'Intelligent discontent is the mainspring of civilization.' -- Eugene V. Debs

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Fun with Memri 

I just spent some time poking around on the website of the Middle East Media Research Institute. According to its website, Memri "bridges the language gap which exists between the West and the Middle East, providing timely translations of Arabic, Farsi, and Hebrew media, as well as original analysis of political, ideological, intellectual, social, cultural, and religious trends in the Middle East," which sounds like a valuable and interesting project. Unfortunately, as discussed in a Brian Whitaker Guardian Unlimited article from a couple of years ago, Memri's presentation of the Muslim world is heavily skewed towards the interests of pro-Likud hawks and the rightmost elements of Israel's government generally. Memri attempted to rebut Whitaker's article with a letter that cited various respected publications and institutions that have said nice things about its translations. Whitaker's critique, however, had nothing to say about the quality of Memri's translations; it questioned the fairness of the methodology by which documents were chosen for translation.

Anyway, if you have any doubt about where Memri's political allegiance lies, take a look at some of its "original analysis of political, ideological, intellectual, social, cultural, and religious trends in the Middle East" ... for example, on this page, we see many articles by a certain Dr. Nimrod Raphaeli who frequent readers of American Leftist might remember as the neoconservative with the funny name featured in a post of mine a few months back; Nimrod is often cited as an expert by L. Brent Bozell's rightwing Cybercast News Service and is a frequent contributor to David Horowitz's FrontPageMag.com.

All that said ... there's some interesting stuff on MemriTV, a project that provides subtitled clips of Arabic television. Here, for example, is a TV commercial promoting participation in the forthcoming Iraqi elections ... good old emotionally potent over-simplification.

And I also found this clip from an interview with the Syrian information minister somewhat interesting. He discusses Syria's position on the US election which is, apparently, that Syria doesn't care who wins. Here's an excerpt:(transcript here)

The question is not who will be president of the US. This isn't important. But how could the Arabs – and in this case, unfortunately, I cannot speak about the Arabs in general – how could Syria and Lebanon, two countries that are relatively stable, strong, and independent, apply counter pressure globally in order to bring about a relatively balanced policy. I'm not talking about a fair policy towards the Arabs, but at least there should be a relative balance. The current global policy does not understand justice. It understands power and the balance of power. If you are strong – we will give you accordingly. If you are weak, we will give you nothing regardless of your rights and regardless of what is just. These terms have unfortunately faded from the logic of international policy. Regardless of who the American president would be, if the Syrian–Lebanese relations would weaken and, as a result, the resistance would weaken, and I mean resistance in general, including the Palestinian resistance – then the Arabs will be weak and the new American president will find himself under total Israeli pressure. Whether it is Bush or Kerry, he will present the Israeli solutions and the Arabs will have to "take it or leave it."

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