I just checked my campus mail and found a letter in it from Colonel Yigal
Carmon, late of Israeli military intelligence, now an official at the
Middle East Media Research Organization, or MEMRI. He threatened me with a
lawsuit over blog comments I made at Informed Comment. This technique of
the SLAPP, or Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation, has already
been pioneered by polluting industries against environmental activists, and
now the pro-Likud lobby in the U.S. has apparently decided to try it out
against people like me.

I urge 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.

Here is the letter:

November 8, 2004

Professor Juan Cole
University of Michigan History Department
1029 Tisch Hall
435 S. State Street
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1003

Dear Professor Cole,

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. While we respect
your right to argue the veracity of our translations, you certainly may not
fabricate information about our organization. You make several claims that
are patently false:

Trying to paint MEMRI in a conspiratorial manner by portraying us as a
rich, sinister group, 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.
It is especially disappointing that these charges do not come from an
overzealous journalist, but from a member of the academic community, from
whom one should be able to expect at least the minimum amount of research
and corroboration.

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…


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