And it looks like they're in sore need of the money. The Middle East Media Research Institute has, in fact, issued an urgent appeal in the following terms:
As a reader of MEMRI, you are familiar with our continued efforts over the past decade to 'Bridge the Language Gap Between the Middle East and the West.' This undertaking is no longer possible.
At this critical point,we urge you to Help MEMRI continue its operations [Donate online at (URL for donations)]
- Over the past decade, MEMRI has accumulated the largest open archives of translations and analysis from Arabic, Farsi, Turkish, and Urdu primary sources. These archives include tens of thousands of pages of reports and over 15,000 minutes of translated TV clips from Arab and Iranian TV channels.
- MEMRI releases, on average, over 10 major reports every week, and updates its nine websites and blogs with new information on a daily basis.
- MEMRI IS THE ONLY ORGANIZATION IN THE WORLD THAT OFFERS THIS SERVICE.
The Institute goes on to detail the importance of its selfless efforts:
WHO IS BENEFITING FROM MEMRI'S WORK
- The U.S. Armed Forces - Army, Navy, Marines, and Air Force.
- Federal departments and agencies such as the The White House, the Department of Defense, the Department of State, the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Justice, the Federal Bureau of Investigations, the Department of Treasury, the Department of Commerce, the Department of Transportation, and others.
- State and local authorities in all 50 states, on homeland security issues.
- Over 500 academic institutions throughout the world. This includes every state in the U.S. as well as 172 countries worldwide.
- And the public at large.
While the Israel advocacy community can be technically considered part of "the public at large," it's puzzling that they got no specific mention. One can't imagine more avid users of MEMRI than Zionist bloggers and other Hasbara peddlers, yet for some reason they were not given the beneficiary status they deserved.
Also, it's surprising that all the government agencies that are supposed to be benefitting from MEMRI are American. Israeli agencies are completely missing from the list. This is strange, since it seems that Israelis comprise a large part of MEMRI's readership. In fact, on its languages page, where non-English speakers are redirected to the MEMRI site translated into their own language, short explanations of what MEMRI is are given in Russian, Chinese, Japanese, Italian, French, German, and Spanish -- but not in Hebrew (i.e. Hebrew readers are supposed to be familiar with MEMRI, unlike the others). Also, the Hebrew version has an Israeli domain (http://www.memri.org.il/), while none of the other versions has a national domain.
That aside, before donating I decided to check out some of MEMRI's reasons why I should let go of my cash. MEMRI claims to 'Bridge the Language Gap Between the Middle East and the West'. As far as I know, Israel is a country in the Middle East, and Hebrew is spoken there, but for some reason MEMRI doesn't provide translations from Hebrew. For instance, when Israel abducted Omar Barghouti, the Israeli daily Haaretz reported:
במצור הראשוני על הבית השתתפו חיילי גדוד מחטיבת שריון ומחלקת חיילים מגדוד החי"ר דוכיפת
חיילי דוכיפת נדחסו לאמבולנס ממוגן כדי להגיע במהירות האפשרית לבית שבו הסתתר ברגותי ולסגור אותו מכל עבריו
על המבצע פיקד מג"ד השריון
The initial siege of the house involved soldiers from a battalion of an armored brigade, and soldiers from the Dukhifat infantry battalion. The Dukhifat soldiers were squeezed into a protected ambulance in order to arrive as quickly as possible at the house where Barghouti was hiding, and to seal it off. The head of the armoured battalion commanded the operation.
Since this paragraph did not show up on Haaretz's online English version, its translation would have been very important for us language-impaired Westerners, because we would have learned that the Israelis do exactly what they accuse the Palestinians of, i.e. using ambulances for military purposes.
But for some reason MEMRI did not see it necessary to bridge this particular language gap.
Another reason to help out MEMRI can be found in its mission statement, according to which the Institute was founded
in February 1998 to inform the debate over U.S. policy in the Middle East[;] MEMRI is an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit, 501 (c)3 organization.
It's good to see people informing debates, but is that MEMRI's actual goal? Well... not entirely. Back when it was founded, MEMRI's statement read somewhat different:
In its research, the institute puts emphasizes [sic] the continuing relevance of Zionism to the Jewish people and to the state of Israel.
This crucial phrase is now missing. (By the way, why would they claim to champion other causes when they mean Israel? Intellectual dishonesty? Self-hate? I will call it by its true name: antisemitism.)
So that after looking if they really bridged linguistic gaps, and finding that they did so only selectively; and after checking out if they were sincere about their goals, and finding that they weren't, I decided not to donate to MEMRI. I give my full support to free speech, not to liars.
Hat tips to practically everyone on the web, but particularly to:
Lawrence of Cyberia, for reporting on the Haaretz story and providing the translation;
Arab Media Watch, for unearthing MEMRI's original mission statement;
Wayback Machine, for preserving old web pages with the skeletons some people would like to hide in their virtual closets;
and, hold your breath,
Little Green Footballs for making me aware of MEMRI's drive to make handsome profits from scared American Jews.