"Godhet utan vishet och utan
gränser är bara en annan
form av ondska."
(John Paterson)

"Det är synd att 99% av
journalisterna skall fördärva
förtroendet för en hel yrkeskår"

"Ormar äro älskliga varelser,
om man råkar tillhöra samma
(Artur Lundkvist)

"När försiktigheten finns överallt,
finns modet ingenstans."
(den belgiske kardinalen Mercier)

"Den som gifter sig med
tidsandan blir snabbt änka."

"Civiliserade är de kulturer
och individer som respekterar
(Hört på Axesskanalen)

"Det tragiska med vanligt
sunt förnuft är att det
inte är så vanligt."
(Albert Einstein)

"Halv kristendom tolereras
men föraktas.
Hel kristendom respekteras
men förföljs."

Senast ändrad: 2024 02 29 13:30

Media organisation rebuts
accusations of selective journalism

A Guardian Unlimited article recently questioned the neutrality of a US-based institute that translates articles from Arabic newspapers. Here, the institute's president responds

Yigal Carmon Wednesday August 21, 2002

Brian Whitaker's Selective Memri is an example of selective journalism.

Disregarding the Guardian's own code - "A newspaper's primary office is the gathering of news" - Whitaker has simply recycled inaccurate and previously published material.

Two days before his piece appeared on the web, he called our Washington office to ask for the Arabic original of an article translated by Memri from the London daily Al-Hayat. He could have used this opportunity to check his facts. He chose not to do so.

To start with, Memri is not a "mysterious organisation". Our telephone number, fax and email appear on every dispatch. True, the office address is no longer posted on our website. Whitaker may scoff, but we have received threats from rightwing radicals in America.

Had he asked, we would have provided him with our addresses in Washington, London, Berlin, Moscow and Jerusalem (as well as informing him that I retired from government office almost a decade ago).

We could also have told Whitaker that we have over 30 employees of different nationalities, rather than six. But then, facts might have got in the way of a "good story".

Memri is involved in a variety of projects, apart from translating material into most European languages and Turkish: an economic project, headed by a former World Bank expert, an Arab anti-semitism documentation project, studies of school books from Arab educational systems, monitoring Friday sermons in the Arab world.

Most important and innovative is our reform project, which highlights liberal voices, not only from western capitals, but also from within the Arab and Muslim world, courageously calling for political, religious, social and economic reform, and taking all the risks involved.

Is this "Selective Memri"? No, it's Selective Whitaker. He cites the Memri-translated "Blood Libel" - an article that resurrected an ancient myth that accuses Jews of using the blood of (non-Jewish) children to make a special pastry for the Purim religious festival - published by the Saudi al-Riyadh daily.

This is a paper which, contrary to Whitaker's statement, is identified as government-controlled by the Saudi government's website, by the BBC and by news agencies such as Associated Press.

It is true that the editor later apologised and the columnist was sacked. Memri reported all this, giving the paper credit even though these events came in the wake of severe US criticism.

Whitaker implies that this was a marginal case - another article deliberately "selected" by Memri that merely reflects the "ignorance of many Arabs - even those [as] highly educated" as the author of the piece - a university teacher.

Does Brian Whitaker still think it mere ignorance when the major Egyptian government daily Al-Ahram follows a similar line? The government-appointed editor-in-chief is currently facing prosecution in France (and possible prosecution in the UK) for incitement to anti-semitism and racial violence.

The editor is prepared to do battle over his right to spread this poison and he is supported by most of Egypt's literary elite, parliamentarians, trades unions and various organisations throughout the Arab world.

Surely the Guardian's editorial board would agree that this goes far beyond ignorance. It is the deliberate dissemination of a Blood Libel.

Another supposedly marginal issue "selected" by Memri is the Ode to Terrorism by the Saudi Ambassador to the UK, Ghazi Al-Qusaybi. Were Whitaker a regular reader of the Arab papers published in London, he would know that it is not a matter of poetry.

Al-Qusaybi has authored several articles expressing the same political position (Memri Dispatches 251, 256, 389 at ). Indeed, does Whitaker read the Arab press at all? Or does he rely on Arab Media Watch?

If this is the case, we could provide him with some documentation on their bias. In any event, I wouldn't blame him for seeking assistance. Monitoring the Arab media is far too much for one person to handle. We have a team of 20 translators doing it, and we can't possibly cover it all.

Whitaker's view of Memri's work is not shared by others. In fact most of the well-known media in the US respect and frequently quote Memri, for example the New York Times, Washington Post, New Republic, The New Yorker, Los Angeles Times, Boston Globe and Miami Herald.

The Guardian itself published Thomas Friedman's column (October 16 2001) commending Memri translations. The Qatari Al-Jazeera television channel also trusts Memri and frequently asks me to appear on their programmes.

Even the Palestinian National Authority website has posted our material - with attribution. On the other hand, it is interesting to see whom Whitaker did choose to quote to back up his allegations against Memri. Ibrahim Hooper is the spokesman of CAIR, the Council on American Islamic Relations, which supports Hamas.

— Yigal Carmon is president of the Middle East Media Research Institute (Memri)

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