The MEMRI Hole

by Henry on November 24, 2004

MEMRI makes an “inept attempt to intimidate”:http://www.juancole.com/2004/11/intimidation-by-israeli-linked.html Juan Cole.

bq. Dear Professor Cole,

bq. I write in response to your article “Osama Threatening Red States?” published on November 3, 2004 on antiwar.com. The article included several statements about MEMRI which go beyond what could be considered legitimate criticism, and which in fact qualify as slander and libel. … As such, we demand that you retract the false statements you have made about MEMRI. If you will not do so, we will be forced to pursue legal action against you personally and against the University of Michigan, which the article identifies you as an employee of.

MEMRI’s threat is strongly reminiscent of Donald Luskin’s threat of legal action against Atrios a while back. It seems to me (though I note that I’m not a lawyer) that the purported complaint is completely, utterly and entirely bogus. But like Luskin’s supposed complaint, the threat isn’t so much in the possibility of a successful action, as in outcomes related to that action. In Atrios’ case, the real threat was that his identity would be revealed, possibly landing him in difficulty with the university that employed him. Similarly, MEMRI’s threat seems to me to be more about trying to create difficulties for Cole with the University of Michigan than the nugatory possibility of an adverse judgement in court against him. There’s no remotely plausible theory under which the University of Michigan can be held responsible for Cole’s private activities or statements, even if they were libellous. However, a state-funded university would presumably prefer, all things considered, not to be embroiled in an action of this sort, however frivolous. Thus, the inclusion of University of Michigan in the complaint seems to me to be an inept class of an indirect threat to embarrass the university and thus perhaps put Cole in a tricky position. I’m glad to see that he’s treating it with the contempt that it deserves. Cole urges

bq. all readers to send messages of protest to memri@memri.org. Please be polite, and simply urge MEMRI, which has a major Web presence, to withdraw the lawsuit threat and to respect the spirit of the free sharing of ideas that makes the internet possible.

{ 53 comments }

1

raj 11.24.04 at 4:23 am

MEMRI has been reported as being an agency of Israeli intelligence. Their letter to Prof. Cole is obviously intended merely to intimidate him.

It is unfortunate that what appears to be an agent of the Israeli government has sunk to such depths. It will come back to haunt them.

2

P O'Neill 11.24.04 at 4:49 am

I wonder why they are being so touchy about this particular critique, since the things that Cole said about them fall within garden variety criticism of them over the last couple of years. But some of the usual suspect spinners (Kaus, Taranto) did toy with their controversial translation of Osama’s video, so perhaps it’s the risk of a perception that they are tool of Dubya rather than Likud that has them so bothered.

3

Dan Simon 11.24.04 at 7:39 am

Let’s all agree that MEMRI shouldn’t be threatening to sue Juan Cole. But seriously, is that really the most pertinent issue involving these two? Consider:

1) MEMRI claims that Osama bin Laden’s tape explicitly threatened so-called “red states” (those that George Bush carried in the 2004 election), and promised to spare the rest. As I understand it, Cole disputes MEMRI’s translation. Who is correct here?

2) MEMRI routinely presents instances of the most appalling pro-terrorist, anti-Semitic (and, of course, militantly anti-Israel) rhetoric in the mainstream Middle Eastern press. Cole claims that MEMRI’s depiction distorts the true character of that press, by “cherry-picking” the worst examples. What is the true ratio of outrages to reasonable material in the Middle Eastern press? Is it large enough to deserve attention in its own right–say, from an organization like MEMRI?

3) Cole claims that MEMRI is a heavily-funded organization that serves to promote the goals of the Likud party. Is this true? Is it relevant? And if so, why?

I’m reminded of Henry’s recent attempt on Crooked Timber to ascertain why discussions about Israel get so heated. There followed a stream of vicious invective against Israel–Israel as Nazi Germany, Israel as apartheid-era South Africa, Israel as sinister wielder of influence over the US, and much more–prompting one reader to suggest that perhaps the reason why discussions about Israel get so heated is that Israel-bashers tend to loose streams of vicious invective against Israel. This latter comment was too much for Henry, so he shut the discussion down.

Here, MEMRI catalogs the appalling monstrosities splashed with alarming frequency across the Middle Eastern media. Juan Cole attacks MEMRI, which defends itself against the charges by threatening a libel suit. Crooked Timber then piles on MEMRI, ignoring both the horrifying material it exposes and Juan Cole’s attacks on it.

It’s a frightening thing when hatred so blinds people that they can no longer sort out what’s actually important, from what they prefer to dwell on because it justifies, feeds and encourages their hatred.

4

JB 11.24.04 at 7:54 am

It’s worth noting that the University of Michigan isn’t particularly risk-averse, especially for a public institution. They wouldn’t have taken two affirmative action cases to the Supreme Court if they wanted to avoid that sort of liability. I don’t know what their historical stance on academic freedom is, but I’d have to imagine they would be willing to stand behind Juan Cole on this and not just capitulate.

I’m not sure just what MEMRI was thinking on this one.

5

abb1 11.24.04 at 8:41 am

They don’t even call him an anti-Semite – wtf? If I were him I’d feel insulted.

6

vernaculo 11.24.04 at 9:08 am

Go Wolverines!

Dan Simon:

It’s a frightening thing when hatred so blinds people that they can no longer sort out what’s actually important, from what they prefer to dwell on because it justifies, feeds and encourages their hatred.

One of the most frustrating things in my most frustrating existence was the realization that many of my glib and cathartic bombards could have been just as accurately hurled at the mirror.
Mr. Simon, your counterpart, the voice most like your own only from the other side, is missing from these pages. Think on that some.
It may be what worries you is what I see, and not just in Cole’s writing – the reality of this Byzantine intrigue and the scale of deceit and manipulation is at last being reported honestly.
Unlike the people he stands against, Cole’s gone out of his way to avoid harming the innocent with broad accusations.

7

Russkie 11.24.04 at 1:50 pm

Here – as elsewhere – a libel suit is probably inappropriate and likely to go nowhere. But for fairness’ sake you should at least quote the specific objections MEMRI raises at Cole:

…. you write that “MEMRI is funded to the tune of $60 million a year.” This is completely false.

You also write that MEMRI is an “anti-Arab propaganda machine” that “cherry-picks the vast Arabic press.” If you have any level of familiarity with MEMRI, you should be aware of our Reform Project, which is one of the most important of MEMRI’s projects, and which receives much of our energy and resources. The Reform Project (www.memri.org/reform.html) is devoted solely to finding and amplifying the progressive voices in the Arab world……

In addition, you write that “MEMRI is one of a number of public relations campaigns essentially on behalf of the far right-wing Likud Party in Israel.” This, too, is completely false. MEMRI is totally unaffiliated with any government, and receives no government funding. While I was formerly an Israeli official (and retired more than a decade ago), I have never been affiliated with the Likud Party, or any other party….

8

Russkie 11.24.04 at 1:50 pm

Here – as elsewhere – a libel suit is probably inappropriate and likely to go nowhere. But for fairness’ sake you should at least quote the specific objections MEMRI raises at Cole:

…. you write that “MEMRI is funded to the tune of $60 million a year.” This is completely false.

You also write that MEMRI is an “anti-Arab propaganda machine” that “cherry-picks the vast Arabic press.” If you have any level of familiarity with MEMRI, you should be aware of our Reform Project, which is one of the most important of MEMRI’s projects, and which receives much of our energy and resources. The Reform Project (www.memri.org/reform.html) is devoted solely to finding and amplifying the progressive voices in the Arab world……

In addition, you write that “MEMRI is one of a number of public relations campaigns essentially on behalf of the far right-wing Likud Party in Israel.” This, too, is completely false. MEMRI is totally unaffiliated with any government, and receives no government funding. While I was formerly an Israeli official (and retired more than a decade ago), I have never been affiliated with the Likud Party, or any other party….

9

Matthew2 11.24.04 at 1:55 pm

Yes Russkie, and then read Cole’s reply to these objections.

10

Mahdi 11.24.04 at 2:25 pm

For an organization that prides itself on letting its readers draw their own conclusions, MEMRI seems to be remarkably thin-skinned. I’ve dropped in from time to time following various links and while their translations are undeniably accurate, they clearly “cherry-pick” which documents to feature, so the picture of the Arab press that they present is skewed towards raving jihadists or self-critical moderates. This is a very incomplete picture. On the other hand, Prof. Cole also cherry-picks his stuff on Iraq (my native country) in particular and the Middle East in general, and his biases (broadly anti-coalition and anti-Israel) inform most of his conclusions. Read through the proper filters both MEMRI and Cole are useful, but their POVs are clearly limited.

11

Henry 11.24.04 at 2:34 pm

Dan – your comment is (and not for the first time by any means) a tendentious and distorted misreading. I made it quite clear that I was shutting down the comments because of offenses by both sides (and had already deleted several comments from both sides). If you really want to agree with chef ragout that the debate proves ‘without a doubt’ that ‘it is the anti-Israel side that engages in uncivil, name-calling, personal
attacks’ (and by implication that the pro-Israel side is blameless) then, I really don’t think it’s worth engaging in an argument with you. You’ve already convinced yourself of what you want to believe, and I’m not going to convince you otherwise.

12

abb1 11.24.04 at 2:47 pm

Mahdi,
Cole also cherry-picks his stuff on Iraq (my native country) in particular and the Middle East in general, and his biases (broadly anti-coalition and anti-Israel) inform most of his conclusions.

But most of the world (to a tune of probably more than 80%) is broadly anti-coalition and anti-Likud, so how can you accuse him of cherry-picking because of these ‘biases’?

Do you think he might also be cherry-picking because he believes that the earth isn’t flat?

Thanks.

13

Otto 11.24.04 at 2:48 pm

Well said, Henry.

And by the way, could I take the opportunity to say that I disagreed with your turning off the comments on that Israel/Palestine post, as well as your decision on another post on the best way to support Israel where no comments were allowed? Yes, the comments on such posts have a tendency to be uncivil, but an uncivil conversation is better than no conversation at all, and maybe uncivil conversations on the blogosphere are better than I-P conversations had (or, worse, avoided, for fear of incivility) in the real world.

Shorter post: Civility is not the only virtue!

14

nic 11.24.04 at 3:12 pm

As a translator, I find the last item in Cole’s response to the letter (the copyright issue) very interesting. I have never seen in any papers articles translated without the specific approval of the source (like for syndication) and by appropriating its copyright, too. How does MEMRI get away with that?

15

Dan Simon 11.24.04 at 3:25 pm

Vernaculo:

Mr. Simon, your counterpart, the voice most like your own only from the other side, is missing from these pages. Think on that some.

On the contrary, the voice that accuses Israel and its supporters of all manner of perfidy (of which hatred is the very least severe) is splattered all over Crooked Timber. Haven’t you been paying attention?

It may be what worries you is what I see, and not just in Cole’s writing – the reality of this Byzantine intrigue and the scale of deceit and manipulation is at last being reported honestly.

I have no idea what kind of bizarre conspiracy theory you’re talking about here, but I think it says more about you than about anybody else.

Mahdi:

I’ve dropped in from time to time following various links and while their translations are undeniably accurate, they clearly “cherry-pick” which documents to feature, so the picture of the Arab press that they present is skewed towards raving jihadists or self-critical moderates.

I don’t understand this accusation at all. There are many people the world over who are unaware of the amount of legitimacy that “raving jihadists” are granted in the Arab press. And there are many others who are unaware of the credible presence of “self-critical moderates” there. Aren’t both of these phenomena, then, worth exposing to the world? If major American newspapers and television stations gave considerable space and respect to, say, David Duke and his ilk, wouldn’t that be worth reporting on and discussing? Would someone who raised the alarm about that phenomenon be accused of “cherry picking”–as if the presence of sane people who are not David Duke were deserving of more attention?

Henry:

I made it quite clear that I was shutting down the comments because of offenses by both sides (and had already deleted several comments from both sides).

Henry, it was you who singled out “Chef Ragout’s” comment for opprobrium. It was you who decided that the comparisons of Israel with Nazi Germany, and the (self-evidently anti-Semitic) imputations of shadowy Israeli control of the US government (by what means, I wonder?), qualified as legitimate, respectable debate on the subject. In short, you convinced me, not that “the pro-Israel side is blameless”, but rather that in some otherwise respectable circles, conversation on this topic has deteriorated to the point where the vilest calumnies against Israel are tolerated, and it is complaints about them that are considered beyond the pale.

Otto:

Civility is not the only virtue!

I couldn’t agree more.

16

Katherine 11.24.04 at 3:33 pm

MEMRI’s interpretation of the Bin Laden tape was absurd and offensive and almost certainly wrong even if they are correct about the literal translation. Do you honestly believe that Bin Laden won’t kill me because I live in Boston and my family because they live in New York? Yeah, right, because he has historically rewarded New York for its liberal voting habits, and it’s not like the New York area has the highest Jewish population outside of Israel or anything. And it’s not as if he’s said that he wants to kill at least 1 million American children; clearly he thinks some Americans are guiltier than others. And it’s not like a nuclear attack on Manhattan would cause 10-20 times as many casualties as an attack of comparable size on Atlanta or Houston because it’s 10-20 times more densely populated.

I’m actually surprised I haven’t seen the MEMRI translation used as an argument for cutting NYC’s homeland security money still further.

Perhaps I just haven’t looked in the right places.

And Jim Henley, if you’re reading this–the liberals for tort reform makes no sense. Liberals generally have a broad view of the First Amendment and do not want libel laws that will have a chilling effect on speech. NY Times v. Sullivan–we have Justice Brennan to thank for that one. A lot of liberals also support measures to cut down on frivolous law suits, though I have my doubts about whether they’d really work. That has precious little to do with whether juries should be prevented from imposing damages over $250,000 in medical malpractice cases–which a libertarian should not support either.

17

Mahdi 11.24.04 at 3:51 pm

Abb1,

You quote me correctly as saying I think Juan Cole’s bias is “broadly anti-coalition and anti-Israel”. Somehow you interpret that to mean (your words) “broadly anti-coalition and anti-Likud”. I stand by my own words, not yours.

18

Henry 11.24.04 at 3:54 pm

Dan – as I said, you’re not worth arguing with. I don’t think that you’re actually trying to be deceitful in your description of my motives, but your egregious and tendentious misreading of what I said ends up, in practice, deceiving. For anyone who’s actually interested in what I said, I recommend that they go back to the original post and my comments attached thereto.

19

Russkie 11.24.04 at 4:35 pm

Cole wrote that “MEMRI is one of a number of public relations campaigns essentially on behalf of the far right-wing Likud Party in Israel.” …

but then he claims that MEMRI’s actual affiliation or goals don’t matter because “Colonel Carmon and Meyrav Wurmser, who run MEMRI, were both die-hard opponents of the Oslo peace process, and so ipso facto were identified with the Likud rejectionists on that central issue.”

By that pathetic argument, CT or Kevin Drum or whoever would be nothing more a PR campaign for any particular cause that they happen to write in support of. Like many demagogues, Cole fills in gaps in his argument with condescending statements about how he’s giggling while he writes.

BTW, some sane information about the Osama translation emerged from the heated discussion at Kausfiles and at Abu Aardvark. The bottom line was that MEMRI’s translation wa s accurate, but their interpretation of OBL was but one of many plausible ones. The best interpretation seemed relied on a remark from OBL to Fisk that suggested that OBL thinks that individual US states run their own foreign policy.

20

roger 11.24.04 at 4:42 pm

There’s an obvious and fundamental difference between private acts of censorship — for instance, deciding to delete parts of a comments section to a private blog — and censorship via the threat of a libel suit. The former is not only well within the right to free speech, it is fundamental to it — speech is as much editing as expression, and it is free not to the extent that it is fair, but to be as unfair as it can be to the extent of not being slanderous or libelous. Nothing in Memri’s email is even remotely slanderous or libelous — if Memri’s standards were adopted, there would be no criticism whatsoever.
If Memri feels unfairly used by Cole, it has every right to express its indignation. But its use of libel threats should be laughed out of the blogosphere — which is the only place where they will really be noticed. I almost hope they try to the suit — Cole’s countersuit for damages will surely award him something nice to retire on. A little stream of the sixty million going to an anti-coalition figure — sweet.

21

abb1 11.24.04 at 5:40 pm

Mahdi,
I challenge you to demonstrate Cole’s anti-Israel (whatever it means) bias – as opposed to his disdain for Likud and the rest of ’em militaristic wingnuts: Israeli, American – and, for that matter, Muslim.

Thanks.

22

Uncle Kvetch 11.24.04 at 8:04 pm

If Memri feels unfairly used by Cole, it has every right to express its indignation. But its use of libel threats should be laughed out of the blogosphere — which is the only place where they will really be noticed.

Thank you, Roger, for addressing what I thought was the “real issue” here: threats of legal action as an attempt to stifle political speech. Apparently no one has very much to say about that, because it’s so much more important that we decide once and for all whether Israel or Palestine is the true nexus of evil in the world today.

I guess if the words “Israel” or “Palestine” appear anywhere in a post, the ensuing comment thread must devolve as quickly as possible to sandbox taunts of “But he started it!”

23

P O'Neill 11.24.04 at 8:43 pm

Without a hint of irony (or maybe because he’s not reading the right blogs), Taranto (www.opinionjournal.com/best) is complaining today about the Council on American Islamic Relations threatening David Frum with a libel action, causing Taranto to say:

“For years now we’ve been hearing cries of “censorship” from the left whenever anyone so much as criticizes those with anti-American views. Will these supposed champions of free expression say anything about CAIR’s efforts to use the legal system to silence its critics? ”

The turnabout for MEMRI is too easy.

24

TM 11.25.04 at 8:33 am

My first visit to this site and I’m appalled at the reaction to the very measured and civil comments made by Dan Simon.

If I understand the pro-Cole forces, they are asserting that it’s perfectly fine to post false information, even when an easy Google search will provide accurate info, on a blog, because, well, because it’s a blog.

They are also asserting that it’s okay for an academician, who is relying in part on his university’s reputation and money to assure himself of a particular type of career, to enjoy the fruits and respect accorded an academician, but if he chooses to post derogatory and false comments about an organization, and the organization reacts angrily, then it is his freedom of expression being violated. Therefore, he has no obligation to truth, only to self-expression.

What’s funny is that it is patently obvious that he’s wrong in his assertions, but MEMRI was right to be worried because his posts are spread all over the Internet. In fact, once he has posted something in the “blogosphere” (a fancy way of saying “in the public realm”), it will get spidered and enter the search engines. From now on, people will assert that MEMRI gets $60 million in funding and is affiliated with the Likud because a prominent university professor said so.

This may affect MEMRI materially since as a registered non-profit, they may not engage in certain activities. If somebody in the IRS happens to learn about these accusations, it could cause MEMRI unwarranted problems.

Cole deserves to be punished in some way for besmirching an organization just because his argument about the definition of a particular word differs from that of an organization that happens to be on the opposite side of the Israel-Arab debate. He will get away with it because a lawsuit makes little sense here. However, it’s sad to see how people are rushing to defend his lies and their repercussions on an entity that can be criticized, but not for the reasons he has given. The idea of academic freedom is abused when it is used as a shield to defend outright lies.

25

nic 11.25.04 at 8:56 am

Cole deserves to be punished in some way for besmirching an organization

Oh lovely. We’re eagerly expecting libel suits against any blogger, professors included (there’s a few of those on the right too, n’est ce pas?), who makes claims about organisation of your choice being a PR front for The Evil Anti-American Left. Half of the blogosphere would be in jail.

You’d have to rewrite the constitution to do that but I guess it’s a small detail.

(Please explain how attributing a political position to an organisation equals slander. That would imply that a) you cannot make any such statements about anyone and b) acknowledging that alleging a political affiliation with the Israeli right wing is offensive, which I suspect borders on anti-semitism, hmm…)

26

Russkie 11.25.04 at 9:41 am

IANAL, but to channel Eugene Volokh it seems that Cole’s comments about MEMRI don’t constitute libel, but merely express a (baseless and tendentious) opinion.

27

raj 11.25.04 at 12:29 pm

TM · November 25, 2004 08:33 AM

>If I understand the pro-Cole forces, they are asserting that it’s perfectly fine to post false information, even when an easy Google search will provide accurate info….

This is a joke, right? Just because something is on the internet–even if it was found through a google search–doesn’t mean that it is “accurate info.”

28

reader 11.25.04 at 1:20 pm

Check out Martin Kramer’s recent Sandstorm entry. It seems that two years ago Juan Cole threatned Kramer and Daniel Pipes with his own frivolous lawsuit. How hypocritical…

29

reader 11.25.04 at 1:45 pm

Check out Martin Kramer’s recent Sandstorm entry. It seems that two years ago Juan Cole threatned Kramer and Daniel Pipes with his own frivolous lawsuit. How hypocritical…

30

TM 11.25.04 at 6:13 pm

Actually Raj, the point is that he didn’t even bother to use a simple tool such as Google, much less a more serious research tool before posting his misinformation. This is a published academic not only with a serious reputation, but who was besmirching MEMRI in an article where he was trying to prove that their professionalism was off the mark.

Nic, apparently in order to maintain a 501c3 status, which allows an organization to receive contributions and their contributors can enjoy tax deductions (therefore an important incentive for fundraising and a fundraising killer if you don’t have it),you have to maintain an apolitical posture. As I understand it, they qualified for their status as an educational institution. By making an accusation that MEMRI is, in fact, potentially a political organization, Cole is opening the door for their tax-exempt status to be questioned (at best, and perhaps fraud charges at worst). This would be less relevant if he wasn’t a PROFESSOR, with a significant REPUTATION in matters relating to the Mid-East, publishing an article that includes reference to A SIGNIFICANT UNIVERSITY.

31

nic 11.25.04 at 7:08 pm

tm, it’s RUDE TO USE CAPITALs, you know?

By making an accusation that MEMRI is, in fact, potentially a political organization, Cole is opening the door for their tax-exempt status to be questioned

Yeah, right, I’m sure that’s exactly the kind of criteria used to screen organisations for tax-exempt status. Hey, look, we found a professor who thinks MEMRI has a political position (amazing, eh? no one else has reached that conclusion before, Cole definitely needs an award for originality), let’s prosecute MEMRI. Oh what a gloriously efficient system.

You’re positing that a) MEMRI is the only organisation which may be seen as having a political agenda; b) that someone writing that an organisation has a political agenda is enough to put that organisation in tax trouble, no less. I don’t know which is funniest.

32

Martin Kramer 11.25.04 at 7:59 pm

I invite all of you over to Sandstorm, to read about how Juan Cole threatened myself and Daniel Pipes with a frivolous lawsuit over web content. I am amused to see him posing now as a champion of (and martyr for) freedom of expression on the web. I don’t think I ever got a letter quite like the one he sent me (and it wasn’t even my website…)

http://www.martinkramer.org/pages/899529/index.htm

33

Martin Kramer 11.25.04 at 8:01 pm

I invite all of you over to Sandstorm, to read about how Juan Cole threatened myself and Daniel Pipes with a frivolous lawsuit over web content. I am amused to see him posing now as a champion of (and martyr for) freedom of expression on the web. I don’t think I ever got a letter quite like the one he sent me (and it wasn’t even my website…)

http://www.martinkramer.org/pages/899529/index.htm

34

TM 11.25.04 at 8:19 pm

Nic, I’m glad to be amusing you. Obviously MEMRI was also amused, which is why they reacted strongly, as they did. In fact, Cole was also amused because he was giggling as he wrote his ridiculous, semi-backtracking, lame, semi-rebuttal.

35

nic 11.25.04 at 8:24 pm

What strikes me, in retrospect, is how quick Cole was to threaten legal action, when in fact Campus Watch did far less damage to him than he has done to MEMRI

Really? hmm. Fascinating comparison.

Now I see it. Campus Watch, MEMRI, clearly on the victim side of libel and slander, absolutely. Cole, what a hypocrite.

I’m feeling all coulterish now, missing the glory days of the HUAC trials…

36

TM 11.25.04 at 9:18 pm

Nic, if you’re wrong, just admit it. It’s okay. Apparently Cole has no problem threatening others with a frivolous lawsuit for posting facts, but boy is he going to stick to the idea of freedom of expression when he posts false, unchecked assertions on his site.

Is it difficult defending blatant hypocrisy?

37

abb1 11.25.04 at 10:53 pm

…threatened myself and Daniel Pipes with a frivolous lawsuit…

campus-watch: “Dossiers on Professors”, “Dossiers on Institutions”.

Bullies are so thin-skinned these days.

Don’t you think there is a great deal of difference between what you do by publishing your ‘dossiers’ (I’ll avoid categorizing it) — and calling a pro-Likud propaganda organization what it is while reviewing their commentary?

38

TM 11.25.04 at 11:32 pm

How is MEMRI pro-Likud?

Oh, I know, because Juan Cole said so.

39

TM 11.25.04 at 11:54 pm

How is MEMRI pro-Likud?

Oh, I know, because Juan Cole said so.

40

TM 11.25.04 at 11:55 pm

How is MEMRI pro-Likud?

Oh, I know, because Juan Cole said so.

41

Sean 11.26.04 at 12:51 am

Of course MEMRI cherry picks arab broadcasts. Cole doesn’t claim the translations to be inaccurate. If they are accurate, then that is enough. It is what it purports to be. These ARE in fact true and correct broadcasts or publications that appear in the mainstream (or even state-funded) arab media. Gee, sorry if that makes muslims look bad. But then, wouldn’t that be muslims making muslims look bad? What a crime!

42

Sean 11.26.04 at 1:01 am

What the hell! Are the translations accurate or not? The rest is all ideological pr.

43

Felix Ditwaller 11.26.04 at 1:09 am

I don’t know why people complained about those lynchings during reconstruction. People just cherry pick to make southerners look bad?

“Jews are monkeys and apes” is just cherry picking too.

44

8opus 11.26.04 at 4:16 am

Incidentally, Cole’s accusation — that MEMRI has mistranslated — isn’t quite right.

1) MEMRI didn’t really translate anything until what is apparently an Islamist Web site had issued (in Arabic) what it thought was a correction to CNN’s translation — by drawing attention to the word “wilayat”. MEMRI translated and corroborated Qal’a’s own translation.

2) I’m no linguistic expert. And my Arabic is both rusty, and pretty rudimentary at that. But Juan Cole’s reasoning smells a little fishy. As near as I can tell, he’s disputing Al-Qal’a’s and MEMRI’s translations based on that idea that bin Laden couldn’t possibly have meant what it sounded like he was saying, so he must have been either relying on a “fundamentalist archaism” or accidentally slipping into “Hindi-Urdu”.

It’s possible. But it seems a stretch. Given Cole’s blustering hyperbole about the MEMRI site sprinkled throughout the article — he first introduces it as “neoconservative organ MEMRI”, and kind of takes off from there — it’s not hard to think that some sort of animus is involved.

45

abb1 11.26.04 at 8:27 am

How is MEMRI pro-Likud?

Oh, I know, because Juan Cole said so.

Well, let’s see: pro-Likud, Islamophobic, wingnut – what would you prefer? ‘Pro-Likud’ seems like the least insulting, doesn’t it; after all, Likud is a political party and a popular one too. Saying that MEMRI is a bunch of Islamophobic wingnuts would probably be more accurate but somewhat less civil. We want to be as well-mannered as possible, don’t we?

46

nic 11.26.04 at 9:37 am

What abb1 said about bullies. It’s so funny to compare what Campus Watch was/is doing to the mere opinion that MEMRI is politically on the Israeli right wing and that they must obviously be getting tons of money to pursue their activity and recruit all those translators (they don’t come cheap, and they’re not volunteers I know of no other non-business organisation in the world that can afford paying for so much translation work.) I don’t know what’s objectionable or harmful or libellous about that.

I’m glad to hear CW removed the “dossiers” on un-American professors and now say they just want to “enage in dialogue” and not call for ousting anyone from their job (something no one has done to MEMRI), how lovely. I remember a much stronger original declaration of intent by Pipes & co, as well as the publication of those dossiers, I guess they got some good legal advice in the meantime. But even now it’s very disingenous to ignore that in Patriot Act America, alleging direct financial ties to terrorism is perhaps a step closer to libel, if libel has to be, and in any case a step closer to having practical consequences for the target of such allegations, than merely reading right-wing political affiliations into the positions of an organisation, no? Unless you want to equate being on the Israeli right wing and being a terrorist or terrorist sponsor and funder. Which would be extremely ironic.

Obviously CW must have realised that to retract that kind of “factual” dossiers. That should tell you something.

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russkie 11.26.04 at 12:07 pm

It would be appropriate (and fair-minded) if Henry Farrell were to post an update to the original entry mentioning that Cole has previously threatened a suit against Martin Kramer.

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carlos 11.28.04 at 7:03 pm

http://www.guardian.co.uk/elsewhere/journalist/story/0,7792,773258,00.html

Article in Guardian a few years ago on MEMRI. Very imformative

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Ragout 11.30.04 at 8:39 am

henry,

Talk about tendentious misrepresentations!

You are misquoting me as saying “that the debate proves ‘without a doubt’ that ‘it is the anti-Israel side that engages in uncivil, name-calling, personal attacks’ (and by implication that the pro-Israel side is blameless)”

In fact I wrote: “in secular, left-liberal discourse about Israel, and without a doubt on CT, it is the anti-Israel side that engages in uncivil, name-calling, personal attacks.” This was somewhat of an overstatement: I should have confined the claim to Crooked Timber.

But it cannot reasonably be read as a claim that the “pro-Israel side is blameless.” It is a claim that the pro-Israel side on CT (and in other secular left-liberal discourse) is blameless. I don’t doubt that there are nasty pro-Israel name-callers out there somewhere.

And dan simon’s description of the way you shut down the debate is debate is perfectly accurate. You critized my comments specifically. But you only made a half-hearted attempt to criticize “their equivalent from people on the other side.” You criticized none of the extremely offensive anti-israel comments specifically. I remember as particularly offensive the comparisons of Israel to Nazi Germany and a reference to “tribal religions.” These drew no specific criticism from you (that I recall).

Perhaps you truly did believe that there were offenders on both sides, but because you only leveled specific criticisms at the pro-Israel side (i.e., me), that was not how I read your final message.

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Ragout 11.30.04 at 9:16 am

abb1,

Campus Watch posted some links to writings criticizing Cole. I don’t see what’s wrong with that. Perhaps you could explain it.

In any event, when Cole complained that he was receiving hate mail because of these links and he threatened to sue, Campus Watch took down their “dossiers on professors.” I give them lots of credit for acting honorably, when they were under no obligation to do so.

In contrast, Cole smeared MEMRI, calling them “anti-Arab,” as if they’re against the Arab people as a whole! In addition, he claimed that they have a $60 million budget, to further his repeated insinuations that Jewish orginizations have vast unjustified powers.

When MEMRI denied this $60 million figure, Cole could not back it up. In several follow-up posts, he has failed to cite any source. Instead he has tried to cloud the waters, criticizing others who cite actual information from IRS filings showing a $2 million budget. His failure to admit to a clear error may not be libelous under US law, but is truly pathetic.

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nic 11.30.04 at 9:56 am

Cole smeared MEMRI, calling them “anti-Arab,” as if they’re against the Arab people as a whole!

No! really? amazing! that’s got to be the worst smear you could possibly come across in the age of the war on terror! especially if you’re a former Israeli military intelligence officer. Gosh, to be called anti-Arab has to be so unbearable for Col. Carmon, no wonder he had to sue…

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Ragout 11.30.04 at 10:31 am

nic,

You may think it’s fine to accuse people of being “anti-Arab” without any more proof than the fact that they’re Israeli military intelligence officers, but I don’t. Just like I think one ought to have convincing evidence before accusing others of being racist, anti-semitic, sexist, homophobic, etc. These are strong allegations.

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nic 11.30.04 at 12:45 pm

Oh but I agree it’s not cool to call anyone anything bad, if only everyone followed that simple rule, oh what a better place the world would be. Better still, if only everyone remembered that it’s perfectly legitimate to be anti- something in terms of political opinions and opposition to governments policies, then no one would consider that noble democratic prefix as a smear.

Where I differ is that I don’t really think that being called “anti-Arab” was the reason MEMRI got all peeved.

After all, like Campus Watch and like-minded individuals or groups, they consider “pro-Arab” an insult, and pro-Palestinian akin to terrorist sponsor (as in, purely hypothetical instance: “university professor with unashamedly pro-Arab views”). So, I’m sure they’re not that bothered by being identified as holding the opposite view from the one they’re against. (Given that the third option, bipartisanship, is definitely not contemplated here).

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