Monday, September 22, 2008

MEMRI woes

Those of us who, in our extreme antisemitism, read AntiWar and Counterpunch on a daily basis are used to their periodical "pledge weeks," in which readers are urged to contribute money, lest both sites have to close up shop and neocons are finally free to take over the Earth. But guess who, across the aisle, is also asking for their audience's charity? That's right: MEMRI. When I learned about it, I said to myself, "Hey, why not donate? I give my full support to free speech, and providing high quality translations of carefully selected items from the Muslim countries' media to make them appear as barbarians is, after all, free speech."

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

Which means:

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.

17 comments:

Koppers said...

I love the way people, like you, are always quick of the mark to condemn MEMRI for translating bigotted filth but not the bigotted filth itself.

What happened to your moral compass?

andrew r said...

Search for Elaph on MEMRI. It's described as 'liberal', 'progressive', and 'reformist'.

http://65.17.227.80/ElaphWeb/Reports/2008/6/338327.htm

Run this bit through Google translator. The grammar is rough but it seems to be linking homosexuality and pedophilia, which is about as liberal as the Spanish inquisition.

MEMRI clearly exposes what they want you to see and covers up what they don't. They are not advancing any positive cause in the Middle East, they are selling snake oil to people who like it when the USA invades other countries.

For that matter, MEMRI is run by Menachem Milson, military governor of the West Bank under Begin and was founded by Yigal Carmon, a Mossad agent. I don't think anyone would pay attention to translations of Hebrew articles from mukhabarat or mutawaeen henchmen, so what elevates MEMRI above subterfuge?

andrew r said...

Another notable shame of MEMRI was when they put up a clip of Norman Finkelstein on Lebanese TV and edited out the part where he affirms 5-6 million Jews were killed in the Holocaust. Why would anyone who wants reliable information waste their time on these losers?

Anonymous said...

Koppers, basically, he simply doesn't have one. He also doesn't mention that the so called "ambulance" wasn't a civilian ambulance but rather an armored personal carrier that was adopted to carry inured troops.

Yitzchak Goodman said...

So is it a good idea to monitor the programs on, say, Al-Aqsa TV?
If so, is someone doing a better job of this than MEMRI?

andrew r said...

Is it a good idea to blockade a million people, then do a website that tells all the bad things they say about you on TV? And is there a reason to do that other than make the rubes of the world think they deserve to be cut off from the outside and starved?

Yitzchak Goodman said...

And is there a reason to do that other than make the rubes of the world think they deserve to be cut off from the outside and starved?

So according to you, it is better that people should be ignorant of the programming on Al-Aqsa TV. The only thing non-ignorance is good for in this instance is fooling rubes. Is that a good summary of your position?

andrew r said...

Actually, no. My position follows: people representing the occupier have no business running an intel org pretending to be a non-profit. And any information from said org has no value. Fact is, you can't be sure people in charge of oppressing Palestinians during their career won't fudge the occasional subtitle. Information from a source you can't trust is still ignorance.

By the way, do you know what John Hagee said about the holocaust?

Yitzchak Goodman said...

Actually, no.

So monitoring Al-Aqsa TV is a good thing? Which is it?

Yitzchak Goodman said...

do you know what John Hagee said about the holocaust?

As quoted here?

http://www.oliverwillis.com/2008/05/21/mccain-endorser-hagee-holocaust-was-gods-will/

It is somewhat problematic for a person to say he knows exactly what G-d is up to, especially where the Holocaust is concerned, but he doesn't seem to be saying the Jews were bad and the Nazis were good. Is that what you take him to be saying?

andrew r said...

To my pleasant surprise, MEMRI left up the evidence of their sleaziness. The TV clip is defunct but the transcript is still there. Contrast it with the text on Finkelstein's site.

http://memri.org/bin/latestnews.cgi?ID=SD119406
http://www.normanfinkelstein.com/article.php?ar=605&pg=11

Looking at the headline of the MEMRI transcript, and all the speaking by NF they left out, it's pretty obvious they don't think much of him, but they think even less of you and me. They butchered, maimed, flayed his answers to depict him as a holocaust denier. That's pathetic to no end.

andrew r said...

So monitoring Al-Aqsa TV is a good thing? Which is it?

Depends on how and why it's done. Right above is a genuine silver bullet against trusting MEMRI.

... said...

“‘And they the hunters should hunt them,’ that will be the Jews. ‘From every mountain and from every hill and from out of the holes of the rocks.’ If that doesn’t describe what Hitler did in the holocaust you can’t see that.”

Uh... if I ever meet that asswipe, an apology won't do. He'll have to explain why he's a moron... I'm sorry, were you asking something?

Yitzchak Goodman said...

Depends on how and why it's done.

I think you can treat readers as grown-ups and let them make of information what they will. MEMRI does professional translation, it has a point of view, or an "agenda" if you like, and people ought to be intelligent enough to make use of what it puts out. The things that the staffs of Arab and Muslim news sites translate themselves into English are often as whacked-out as anything you see on MEMRI.

Yitzchak Goodman said...

I'm sorry, were you asking something?

I think so, but I'm not that interested in Hagee to tell the truth.

andrew r said...

I think you can treat readers as grown-ups and let them make of information what they will.

Eight words: the smoking gun may be a mushroom cloud.

The things that the staffs of Arab and Muslim news sites translate themselves into English are often as whacked-out as anything you see on MEMRI.

But maybe I can count on them to honestly depict their own whacked-outness.

I think so, but I'm not that interested in Hagee to tell the truth.

Suit yourself. Anytime someone fetishizes mass murder for his pet project, I get interested.

My Blog said...

MEMRI releases, on average, over 10 major reports every week, and updates its nine websites and blogs with new information on a daily basis.