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View Full Version : The Case of MEMRI: good, evil, public service, conspiracy?


Beagle
12-31-2003, 11:39 AM
All of the above?

MEMRI (http://www.memri.org/)

The group is somwhere between a public service that translates Arabic, et al, news into other languages -- all the way to the epicenter of some big conspiracy we've all heard of, contingent upon why you ask.

One thing I've noticed, IMO very important, is that the quality of the translations or the accuracy of MEMRI is not questioned by its critics. They tend to allege that there are political motivations behind making what is public, eh, more public?

If they don't mistranslate or fictionalize (point to be debated, among others) what's wrong with MEMRI?

My .02, some people have an idealized view of the Islamic world, expecially the PA. This dose of reality is just too much to maintain the romanticized view of the oppressed Palestinian yearning to breathe free. Since the information is apparently accurate, the next "logical" (predictable) step is to attack the source of the information.

OTOH, maybe there are substantial factual criticisms I am unaware of. That's why I posted here. I know some of you have opinions about MEMRI, yet a search (by me) turned up nothing.

Sadly, I can find SDMB stuff better by using Google. [hangs head]

CyberPundit
12-31-2003, 12:13 PM
"One thing I've noticed, IMO very important, is that the quality of the translations or the accuracy of MEMRI is not questioned by its critics."
Where did you get this? One knowledgable poster, Collounsbury, who says the opposite:

http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?threadid=123713&highlight=MEMRI

"MEMRI is absolutely not a good source of English langauge Arab news.

I will be very frank. Considering the amount of translation they do, the relative quality of the work (i.e. the translating), the skewed nature of the translations and the selection I have come to believe that MEMRI is a state-backed propaganda effort. "


"That, I don't know a good translation source. MEMRI gives you an idea of the fringes, the NY POST end of commentary -- however the translations I have come to feel always take the worst possible spin. That sometimes is valid, but as noted, I now believe this site to not to be what it purports to be."


I have no way of evaluating the quality of MEMRI's translation myself but I see no reason to doubt Collounsbury's assessment of it.

Beagle
12-31-2003, 12:16 PM
I have no way of evaluating the quality of MEMRI's translation myself but I see no reason to doubt Collounsbury's assessment of it. Other scholars don't agree. He's one spoon short of a full drawer.

Find someone published after an editor has looked at it.

Beagle
12-31-2003, 12:21 PM
For example. (http://www.guardian.co.uk/elsewhere/journalist/story/0,7792,773258,00.html).....Nobody, so far as I know, disputes the general accuracy of Memri's translations but there are other reasons to be concerned about its output.

CyberPundit
12-31-2003, 12:34 PM
"Other scholars don't agree."
Can you give me some examples of these scholars? I just looked at a list of positive comments posted at MEMRI and it was mostly from the pro-Israel usual suspects: Weekly Standard, National Review etc.

As for the Guardian I doubt either the writer or the editor know Arabic or have tried to evaluate the translation quality so they focussed on other things which are interesting in themselves btw. Note also the "so far as I know".

As for Collounsbury I have read enough of his posts on the ME to trust his knowledge and judgement on the matter. YMMV.

AZCowboy
12-31-2003, 12:35 PM
Considering that MEMRI's co-founder and president is a former Israeli military intelligence officer and counter-terrorism advisor, you might check for signs of bias. That, and if you look at the list of endorsements from their webpage, you may also notice a certain right-wing trend...

AZCowboy
12-31-2003, 12:45 PM
Well, according to the link provided by Beagle, as well as this one (http://www.ojr.org/ojr/reviews/1017788174.php), the main criticisms of MEMRI appear to be their selection of the most inflaming and Arab-derogatory articles possible.

Entirely consistent with the quote from Collounsbury, btw.

Seems the evidence tends to support his position.

Aldebaran
12-31-2003, 02:01 PM
Re: The Case of MEMRI: good, evil, public service, conspiracy?

If you ask for a qualification following the four points you give here, my vote needs to go to "conspiracy".

Sorry.


Salaam. A

Aldebaran
12-31-2003, 02:14 PM
Forgot: under one of the links I saw a comment contributed to Bernard Lewis.

I don't agree with everything he ever has written or with every single one of his interpretations and views. In several cases I even completely disagree.
But he isn't known to be an idiot and shouldn't be known as such. He very rightfully is known to be among the most famous Western experts in the field.
So I am rather - very much - convinced that you would have a whole other impression of that particular comment made by Lewis, if they wouldn't have shortened it into one single sentence that sounds very convenient to them. If he ever wrote a comment about that organisation. I don't know.... But then, I don't know everything :)


Salaam. A

Shodan
12-31-2003, 03:26 PM
I found this quote from the end of the Guardian article cited to bein interesting:
In an article headed Atrocity stories regain currency, page 13, August 8, and in an article headed Selective Memri on the Guardian website, we referred to Dr Adil Awadh, an Iraqi doctor who alleged that Saddam Hussein had ordered doctors to amputate the ears of soldiers who deserted. Dr Awadh has asked us to make it clear that he has no connection with Memri (Middle East Media Research Institute), and that he did not authorise its translation of parts of an article by him. He is no longer a member of the Iraqi National Accord (INA). He is an independent member of the Iraqi National Congress (INC). His reference to orders by Saddam Hussein to cut off the ears of deserters has been supported by evidence from other sources. In other words, the Guardian article questioning the accuracy of MEMRI, itself contained more than one inaccuracy.

Additionally, from the linked article:
But Memri claimed al-Riyadh was a Saudi "government newspaper" - in fact it's privately owned - implying that the article had some form of official approval.
IIRC, Saudi newspapers are subject to government censorship. Thus, for the article MEMRI highlighted (it regarded the blood libel about Jews), the article did have some form of government approval, in that it passed government censors.

It would seem that MEMRI is at least as reliable a source as the Guardian - possibly more so.

Regards,
Shodan

GoHeels
12-31-2003, 06:03 PM
I like MEMRI since it links to articles by some of the saner Arab writers (many of whom are not necessarily "pro-American"), who write about reconciliation and liberalization, thus helping to disprove the idea that the Arabs are bloodthirsty, Jew-hating, conspiracy-theory freaks.

It's also nice to hear from Arab liberals who want to actually RESOLVE the Israeli-Palestinian conflict so that Arabs can address all the other stuff that plagues their society (read the UN Development Report for more info), whereas the intelligentsia, the clerics, the dictators, and the nationalists want to keep the conflict smoldering so they don't have to address these other issues (to which they don't have any good answers).

And, it brings to light some of the horseshit that passes for discourse in that part of the world, crap that serves only to whip up hatred and suspicion. MEMRI makes it harder for people like Arafat to preach peace in English and war in Arabic and get away with it.

I think I vote for "public service," in that it helps English-speakers understand the nature of the Arab media, but obviously shouldn't be the be-all, end-all source of information.

adaher
01-01-2004, 01:51 AM
What we have here is some people who don't like what they do, attacking the source, rather than their actual content.

Beagle
01-01-2004, 09:59 AM
Calls for the Destruction of the U.S.

"Allah wreak vengeance on the Jews and the Americans" is a common theme heard in PA sermons, as with Sheikh Ahmad Abd-Al-Razek's sermon on October 4, 2002. [1] Frequent calls for the destruction of the main allies of the U.S. - Britain and Israel - are also heard. As Sheikh Ibrahim Madhi stated, "Allah willing, this unjust state will be erased - Israel will be erased; this unjust state, the United States, will be erased; this unjust state, Britain, will be erased." [2]

Themes of Arab hatred of the U.S. within sermons often have Islamic historical undertones. For example, the leading Palestinian religious figure, Mufti of Jerusalem and the Palestinian Territories Sheikh Ikrimeh Sabri, stated in a sermon on PA radio, "Allah, destroy the U.S., its helpers and its agents. Allah, destroy Britain, its helpers and its agents. Allah, prepare those who will unite the Muslims and march in the steps of Saladin. Allah, we ask you for forgiveness before death, and mercy and forgiveness after death. Allah, grant victory to Islam and the Muslims…" [3] The U.S. and its allies are also commonly referred to as Christian and Jewish Crusaders who must be fought. For example, Dr. Ahmad Abu Halabiya, speaking at a mosque named after UAE President Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al-Nahyan, stated, "Allah the almighty has called upon us not to ally with the Jews or the Christians, not to like them, not to become their partners, not to support them, and not to sign agreements with them… Allah, deal with the Jews, your enemies and the enemies of Islam. Deal with the Crusaders, and America, and Europe behind them…" [4] -- From the December 26 posting (MEMRI)
Stuff like this, should it get out, might shake some European intellectuals out of their decades-long slumber under the US security umbrella.

Aldebaran
01-01-2004, 06:10 PM
Beagle,

Not to disappoint you, and not even commenting on the "report" you quoted..

But Europeans, and thus also "European intellectuals" live closer to the region then US'ers maybe are aware of. In fact: we share our history. And we are very much aware of "eachother".

There is absolutely no need at all for an agenda driven organisation like MEMRI for those "European intellectuals" to "get it out".

I think on the contrary that the US - and especially its clumsy president and government - is in great need for the "European intellectuals" and their knowledge in order to be able to finally gain some insight in a region and civilisation they are extremely ignorant about because it is extremely alien to them.

Salaam. A

Beagle
01-01-2004, 09:16 PM
Right. That's the party line. Got it.

Now, might we deal with what the power brokers in the region actually have to say when their mouth parts move? Or, should I listen to more European intellectual flatulence on the subject?

Mojo
01-01-2004, 10:32 PM
I'm kinda torn as to how useful MEMRI is- on one hand they're translating documents and speeches that no one else will, but OTOH a lot of what they translate seems to be the worst of the worst, the equivalent of translating Chick tracts into Arabic. Most people I've heard from have said that the translations are fairly accurate but their choice of source materials leaves a lot to be desired. I think this was most of the basis for Collunsbury's statement that "MEMRI is absolutely not a good source of English langauge Arab news."- you don't get any sort of balanced picture.

Beagle
01-01-2004, 11:12 PM
An article that has some interesting observations on the state of European intellectuals vis-a-vis the US. (http://www.reason.com/hod/my123003.shtml) The French journalist Alain Hertoghe paid a heavy price for accusing leading French newspapers of being unreasonably critical of the United States when covering the war in Iraq. In a recent book, La Guerre à Outrances, he wrote that the papers saw "the war they would have liked to have seen," infusing news stories with their ideological preferences. This prompted Hertoghe's own employer, the Catholic daily La Croix, to fire him because he had maligned its war coverage.

Many might observe that Hertoghe was merely stating the obvious: the notoriously subjective press in France has always been ambiguous toward the United States, and in the case of the Iraq war its criticisms merely mirrored an unsympathetic mood pervading French society. However, the fate that befell the journalist revealed something more perverse, namely that France's foreign policy self-esteem continues to be propped up by dubious perceptions that simply should not be challenged. ...even by documented facts.

The reality is that the Jihadists don't need to fight Europe, yet. Divide, then conquer.

adaher
01-02-2004, 07:38 AM
No, MEMRI alone is no more balanced then say, the Daily Worker.

But using MEMRI and comparing the Arabic statements of say, Yasser Arafat to his English statements can be quite revealing. His complete refusal to condemn terrorism in Arabic should tell you something. All those comdemnations are issued for our benefit, not to tell his own people anything. In Arabic, he's urging them on to greater efforts and has been since the 60s.

Malthus
01-02-2004, 11:19 AM
Originally posted by Beagle
For example. (http://www.guardian.co.uk/elsewhere/journalist/story/0,7792,773258,00.html)

The interesting thing is to follow the smears and counter-smears through the partisan press.

http://www.honestreporting.com/arti...ctive_Memri.asp

"Most surprising of all is that while Whitaker spends 1,700 words attacking Memri as a "mysterious organization" and its "air of secrecy," he has forgotten to tell Guardian readers of his own secrets. For in addition to his work as Middle East editor of The Guardian, Whitaker also runs the anti-Israel, website Arab Gateway
(http://www.al-bab.com).

Arab Gateway lists viciously anti-Israel "associate sites," such as that of the spuriously-named "Council for the Advancement of Arab-British Understanding" (http://www.caabu.org).

Whitaker's site has pages about non-Arab minorities in the Middle East, such as Berbers and Kurds -- but no page on Jews. The site's section on "maps" lists a "country map of Palestine" (we didn't know Palestine was a country), but upon clicking the link it takes you to a file at the Univ. of Texas archives with a slightly different name: "israel_map.jpg".

See a beaming photo of Whitaker on the "about" page of Arab Gateway at
http://www.al-bab.com/arab/about.htm

Sound to us like a conflict of interest."

Sounds to me like a typical partisan shit-fight.

Unless someone can convince me that the articles are forgeries or otherwise fakes (and the Guardian article itself says they are authentic), why should I care what motivates their publication - any more than I should care that the Guardian hires a guy who is so clearly biased himself?

That line of attack is pure smear and bullshit - on both sides. So the best thing to do is ignore it.

So, I wonder - is there any *legitimate* reason for not believing what I read on that site?

Aldebaran
01-02-2004, 12:23 PM
No there is not. But only if you could also have acces to and are able to read and interprete the Arabic version.

Give me a text, no matter which, and I can "translate" it into one that sounds completely different while it has every single point of the original in it.

And in additon to that, it is quite easy to focus - and by your selective choices forcibly bring under the attention of the readers - on a certain aspect of any society and play it as if you give the readers insight in the whole.

I can give you racist and hate talk coming out of any society and I can make you believe very easily that this represents the societies mindset, if you have no acces to the language and to the society itself by yourself.

Any child can do that. And it is what MEMRI focusses on.

Salaam. A

Malthus
01-02-2004, 01:09 PM
Originally posted by Aldebaran
No there is not. But only if you could also have acces to and are able to read and interprete the Arabic version.

Give me a text, no matter which, and I can "translate" it into one that sounds completely different while it has every single point of the original in it.

And in additon to that, it is quite easy to focus - and by your selective choices forcibly bring under the attention of the readers - on a certain aspect of any society and play it as if you give the readers insight in the whole.

I can give you racist and hate talk coming out of any society and I can make you believe very easily that this represents the societies mindset, if you have no acces to the language and to the society itself by yourself.

Any child can do that. And it is what MEMRI focusses on.

Salaam. A

Having read over the site in question, I'm not sure I agree with this assessment.

Certainly, looking at the site, it divides its articles into several categories - *some* of which are indeed focused on hate talk. I don't know if this in and of itself is intended to provide a skewed view of the society in question, as the site states up-front that the purpose is to document (for example) Jew hatred in the Arab
world.

For example, the topic heading "antisemitism documentation" states the following:

"This section of MEMRI's website documents Arabic newspaper reports, editorials, and other media sources which are primarily based upon antisemitic themes."

If the heading said "these are a random sampling of reports from Arabic newspapers", *and then* only included ones which were anti-semitic, your point would be valid. But it does not. It says up-front that the *purpose* is to document and collect anti-semitic articles. Which I think is a serious topic and worthy of study - as indeed is (say) anti-Arab hatred in the West; the difference is, I can read those articles for myself if they are in English already, and don't need a translation service to do it.

However, MEMRI does *not* record *only* hate speech, but also a lot of much more positive stuff. Another of their sections is based on "reform", introduced as follows:

"MEMRI's Reform in the Arab and Muslim World focuses on advocates of reform, and the debate surrounding it, within the Middle East and Muslim world. The project is divided into four main categories: Social Reform, which will focus on women's rights, civil society, and educational systems. Political Reform, which includes debates on democracy and the rule of law, protection of the individual, and freedom of speech, religion, and assembly. Also, Religious Reform, which covers the debate on reform in Islam, as well as the misuse of religion. Finally, the Reform Project will cover Economic Reform, which examines issues of free market economy, globalization, and modernization."

Which is also an important topic; and covering this hardly smears the Arab-speaking society and world, but the opposite. Reading about reform from *within* the Arab-speaking world is a positive thing, which ought to be applauded by Arabs as well as non-Arabs.

The topics covered by MEMRI are as follows:

• JIHAD AND TERRORISM STUDIES PROJECT
• U.S. AND THE MIDDLE EAST
• REFORM IN THE ARAB AND MUSLIM WORLD
• ARAB-ISRAELI CONFLICT
• INTER-ARAB RELATIONS
• ECONOMIC STUDIES
• ARAB ANTISEMITISM DOCUMENTATION PROJECT

Which I think broadly covers what many Westerners are curious about. Only one of the topics covered is by its very nature hate speech, so it cannot be said that the site "focuses" exclusively on that.

While for balance it would be a great idea if some Arab media outlet would cover the same selection of topics via translations, to my knowledge such a service does not yet exist. Until it does, MEMRI is the only place to read translations of articles on these topics on a regular basis.

CyberPundit
01-02-2004, 02:43 PM
"His complete refusal to condemn terrorism in Arabic should tell you something."
Actually Arafat has not only condemned terrorism in Arabic but been praised by Bush for doing so.
http://usinfo.state.gov/regional/nea/summit/text/0508bshabd.htm

Did MEMRI translate or report this? If it did my opinion of it would go up a couple of notches. If it didn't it would seem to support the arguments of its critics.

CyberPundit
01-02-2004, 03:03 PM
Some more about this: according to this report Arafat condemned terrorism in Arabic in April 2002 before his meeting with Powell.
http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2002/04/14/1018333437655.html

Here is the MEMRI page on the Arab-Israeli conflict; I can't find any reference to the Arafat statement:
http://memri.org/conflict.html

Malthus
01-02-2004, 03:56 PM
Originally posted by CyberPundit
"His complete refusal to condemn terrorism in Arabic should tell you something."
Actually Arafat has not only condemned terrorism in Arabic but been praised by Bush for doing so.
http://usinfo.state.gov/regional/nea/summit/text/0508bshabd.htm

Did MEMRI translate or report this? If it did my opinion of it would go up a couple of notches. If it didn't it would seem to support the arguments of its critics.

I don't know whether it refers to the same occasion or a different one, but MEMRI reports that Yasser Arafat supported a Palistinian condemnation of terrorism:

"Inquiry and Analysis Series - No. 101 - Arab-Israeli Conflict, July 5, 2002
The Palestinian Debate Over Martyrdom Operations Part II: A Palestinian Communiqué Against the Attacks"

"Recently, the Palestinian daily Al-Quds published a communiqué with some 500 signatories, among them leading Palestinians such as Professor Sari Nusseibah [and his wife Lucy], Hanan Ashrawi, Mamdouh Nofal, Ziad Abu Ziyad, and Hashem Abd Al-Razeq. The statement called for a stop to military operations harming civilians in Israel, s they produce no results except for an increase in the hatred between the two peoples and the destruction of the possibility of living side by side in peace in two neighboring states.[1]

Professor Nusseibah: Version I
In an interview with the Arab-Israeli daily Al-Ittihad, Professor Nusseibah explained the reasons behind the communiqué: "We must turn to means that serve our goal – which is to remove the occupation and get rid of its barbaric acts of repression. We do not think that murdering Israeli civilians serves our just, human goals; it turns the well-known murderer who destroys villages, murders children, usurps lands, and banishes people, into a victim who markets himself to the world, seeks support, and justifies his barbaric acts against us. Whatever the cruelty of the enemy, who has not a trace of human characteristics… Palestinians must not sacrifice their moral values in addition to their body. We must cling to human, moral values and standards, because our strength lies in our adherence to values and morality."[2]

...

The PA's Response: Version I
In an interview with the Israeli daily Haaretz[7], Yassir Arafat said that he supported this communiqué."

So, it would appear that MEMRI *does* report on Arafat's position - which is that he supports statements opposing the use terrorism.

Malthus
01-02-2004, 03:59 PM
More:

"Inquiry and Analysis Series - No. 100 - Arab-Israeli Conflict, July 4, 2002
The Palestinian Debate Over Martyrdom Operations Part I: The Debate within the PA"

"PA Chairman Yasser Arafat issued several calls to stop these operations. In a speech on Nakbha Day (May 15, 2002) he said: "We declare today our un-acceptance of operations against Israeli civilians... The Palestinian and Arab public opinion is convinced that such operations do not serve our goals. Rather, they cause disagreements [with the international community] and unite large parts of it against us. You know better than me that such operations cause dissent... Let us remember the Hudaybiya agreement..."[1]

After the two martyrdom operations carried out in Jerusalem in June 2002, Arafat issued another statement calling to totally stop these operations.[2]"

The objection that positive statements by Arafat don't get covered by MEMRI doesn't hold water.

CyberPundit
01-02-2004, 06:40 PM
The dates would seem to indicate that this is a later statement than the ones I linked to. In any case MEMRI doesn't seem to say if the statement is in Arabic or not which is a crucial issue. The headline is also not specific; compare it with the Sydney Morning Herald's headline: "Arafat condemns terrorist actions targeting civilians". The MEMRI page doesn't hesitate to mention Arafat in the headlines for other stories; why not do it in a story where he is condemning terrorism? I guess a brief mention of the May 15 statement in an analytical piece in July is better than nothing but it doesn't amount to objective coverage of Arafat. MEMRI should have translated or reported the April statement by Arafat and clearly mentioned it was in Arabic.

An example of objective coverage would be:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/1928029.stm

A clear-cut headline: "Arafat on Terrorism". A mention that the statement was in Arabic. And a full translation of the text. That is what MEMRI should have done if it wanted to cover the issue properly.

byomtoob
01-02-2004, 10:15 PM
I just love this:

....Nobody, so far as I know, disputes the general accuracy of Memri's translations but there are other reasons to be concerned about its output.

Oh, but what's the point of the whole website: to provide translations!

But that's not good enough for the critics. What kind of complaints do we hear:

"They're not translating the right stuff"

"They have a pro-Israeli agenda"

"They don't adequately explain who the authors are"

Guys -- this is not made up shit, this is stuff that is being written about in the Arab/Muslim World!!!

Talk about "Blaming the Messenger"!

adaher
01-03-2004, 01:11 AM
I stand corrected. Looks like my info was outdated.

Malthus
01-05-2004, 10:39 AM
Originally posted by CyberPundit
The dates would seem to indicate that this is a later statement than the ones I linked to. In any case MEMRI doesn't seem to say if the statement is in Arabic or not which is a crucial issue. The headline is also not specific; compare it with the Sydney Morning Herald's headline: "Arafat condemns terrorist actions targeting civilians". The MEMRI page doesn't hesitate to mention Arafat in the headlines for other stories; why not do it in a story where he is condemning terrorism? I guess a brief mention of the May 15 statement in an analytical piece in July is better than nothing but it doesn't amount to objective coverage of Arafat. MEMRI should have translated or reported the April statement by Arafat and clearly mentioned it was in Arabic.

An example of objective coverage would be:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/1928029.stm

A clear-cut headline: "Arafat on Terrorism". A mention that the statement was in Arabic. And a full translation of the text. That is what MEMRI should have done if it wanted to cover the issue properly.

That's not much of a criticism.

The issue is not whether MEMRI is as good as the BBC in people's opinions, but whether is is useful at all - or, on the contrary, an illigitimate, misinformative propaganda site.

So far, it appears that the critics are claiming the latter, but are unable to prove it objectively. I am open to someone posting a *reason* why the site is not to be trusted.

CyberPundit
01-05-2004, 12:06 PM
Well, I don't think MEMRI is a totally useless site and I .am not sure who is saying that. I think it is a biased pro-Israel site which may have useful information occasionally but which doesn't give us the whole picture reliably like the BBC or NYTimes. I think the non-coverage of Arafat's April statement is a good example of this.

Malthus
01-05-2004, 12:32 PM
Originally posted by CyberPundit
Well, I don't think MEMRI is a totally useless site and I .am not sure who is saying that. I think it is a biased pro-Israel site which may have useful information occasionally but which doesn't give us the whole picture reliably like the BBC or NYTimes. I think the non-coverage of Arafat's April statement is a good example of this.

Well, for my part I don't think anyone is alleging that MEMRI is a good replacement for the BBC.

From reading the site, it appears to be designed to translate the stuff that would *not* get into the mainstream Western press. A specialty service for those already familiar with the news from the area, not a complete general news reporting service like the BBC.

As for bias, that word is sort of meaningless - every media is "biased". Selection of what to print is a bias, even if the content is completely objective. The issue is whether the bias interferes with, or distorts, the content so as to render the information presented unreliable. Or whether the bias is hidden, in such a way as to give the impression that no selection was made - a false objectivity.

In this case, the criteria for selection of stories are stated up front. That is a useful sort of bias. Want to read news stories stating anti-Jewish claims in the Arab media? Go to the section. I wish there was a service in English which similarly selected anti-Arab statements in the Western press.

CyberPundit
01-05-2004, 01:59 PM
"The issue is whether the bias interferes with, or distorts, the content so as to render the information presented unreliable"
I think that MEMRI' s selection bias has the effect of distorting the picture that the reader gets of the issue as a whole. For instance conciliatory statements by Arafat are given less prominence than more radical statements which makes him look more radical than he is.

As for being upfront about selection criteria, the section under discussion is simply called "Arab-Israeli conflict" not ,say, "radical statements by Arab leaders". So I don't see any good reason why MEMRI couldn't have covered Arafat's Arabic statements condemning terrorism in a proper and timely manner.

Malthus
01-05-2004, 02:51 PM
Originally posted by CyberPundit
"The issue is whether the bias interferes with, or distorts, the content so as to render the information presented unreliable"
I think that MEMRI' s selection bias has the effect of distorting the picture that the reader gets of the issue as a whole. For instance conciliatory statements by Arafat are given less prominence than more radical statements which makes him look more radical than he is.

As for being upfront about selection criteria, the section under discussion is simply called "Arab-Israeli conflict" not ,say, "radical statements by Arab leaders". So I don't see any good reason why MEMRI couldn't have covered Arafat's Arabic statements condemning terrorism in a proper and timely manner.

I don't understand - they *did* include his statements condemning terrorism in the relevant section. It was quite clearly labeled as such, and I quoted from them above. They were hardly obscure, given that the relevant section was entitled "The Palistinian Debate over Martyrdom Operations". This was the seventh article from the top; the sixth also included references to it; and the second article from the top includes a whole section on the new PM's opposition to suicide bombings, subtitled "The Al-Aqsa Intifada and the Struggle Against Israel -- In Support of Resistance to the Occupation and Opposition to Suicide Bombings".

While the sections may not include *each and every* example of Arafat's statements opposing terrorism, there is *no* basis for complaining that the section of the site under discussion does not include such references about top Palistinian leaders, including Arafat. On the contrary, the site seems quite scrupulous in this specific regard.

Indeed, *many* of the articles which even mention Arafat also state his opposition to terrorism - in fact, in this one "Special Dispatch Series - No. 317 - Arab-Israeli Conflict, December 20, 2001 -- Recent Statements By Yasser Arafat", which you will note carries his name, *also* includes his statement opposing terrorism (he calls it a PR gift to Sharon).

This objection doesn't fly - if you actually read the articles. Without even looking hard, I managed to find three different cases which undermine the thesis, not counting the new PM. No doubt there are more.

As for making Arafat look radical, it is hard to state that an accurate translation of what he actually said does that - unless you could prove that he is only quoted saying *bad* stuff but never saying *good* stuff. Which, as I just pointed out, is not true. Rather, they appear to exerpt selected quotes about the *topic* of Arab-Israeli relations.

I also recommend: "Special Dispatch Series - No. 253 - Arab-Israeli Conflict, August 8, 2001 -- The PA Press Agency (WAFA) Calls to Use Stones Only and Refrain from Attacking Civilians Inside Israel". Seems rather an odd thing for a "biased" news service to translate, if its mandate is to paint the PA as radical extremists - right? Why, if they are biased in their selection, would they decide to select that?

I would have thought that a far more cogent objection was the inclusion of a whole section on Jew hatred in the Arab press.

CyberPundit
01-05-2004, 03:57 PM
Arafat's statement in 317 is: "These people could not find better timing [to carry out martyrdom operations] except the very moment when Sharon went to meet with President Bush with no cards in his hands. They gave Sharon these operations as a present…"

It appears to be more of a tactical criticism about timing than a full-blown condemnation of terrorism. And certainly the thrust of the comments in the article is about military struggle rather than peace.

His April 2002 statement by contrast:
"President Yasser Arafat and the Palestinian leadership express their condemnation of all terrorist acts against civilians, whether they are Israelis or Palestinians and whether this terrorism is sponsored by a state, group or person."

"On this basis, we strongly condemn the violent operations that target Israeli civilians, especially the recent operation in Jerusalem."

The language is a lot stronger and clear-cut than the quotes you have produced. Of the three statements you quoted, two are buried deep inside analytical reports whose titles don't even mention Arafat and the third is at best a tactical criticism of terrorist acts not a condemnation. I don't think they are an adequate substitute for failing to report Arafat's most clear-cut condemnation of terrorism in Arabic.

Malthus
01-05-2004, 05:54 PM
Originally posted by CyberPundit
Arafat's statement in 317 is: "These people could not find better timing [to carry out martyrdom operations] except the very moment when Sharon went to meet with President Bush with no cards in his hands. They gave Sharon these operations as a present…"

It appears to be more of a tactical criticism about timing than a full-blown condemnation of terrorism. And certainly the thrust of the comments in the article is about military struggle rather than peace.

His April 2002 statement by contrast:
"President Yasser Arafat and the Palestinian leadership express their condemnation of all terrorist acts against civilians, whether they are Israelis or Palestinians and whether this terrorism is sponsored by a state, group or person."

"On this basis, we strongly condemn the violent operations that target Israeli civilians, especially the recent operation in Jerusalem."

The language is a lot stronger and clear-cut than the quotes you have produced. Of the three statements you quoted, two are buried deep inside analytical reports whose titles don't even mention Arafat and the third is at best a tactical criticism of terrorist acts not a condemnation. I don't think they are an adequate substitute for failing to report Arafat's most clear-cut condemnation of terrorism in Arabic.

MEMRI didn't *write* the quotes, it just *translated* them. Why blame MEMRI if the language is not to your liking? :confused:

MEMRI is not a comprehensive news source, and doesn't pretend to be. In all of 2003, they published exactly *two* articles in the section under discussion. To blame them for not including *your* favorite story is grasping at straws.

It would certainly be a valid critisism if they *never* translated anything about condemning terrorism by the PA or Arafat. But, as I have demonstrated comprehensively, that is not the case.

CyberPundit
01-05-2004, 07:00 PM
"To blame them for not including *your* favorite story is grasping at straws."
The point about the story is that it's the most clear-cut condemnation of terrorism by Arafat in Arabic. It was in response to a specific US demand and paved the way for Colin Powell meeting. As such I think it's a lot more interesting and important than the other quotes you put up which don't even mention whether Arafat's statements were in Arabic (which is a crucial point) and which don't condemn terrorism as clearly and concretely. There is also the matter of timeliness; Arafat made that statement in mid-April whereas the analytical reports with your quotes are in July. The page has several articles in April and June 2002 so I don't see any good reason for them not to have reported this important statement by Arafat.

In any case there is no point going on and on about this. I have said pretty much all I have to say. We'll just have to disagree about this.

Alan Owes Bess
01-06-2004, 08:42 AM
In the final analysis, without:

Memri or IMRI

Would we, westerners, have the faintest idea what the multifarious Muslim regimes and their press mouthpieces were saying in their own language?

Our own governments and media certainly don't tell us.

Aldebaran
01-06-2004, 09:48 AM
There is a very easy solution for this AOB : learn the language.


Salaam. A

Alan Owes Bess
01-06-2004, 10:15 AM
Alde

On the net I am at liberty to select from a variety of translations of the "Holy" Koran and the "Authentic Hadiths".

Apart from that, I could, if I so desired, refer to the sermons preached in the all of the major mosques of Islam. Saudi Arabia, Palestine, Yemen et al.

Translations of these are freely available on the net. Have you read them?

Are you not pleased, Fellaghah.

Aldebaran
01-06-2004, 10:28 AM
AOB,

As always, you manage to amuse me.

If you have that much "translations" available, then what are you complaining about?


By the way: I hope for your sanity that you didn't think you just used "Arabic" to describe a male resident of rural area's and having as occupation what is usually done there?

Salaam. A