leaders, but western media repeated MEMRI’s translation almost without question.
7. The articles highlighted by MEMRI are not reflective of Arab newspaper content as a whole, but heavily influence senators, congressman, and opinion-formers that use MEMRI as their sole news source from the Arab world. The co-founder and president of MEMRI in a speech to House committee on international relations “portrayed the Arab media as part of a wide-scale system of government-sponsored indoctrination”.
8. The best way to counter MEMRI agenda is for Arab media companies to publish articles that more accurately paint a picture of their newspaper content.

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