Middle East Media Research Institute: Wikis


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Middle East Media Research Institute
Middle East Media Research Institute Logo
Founders Yigal Carmon
Type 501(c)(3) non-profit
Founded 1998
Headquarters Washington, D.C.
Staff Yigal Carmon (President)
Focus Arabic and Persian media.
Method Media monitoring
Motto Bridging the language gap between the Middle East and the West
Website MEMRI website

The Middle East Media Research Institute, or MEMRI for short, is a Middle Eastern press monitoring organization. Its headquarters is located in Washington, DC, with branch offices in Jerusalem, Berlin, London, Rome, Shanghai, Baghdad, and Tokyo. MEMRI was co-founded in 1998 by Yigal Carmon, a former colonel in Israeli military intelligence, and another Israeli Meyrav Wurmser. It provides a free source of English language translations of material published in Arabic and Persian script, and publishes its analyses and in-depth reports on its website.

The organization's translations are regularly quoted by major international newspapers, and its work has generated strong criticism and praise. Several critics have accused MEMRI of selectivity choosing for translation and dissemination the most extreme views from Arabic and Persian media, which portray the Arab and Muslim world in a negative light, while ignoring moderate views that are often found in the same media outlets.[1][2][2][3][4]


Objectives and projects

MEMRI's current mission statement states the organization "explores the Middle East through the region's media. MEMRI bridges the language gap which exists between the West and the Middle East, providing timely translations of Arabic, Persian, Turkish, and Urdu-Pashtu media, as well as original analysis of political, ideological, intellectual, social, cultural, and religious trends in the Middle East."[5] Until 2001, its Mission Statement stated that the institute also emphasizes "the continuing relevance of Zionism to the Jewish people and to the state of Israel."[6] Concerning this change in their ‘mission statement,’ Political Research Associates (PRA) notes that it occurred three weeks after the September 11 attacks, and considers MEMRI "was previously more forthcoming about its political orientation in its self-description and in staff profiles on its website."[7]

MEMRI's goals and emphasis have evolved over the years; it originally translated articles in both Arabic and Hebrew. PRA, which studies the US political right, considers that “MEMRI's slogan, ‘Bridging the Language Gap Between the Middle East and the West,’ does not convey the institute's stridently pro-Israel and anti-Arab political bias.” It further notes, that MEMRI's founders, Wurmser and Carmon, “are both hardline pro-Israel ideologues aligned with Israel's Likud party.”[7]

The organization became more prominent after the September 11, 2001 attacks, due to increased Western public interest in the Arab world and Iran.[citation needed] At that time, it expanded its staff considerably, setting up new branches outside the United States in early 2002.[citation needed] It has maintained longstanding relations with law enforcement agencies.[8]

MEMRI's translated articles and media analysis focus on the following areas:

  • Jihad and Terrorism Studies Project
  • U.S. And the Middle East
  • Reform in the Middle East and North Africa
  • Arab-Israeli Conflict
  • Inter-Arab Relations
  • Antisemitism Documentation Project

Starting in October 2006, they added The Islamist Websites Monitor Project focusing on the translated news, videos, and analysis of "major jihadi websites".[9]


When founded in 1998, MEMRI's staff of seven included three who had formerly served in military intelligence in the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF).[10][1] MEMRI president and founder Yigal Carmon states that MEMRI's current staff includes "people of the Jewish, Christian and Muslim faiths [who] hold a range of political views."[11]

Prominent staff

  • Steven Stalinsky has been Executive Director of MEMRI for a decade. Mr. Stalinsky’s has briefed staff of the White House, State Department, Homeland Security, Justice Department, Office of Director of National Intelligence, Government Accountability Office, and other institutions. On Capitol Hill, Mr. Stalinsky frequently assists staff on issues related to the fight against terrorism. His research has been used in major legislation centering on Iran and Egypt, and for the Saudi Accountability Act – which led to his invitation to testify about Saudi Arabia before Congress. Mr. Stalinsky’s research has also made an impact internationally. His articles have been cited in official United Nations documents, as well as by members of the U.K. and Canadian parliaments. His expose on the official think-tank of the Arab League, the Zayed Centre for Coordination and Follow-Up[13], has been recognized as singlehandedly leading to its closure due to its anti-Western events and speeches. Leading media outlets, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, the Associated Press, The New York Post, The Washington Times, Stars & Stripes, and many others have interviewed Mr. Stalinsky on issues surrounding the Middle East. His research has been cited by The Wall Street Journal, ABC News, Fox News, USA Today, The Guardian (U.K.), the BBC, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, National Public Radio, "The O’Reilly Factor," Defense News, and elsewhere. From 2003 through 2007, he wrote a weekly column for the New York Sun focusing on the Arab and Iranian media. In addition to dozens of original research articles authored for MEMRI, Mr. Stalinsky has published articles for multiple newspapers, magazines, and journals including The Weekly Standard, The Middle East Quarterly, National Review, The Jerusalem Post, and others. Prior to joining MEMRI, Mr. Stalinsky spent a decade in Washington, D.C. at various private and government think-tanks, as well as engaging in campaign and political endeavors beginning as an intern for Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI). Before coming to Washington DC, he performed public service within the U.S. through a year in AmeriCorps as a City Year member. Directly out of college, he worked on the Clinton/Gore presidential campaign. Mr. Stalinsky holds a M.A. in Middle Eastern Studies and has a B.A. in Religious Studies.[14]
  • Dr. Nimrod Raphaeli is a Senior Analyst at MEMRI and editor of MEMRI's Economic Blog "MEMRI's Economic Blog". He received a Ph.D. in development planning from the University of Michigan. He spent most of his professional career at the World Bank, and has consulted for the International Monetary Fund. Raphaeli, an Iraqi-born U.S. citizen, joined the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) as a senior analyst in 2001. In addition to his economic studies of the Middle East at MEMRI, he has conducted extensive translations and analysis on Iraq, and was the first to translate the "Oil for Food" list of 270 prominent individuals and companies who were helping Saddam Hussein subvert UN sanctions [15]. He has since focused on the fall of Saddam and the fledgling democracy in his native Iraq, including the historic Iraqi election since then, in which he assisted in voting campaigns for Iraqi expatriates.[16]
  • Professor Menahem Milson (Academic Advisor), is chairman of MEMRI's Board of Advisors. He has been a professor at Hebrew University in Arabic literature since 1963, and has served as head of the Department of Arabic Language and Literature, Director of the Institute of Asian and African Studies, Dean of the Faculty of Humanities (1991/2-1997/8), and Provost of the Rothberg International School (1999-2002). He has been a visiting fellow at well-known academic institutions in the United States and England. Professor Milson has published extensively on modern Egyptian writers. His book on Egyptian humanist and Nobel laureate Najib Mahfuz - Najib Mahfuz: The Novelist-Philosopher of Cairo appeared in 1998. Most of his research has been in the field of modern Egyptian literature. Between 1976 to 1978, then-Minister of Defense Shimon Peres appointed Milson as an adviser on Arab affairs to the Israeli military where he became the No. 2 adviser. He was President Anwar Sadat’s aide-de-camp during the latter's historic visit to Jerusalem in November 1977. In 1981, then-Defense Minister Ariel Sharon returned Milson as head of the civil administration of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Milson served in that position until he resigned in 1982.[17][18][19]. In recent years, his research interest has been directed towards issues of Arab antisemitism and reform vs. Islamism in the Muslim world.[20]
  • Tufail Ahmad is Director of MEMRI’s Urdu-Pashtu Media Project, which monitors the media of Pakistan and Afghanistan. His research is focused on jihadist movements in Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and Bangladesh, as well as on counterterrorism policies and issues of cultural and religious freedom in the South Asian region. Prior to joining MEMRI, he worked for the BBC Urdu Service in London for approximately eight years; there he was in charge of coverage of Pakistan. A British journalist of Indian origin, Mr. Ahmad studied Social Systems for an M.A. at New Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University, and received an M.A. in War Studies at the Department of War Studies, King’s College London. He also holds a Post-Graduate Diploma in Journalism from the Indian Institute of Mass Communication, New Delhi [21].
  • Mansour Al-Hadj is the director of MEMRI’s Reform in The Arab and Muslim World project. Before joining MEMRI, Mr. Al-Hadj was the senior reporter for AAFAQ Magazine [22], an Arabic news website that focuses on Reform and Human Rights in the Middle East. Mr. Al-Hadj has participated in multiple briefings on Capitol Hill, including on the topic of “Movement of Extremism in the Muslim World: Struggle between States and Citizens” [23]. Mr. Al-Hadj grew up in Saudi Arabia, an experience he wrote about in a dispatch on MEMRI's website [24]. He obtained his B.A. in law from the International University of Africa in Khartoum, Sudan in 2003.[25]
  • Stephen D’Ettorre is MEMRI’s Director of Government Affairs. He is MEMRI’s liaison to Capitol Hill, U.S. federal agencies, and the U.S. military as well as international government agencies and NGOs. Prior to joining MEMRI Mr. D’Ettorre worked for the United States Senate, in both personal and committee offices. He earned a J.D. in 2002 and holds a B.A. in U.S. History.[26]
  • Meyrav Wurmser (co-founding Executive Director). Wurmser was one of the authors of the "Clean Break" document which proposed reshaping Israel's "strategic environment" in the Middle East, starting with the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. [27]. Ms. Wurmser left MEMRI less than two years after its founding.

Financial support

MEMRI is registered in the US with the IRS as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.[5] They have a policy of not accepting money from governments, relying instead on around 250 private donors, including other organizations and foundations.[28]

MediaTransparency, an organization[29] that monitors the financial ties of conservative think tanks to conservative foundations in the United States, reported that for the years 1999 to 2004, MEMRI received $100,000 from The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, Inc., $100,000 from The Randolph Foundation, and $5,000 from the John M. Olin Foundation[30].

MEMRI's U.S. income statement of June 2004 stated that its total U.S. revenue was US$2,571,899, its total U.S. functional expenses were $2,254,990, and that it possessed net assets of $700,784. Charity Navigator, an organization[31] that evaluates the financial health of America's largest charities, has given MEMRI a four-star (exceptional) rating, meaning that it "... exceeds industry standards and outperforms most charities in its Cause" when rated on its financial health.[32][33]


MEMRI's work has been attacked on three grounds: that their work is biased; that they choose articles to translate selectively so as to give an unrepresentative view of the media they are reporting on; and that their translations are sometimes inaccurate.[11] MEMRI has responded to the attacks of critics, stating that their work is not biased; that they in fact choose representative articles from the Arab media that accurately reflect the opinions expressed, and that their translations are highly accurate.[11]


Claims of bias

Brian Whitaker, the Middle East editor for the Guardian newspaper in the United Kingdom, has been one of the most outspoken critics of MEMRI, writing: "My problem with Memri is that it poses as a research institute when it's basically a propaganda operation,"[11] to "further the political agenda of Israel."[1] Whitaker has also complained that "MEMRI's website does not mention you [Carmon] or your work for Israeli intelligence. Nor does it mention MEMRI's co-founder, Meyrav Wurmser, and her extreme brand of Zionism.... Given your political background, it's legitimate to ask whether MEMRI is a trustworthy vehicle."[11]

In response, MEMRI President Yigal Carmon, states: "You are right: we do have an agenda. As an institute of research, we want MEMRI to present translations to people who wish to be informed on the ideas circulating in the Middle East. We aim to reflect reality. If knowledge of this reality should benefit one side or another, then so be it."[11]

Claims of selectivity

Several critics have accused MEMRI of selectivity. They state that MEMRI consistently picks for translation and dissemination the most extreme views, which portray the Arab and Muslim world in a negative light, while ignoring moderate views that are often found in the same media outlets.[1][2][2][34][35] According to Juan Cole, Professor of Modern Middle East History at the University of Michigan, MEMRI has a tendency to "cleverly cherry-pick the vast Arabic press, which serves 300 million people, for the most extreme and objectionable articles and editorials" [36] Laila Lalami, writing in The Nation, states that MEMRI "consistently picks the most violent, hateful rubbish it can find, translates it and distributes it in e-mail newsletters to media and members of Congress in Washington".[2] As a result, critics such as Ken Livingstone state, MEMRI's analyses are "distortion."[37][38][39]

Claims of translation inaccuracy

The accuracy of MEMRI's translations is sometimes disputed,[40] as in the case of MEMRI's translation of a 2004 Osama bin Laden video, which MEMRI defended.[11][38][41][42][43] Norman Finkelstein, in an interview with the Muslim newspaper In Focus said MEMRI "uses the same sort of propaganda techniques as the Nazis... [I]t’s a reliable assumption that anything MEMRI translates from the Middle East is going to be unreliable."[44]

In 2007, CNN correspondent Atika Shubert and Arabic translators accused MEMRI of mistranslating portions of a Palestinian children's television programme.

"Media watchdog MEMRI translates one caller as saying - quote - 'We will annihilate the Jews,"' said Shubert. "But, according to several Arabic speakers used by CNN, the caller actually says 'The Jews are killing us."' [45]

Praise for MEMRI

MEMRI responds to the criticism by saying that the media had a tendency to whitewash statements of Arab leaders,[12] and that its translations are accurate representations: "Memri has never claimed to 'represent the view of the Arabic media', but rather to reflect, through our translations, general trends which are widespread and topical."[11] John Lloyd has defended MEMRI in the New Statesmen, stating that "Memri and Carmon have been accused of selecting the worst of a diverse media: however, the sheer range of what is available weakens that criticism, as does support for the initiative by Arab liberals."[46] Thomas L. Friedman, a political opinion columnist for the New York Times, credits MEMRI with helping to "shine a spotlight on hate speech wherever it appears."[47] Jay Nordlinger, the managing editor of National Review, similarly writes: "Wading or clicking through MEMRI's materials can be a depressing act, but it is also illusion-dispelling, and therefore constructive. This one institute is worth a hundred reality-twisting Middle Eastern Studies departments in the U.S."[48]

Apple store

MEMRI announced that an unspecified Islamic Web site claims the Apple store on Fifth Ave. in New York which resembles as Kaba is an insult to Islam[49]. Apple denies the claims. A company spokesperson said Wednesday that the company respects all religions and did not intend for its store to look anything like the sacred building.

According to MEMRI, an Islamic Web site states that the cube-shaped entrance to the underground store resembles the sacred Ka'ba in Mecca and has been called "Apple Mecca." MEMRI did not specify the name of the Islamic Web site it was referring to.

See also


  1. ^ a b c d Brian Whitaker, Selective Memri, Guardian Unlimited, Monday August 12, 2002
  2. ^ a b c d e Laila Lalami, "Missionary Position," The Nation (19 June 2006) p. 32.
  3. ^ Leila Hudson, "The New Ivory Towers: Think Tanks, Strategic Studies and 'Counterrealism'," Middle East Policy 12:4 (Winter 2005) p. 130.
  4. ^ Debate on CNN
  5. ^ a b MEMRI About Us, Memri.org, accessed July 23 2006
  6. ^ Memri.org Mission Statement, at web.archive.org, accessed July 2 2001
  7. ^ a b Middle East Media Research Institute at Political Research Associates
  8. ^ John Baron: Israeli Web site Debka.com at center of New York ‘dirty bomb’ tip The Jewish Journal, August 16, 2007. Accessed March 5, 2009.
  9. ^ The Islamist Websites Monitor No. 1, Memri.org, accessed January 28 2006
  10. ^ Memri.org Mission Statement, at web.archive.org, accessed Dec 2 1998
  11. ^ a b c d e f g h Email debate: Yigal Carmon and Brian Whitaker at Guardian Unlimited, January 28 2003
  12. ^ a b One on One with Yigal Carmon: If MEMRI serves... Jerusalem Post, Nov. 16, 2006
  13. ^ [1]"The Think Tank of the Arab League: The Zayed Centre for Coordination and Follow-Up ZCCF)"
  14. ^ [2]"MEMRI Website - About Us]
  15. ^ [3]The Beneficiaries of Saddam's Oil Vouchers: The List of 270"
  16. ^ [4]"MEMRI Website - About Us]
  17. ^ William B. Quandt, The Middle East: Ten Years after Camp David, Brookings Institution Press, 1988, ISBN 0815772939, page 308
  18. ^ Lesley Pearl, Ex-West Bank `mayor' in Berkeley visit, says Jews must study Arab culture, Jewish news weekly of Northern California, November 24, 1995
  19. ^ Growing Doubts at Home Time Magazine, May 17, 1982
  20. ^ [5]"MEMRI Website - About Us]
  21. ^ [6]"tufailahmad.com"
  22. ^ [www.aafaqmagazine.com]"AAFAQ"
  23. ^ [7]"Capitol Hill Distinguished Speaker Series"
  24. ^ [8]"Reformist Writer Mansour Al-Hadj: In My Youth I was Taught to Love Death"
  25. ^ [9]"MEMRI Website - About Us]
  26. ^ [10]"MEMRI Website - About Us]
  27. ^ guardian.co.ukArabic under fire by Brian Whitaker
  28. ^ Thanks for the MEMRI (.org) Jay Nordlinger, National Review, September 13 2004, accessed July 23 2006
  29. ^ Cursor, Inc. About Us cursor.org accessed Oct. 15 2007
  30. ^ MEMRI Media Transparency Profile, accessed Oct. 7 2007
  31. ^ Charity Navigator About Us charitynavigator.org accessed Oct. 15 2007
  32. ^ Charity Navigator, Charity Navigator Rating - The Middle East Media Research Institute
  33. ^ Charity Navigator, What Do Our Ratings Mean, accessed Oct. 8, 2007
  34. ^ Leila Hudson, "The New Ivory Towers: Think Tanks, Strategic Studies and 'Counterrealism'," Middle East Policy 12:4 (Winter 2005) p. 130.
  35. ^ Debate on CNN
  36. ^ Bin Laden's Audio: Threat to States?, Professor Juan Cole Informed Comment blog, November 2 2004 - accessed on 1/08/07
  37. ^ "Propaganda that widens the Arab-West divide - Gained in translation". Le Monde Diplomatique. October 2005. http://mondediplo.com/2005/10/15propaganda.  See in French (freely available) "Traduction ou trahison? Désinformation à l’israélienne.". Le Monde Diplomatique. October 2005. http://www.monde-diplomatique.fr/2005/09/EL_OIFI/12796#nb11.  (Persian translation also available for free here)
  38. ^ a b Mayor of London Press Release
  39. ^ Rima Barakat, "MEMRI's systematic distortions," Rocky Mountain News (27 March 2006) p. 35A.
  40. ^ Whitaker, Brian (15 May 2007). "Arabic under fire". The Guardian. http://commentisfree.guardian.co.uk/brian_whitaker/2007/05/arabic_under_fire.html. Retrieved 2007-05-16. 
  41. ^ Yigal Carmon Osama Bin Laden Tape Threatens U.S. States memri.org, 1 November 2004
  42. ^ Ramona Smith, "Did Osama send election threat?," Philadelphia Daily News (2 November 2004).
  43. ^ TBS 13
  44. ^ Lawrence Swaim, MEMRI is 'propaganda machine' expert says, InFocus, June 7, 2007
  45. ^ POLITICS-US: Pro-Israel Group's Money Trail Veers Hard Right (IPS, 21.10.2009)
  46. ^ John Lloyd, "Pay any price, bear any burden?," New Statesman (3 February 2003).
  47. ^ Friedman, Thomas L. "Giving the Hatemongers No Place to Hide." July 22, 2005. Retrieved on March 23, 2009.
  48. ^ Jay Nordlinger, Thanks for the MEMRI (.org) National Review May 6, 2002
  49. ^ [11]

External links


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