MEMRI receives $200,000 grant from US State Department

Group to use funds “to conduct a project that documents anti-Semitism, Holocaust denial and Holocaust glorification in the Middle East."

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August 16, 2011 02:53
3 minute read.
MEMRI logo

MEMRI logo311. (photo credit: Courtesy)

The US State Department’s Office of International Religious Freedom in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor has announced a $200,000 grant to the Middle East Media Research Institute.

According to a statement issued by the office of Hannah Rosenthal, the State Department’s Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism, the funds will be used “to conduct a project that documents anti-Semitism, Holocaust denial and Holocaust glorification in the Middle East.

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“This grant will enable MEMRI to expand its efforts to monitor the media, translate materials into ten languages, analyze trends in anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial and glorification, and increase distribution of materials through its website and other outlets.”

Rosenthal, who was named President Obama’s anti-Semitism czar in 2009, is responsible for combating and monitoring US-based and global anti-Semitism.

Her office’s work falls under the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor in the US State Department.

The decision to award MEMRI the grant received widespread praise from European and American Middle East experts. The British-born political commentator Tom Gross told The Jerusalem Post on Monday that “this is not just financially important for MEMRI but it is of enormous symbolic significance in determining what kind of Middle East the rest of the world is hoping for in the wake of the Arab spring.”

“Anti-Semitism is not just an issue for Jews. Its absence is a litmus test for the well-being of a society, and on that count many Arab societies fail miserably,” said Gross.

“The Americans are to be applauded, but it would be even more important if European governments followed suit, given how much funding from Europe to the Middle East over the years, particularly to the Palestinians, has found its way to media outlets and educational organizations that have spread virulent anti-Semitism and incitement to kill Jews,” added Gross, who has written extensively about modern anti-Semitism for the international media.

Noah Pollak, executive director of the Washington-based Emergency Committee for Israel, told the Post on Monday, “It is welcome news that the State Department is choosing to confront, rather than smooth over, anti-Semitism in the Arab world. Hopefully State will soon turn its attention to a similar form of anti-Semitism that is just as prevalent as Holocaust denial: the denial of Jewish history in Israel.

“This form of denial not only attacks Jews and Judaism, but stands in the way of peace by claiming that the ancient Jewish State is a fabrication concocted to justify the modern Jewish State.”

The US State Department noted that “through translations and research, MEMRI aims to inform and educate journalists, government leaders, academia, and the general public about trends in anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial in the Middle East and South Asia, thus generating awareness and response to these issues. MEMRI is a non-governmental organization based in Washington, DC, whose research is translated into ten languages: English, French, Spanish, German, Italian, Polish, Russian, Chinese, Japanese and Hebrew.”

Writing on his blog on the website of the Council of Foreign Relations, where he is a senior fellow for Middle Eastern Studies, Elliott Abrams said: “Hats off to the Department and especially to the Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism, Hannah Rosenthal.

I must acknowledge a special interest here: I sit on MEMRI’s board, and am a member of the US Holocaust Memorial Council.”

Abrams, a former senior director for democracy and human rights, senior director for the Near East, and deputy national security adviser handling Middle East affairs in the George W.

Bush administration, added “it is noteworthy that the grant, by referring to Holocaust denial, clarifies that this is a form of anti-Semitism. These topics are extremely sensitive, dealing as they do with Muslim anti-Semitism, and this helps explain why the US Government has sometimes shied away from confronting the phenomenon.

For this reason as well, the new grant announced by Ms. Rosenthal deserves notice and commendation.”

According to MEMRI’s website, the organization was launched “in February 1998 to inform the debate over US policy in the Middle East” and “is an independent, nonpartisan” NGO with a staff of “over 80 employees worldwide.”


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