Skip to comments.MEMRI is ‘propaganda machine,’ expert says ("expert" = Finkelstein = BARF!)
Posted on 06/19/2007 12:17:15 PM PDT by Stultis
MEMRI is propaganda machine, expert says
By Lawrence Swaim, Staff Writer
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 Georgetown University.
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 international operations.
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 expenditures.
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 of cultures.
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," Carmon said.
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 and power.
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 media.
"I think it’s a reliable assumption that anything MEMRI translates from the Middle East is going to be unreliable," Finkelstein said.
I think that I will immediately make ANOTHER contribution to MEMRI. They are critical to the pursuit of truth and contribute mightily to the US armed forces intelligence effort.
Kinda like the NY Times Editorial Board?
Norman G. Finkelstein received his doctorate in 1988 from the Department of Politics, Princeton University, for a thesis on the theory of Zionism. He currently teaches political theory at DePaul University in Chicago.
Finkelstein is the author of five books:
Beyond Chutzpah: On the misuse of anti-Semitism and the abuse of history (University of California Press, August 2005)
The Holocaust Industry: Reflections on the exploitation of Jewish suffering (Verso: 2000; expanded second edition, 2003); an international bestseller, it has been translated into twenty four foreign languages
Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestine Conflict (Verso: 1995; expanded second edition, 2003); translated into five foreign languages
A Nation on Trial: The Goldhagen thesis and historical truth (with Ruth Bettina Birn) (Henry Holt: 1998); named a “notable book of 1998” by the New York Times Sunday Book Review, it has been translated into three foreign languages
The Rise and Fall of Palestine: A personal account of the intifada years (University of Minnesota: 1996); translated into two foreign languages
In April 2005, Finkelstein was the presenter for an hour-long documentary (”The Final Insult”) based on The Holocaust Industry, to be broadcast on Channel 4 in the United Kingdom. He is also the subject of several independent film documentaries currently in production. In 2003 he was the keynote speaker on the main panel at the Rome Historical Book Fair and was a guest on Europes main television news hour, the Sabine Christiansen show. In 2002 he delivered the annual memorial lecture in history at Alfred University.
Finkelstein was born in Brooklyn, N.Y. in 1953. The dedication for his first book read:
To my beloved parents,
Maryla Husyt Finkelstein,
survivor of the Warsaw Ghetto,
Maidanek concentration camp
survivor of the Warsaw Ghetto,
Auschwitz concentration camp.
May I never forget or forgive what was done to them.
FReepMail to be added or removed from this pro-Israel/Judaic/Russian Jewry ping list.
Warning! This is a high-volume ping list.
I think that I will immediately make ANOTHER contribution to MEMRI. They are critical to the pursuit of truth and contribute mightily to the US armed forces intelligence effort.Me too.
“They use the same sort of propaganda techniques as the Nazis” Interesting turn of a phrase from a man who believes that the Holocaust is oversold.
Anti-semitic JINO. He can go to Gaza and try out how long he lasts,
"Apartheid wall". Good one. What's the wall outside Mecca called. The one enforced by death penalty when kufir/non-muslims try to enter? What's the policy of prohibited Jews entry to Saudi Arabia called?
There IS apartheid in the Middle East and it isn't in Israel.
# Lawrence Swaim, Executive Director, Interfaith Freedom Foundation Says:
May 31st, 2007 at 7:15 pm
How about mud wrestling on Harvard Yard?
Boys only. Sorry, Cecilie.
Seriously, Im afraid Trivers went over the line in his WSJ letter. In my world, offering to pay someone a personal visit is considered threatening, although I certainly heard worse when I was in union politics. But Dersh was probably within his rights to call the cops. We all need to take a giant step backwards where this kind of talk is concerned.
There was no reason to cancel the speaking engagement, however.
This might be a good time to congratulate you for the tone youve established at Muzzlewatch. Objectivity bordering on actual civility! What a novel and exciting idea and youve developed that objective reportorial stances in dealing with the explosive twin issues of Israel/Palestine and the US Israel Lobby, no less. Thats a real accomplishment.
I feel sorry for all those angry guys out there in the blogosphere, but youre on to something, Cecilieits such a pleasure to come in out of all that self-righteousness and histrionics to read a considered opinion or a summary about something as complicated as the Middle East.
Incidentally, look for my feature article in the Muslim newspaper InFocus, about MEMRI, in the June issue just coming out. Researching it I found out something rather intriguing about MEMRIs approach to copyright law but youll just have to read the article to find out what it is.
Anyway, thanks for a wonderful blog and a wonderful organization. Jewish Voice for Peace embodies the best of the democratic left with the prophetic voice of the Abrahamic tradition. Keep on keepin on, and keep on speaking truth to power!
In your case, you always seem to do it with civility. What a treat!
Interfaith Freedom Foundation
P.O. Box 133
Fremont CA 94537
Did he not get tenure at DePaul? He is one bitter JINO....now he will be unemployed...karma works.
Al-Kouly was smoked by an effective debater. Only someone who had never witnessed the debate or someone with another agenda would say something like the above. It is a slimy weasel worded way to get around the truth. Nice try.
What they really hate is that MEMRI puts a spotlight on the cockeroaches.
Youtube video posted by CAIRtv titled “Wafa Sultan spews hate on Glenn Beck show”.
Note that the comments are disabled.
Posted by: jack Apr 10 2007, 06:40 PM
AN INTERFAITH VIEW: DRIVING ISLAMOPHOBIA - TOP
Lawrence Swaim, InFocus, 4/10/07
“In the 1950s, ultra-conservatives torpedoed their critics by calling them Communist. Today the same tactic is used against Muslim organizations by calling them apologists for terrorism. And like the 1950s, the intent of the ultra-conservatives today is to distract the public from their own undemocratic maledictions. As the French say, “The more things change, the more they stay the same.”
It was a déjà vu all over again, too, when Republicans in the House of Representatives asked Nancy Pelosi to deny the Council on Islamic-American Relations (CAIR) a capital conference room for a seminar. If religious McCarthyism is the intent of House Republicans, so is their ultimate political intent. They want to peel off Jewish voters from the Democratic base, moving them to the right by an appeal to Islamophobia. That was precisely the strategy behind Karl Rove’s gambit of putting Daniel Pipes on the Board of Directors at the Institute of Peace. This latest move also aims to expose the Democratic leadership as unprincipled flip-floppers by hassling Nancy Pelosi until she caves in to their demands. The Republicans want more votes and money from the pro-Israel lobby, while driving the Dems crazy by threatening their base.
So how does one react to terror-baiting? Go on the offensive. The more you try to explain that you’re not a terrorist, the more the Islamophobes will control the discussion. Single out your most vulnerable attackers by name and sue them for defamation. Then show how they and their friends are undermining religious liberty in America, and how their political posturing is based on religious bigotry. Show how they support authoritarian government, torture and the Iraq war. Root your arguments in religious and political pluralism, the American constitution, and the American way of life. Show how religious McCarthyism helps the terrorists and besmirches America’s good name in the Muslim and Arabic-speaking worlds. Insist that it endangers the lives of our young people in uniform. Fight back with everything in your legal and rhetorical arsenal.
Secondly, we need to find better ways of confronting the underlying problem that drives Islamophobia in America. It’s all about Israel, folks, and the way Jews and Muslims get defined by various contending parties to that issue. More than anything we need a frank and open national debate about Israel/Palestine and the future of American foreign policy, but we’ll never get there until we confront the pro-Israel lobby head-on. “
Communists have been doing that for over sixty years, btw.
Great links, great info, sageb1. Haven’t noticed your contributions here before but you’re now on my “savvy freepers to keep a virtual eye out for” list.
view the Arab world as a malevolent, mind-numbing monsters ball, populated almost exclusively by fanatics, freaks and fundamentalists. ....As true a statement as I’ve ever seen.
So, all those ‘death to infidels’ sermons that MEMRI translated are just fakes?
I hadn’t seen that. Thanks for posting it.
They use the same sort of propaganda techniques as the Nazis
That's true, there's a great similarity between Nazi propaganda and many of the articles MEMRI translates. Of course they translate many articles by reformers as well.
Campus Watch, a project of the Middle East Forum, reviews and critiques Middle East studies in North America with an aim to improving them.
Campus Watch is currently looking for writers to do paid pieces focusing on California and Western State colleges and universities.
Articles should be 750-850 words, research-based and concentrated solely on Middle East studies academia.
Indeed , MEMRI appears to view the Arab world as a malevolent, mind-numbing monsters ball, populated almost exclusively by fanatics, freaks and fundamentalists.
Yep, and its so easy to do simply by translating what they actually say into English.
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 Balin.
Why should they bother, these stories are covered 24/7 by the MSM.
Why is Finkelstein an expert but Wurmser is an “expert”?
To be fair, MEMRI does disseminate propaganda. The problem is, tht it’s mostly Islamic radical propaganda from Syrian and Iranian TV subtitled in English.
Not surprising that Finklestien, given what constitutes “scholarship” for the man, would be upset about anything that smacks of an honest, empirically-based assessment of the Muslim media. Much of his career this far has depended heavily on the general ignorance of his readership.
Juan Cole is a leftist propaganda machine that misunderstood about 1920 revolution and was slammed by an Iraqi blogger for that error.
The background of MEMRI is pretty intersting, but what a stupidity to call it propaganda without understanding its contents. MEMRI is just a site of resource covering multiple multimedia. It does analysis, but its really stupid to call this neutral source propaganda.
Does this Fink believe David Duke to be an expert (as Iran does) or an “expert”?
Unfortunately for the Jew-hating Muslim world, MEMRI has been a significant source of light, exposing the insane, paranoid, delusional articles that are published in mainstream media throughout the Arab world.
Thank G-d for MEMRI.
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