With MEMRI around, keeping up appearances is no longer viable
The following is a collection of opinions from Kuwaiti writers in which they welcome the initiative of MEMRi to bring to world some taste of the kind of opinions and knowledge their society is exposed to:
"'Europeans [also] usually smell bad, because they do not wash until it is absolutely necessary. They do not clean themselves properly after urinating, nor do they wipe the filth off [themselves]. Whoever mingles with them notices this characteristic. If Allah had not given them a cold climate, the stench would have been overwhelming, driving away the birds and withering the vegetation. For real cleanliness means nothing to them... "
"Kuwait, unfortunately, is no different from many places in the West who deal with xenophobia, except Westerners call them neo-Nazis, and we call them religious extremists."
"…We can perhaps turn to a Friday sermon made by a Palestinian sheikh, whereby he claims, 'With the establishment of the State of Israel, the entire Islamic nation was lost, because Israel is like cancer that spreads through the body of the Islamic nation. This is because the Jews are viruses that spread like AIDS, which the entire world suffers from.' This is only an excerpt of the sort of rhetoric that is not unfamiliar in our part of the world, and is a rhetoric that only proves our inherent weakness and lack of self-esteem."
"When we place our very own miseries in the hands of others... we put our problems in the hand of foreigners because as such we can allow ourselves to do nothing about it for whatever reason we wish to ascribe to such act."
"We need to reform our respective countries; we need to stop externalizing our troubles, and to take a deeper look at our malaises, noting that we will not be able to fix them in a year or two.
"If we start a process of self-examination, in the near future, we would be able to start bringing forward solutions…"
What is MEMRI:
"The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) 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, Urdu-Pashtu media, as well as original analysis of political, ideological, intellectual, social, cultural, and religious trends in the Middle East.
Founded in February 1998 to inform the debate over U.S. policy in the Middle East, MEMRI is an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit, 501 (c)3 organization. MEMRI's headquarters is located in Washington, DC with branch offices in London, Tokyo, Rome, Baghdad, Shanghai, and Jerusalem. MEMRI research is translated to English, German, Hebrew, Italian, French, Spanish, Russian, Chinese, and Japanese."
A few Leftist activists try to paint MEMRi as a Zionist neo-con instrument, or worse, by their own standards. For example, Juan Cole, the apologist for Ahmadinejad's threats to wipe Israel off the map of the world (never happened, according to Cole). Here is how he portrays MEMRI;
* I continue to maintain that MEMRI is selective and biased against the Arab press, and that it highlights pieces that cast Arabs, especially committed Muslims, in a negative light. That it also rewards secular Arabs for being secularists is entirely beside the point (and this is the function of the "reform" site). On more than one occasion I have seen, say, a bigoted Arabic article translated by MEMRI and when I went to the source on the Web, found that it was on the same op-ed page with other, moderate articles arguing for tolerance. These latter were not translated.
* I did not allege that MEMRI or Col. Carmon are "affiliated" with the Likud Party. What I said was that MEMRI functions as a PR campaign for Likud Party goals. Col. 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.
Blogger Unplugged Mike asks here:
MEMRI is not "in the business of providing the Arab world with good public relations, which monarchical ambassadors with good English who school at Georgetown and Harvard, along with European leaders like Jacques Chirac and Western Arabist professors like Mr. Cole who dominate Middle Eastern studies in the US and Europe, are quite adept at doing. They do indeed spend time translating what people like Mr. Cole do not, the daily barrage of antisemitic filth that appears in the Arab presses. Mr. Cole seems to believe that this practice is unjustified because it does not include the moderate voices, but he fails to ask the obvious question, which is: Why aren't any of the pro-Arab organizations and academics he is constantly boosting doing what MEMRI is doing in addition to providing their take on the Arab world? Why are accusations of rampant antisemitism in the Arab world met with accusations toward Israel first rather than condemnation first?
And why isn't Mr. Cole thankful that MEMRI provides progressive Arab voices from the Arab media to an extent that few others do?"
It is heartening to read that Arab journalists and intellectuals, as manifested in the MEMRI excerpts above, are beginning to show greater awareness, courage and self-agency in facing squarely the ills of their own societies. They seem to have outgrown the infantile inclination of their societies to place the blame for all of their own problems on everybody but their own choices. They have reached an intellectual maturity which asserts that to discuss their shortcomings openly is the best way of beginning to drain the venomous puss of backwardness and irrationality. In order to face up to these paralyzing doctrines, apparently some people need first to learn how to be embarrassed about them. Cultures that are more concerned with keeping up appearances rather than deal with substance are doomed to continued darkness and ignorance.
"Civilization is not self-supporting. It is artificial. If you are not prepared to concern yourself with the upholding of civilization -- you are done." (Ortega y Gasset)
Saturday, September 20, 2008
With MEMRI around, keeping up appearances is no longer viable