Amid the plethora of news reports and analyses on the Muslim world, the Middle East Media Research Institute (Memri) stands out as a key resource for grasping what the Arab man-in-the-street is absorbing from newspapers, radio, TV, mosque sermons and books.
The Memri website — www.memri.org — posts video clips and interviews daily from the Arab media, translated into English and 10 other languages.
Occasionally, Memri cheers its Western viewers with pronouncements by people who speak out against their countries’ corruption, oppression of women and the corrosive conviction that none of the ills afflicting Arab societies are in any way the fault of their own leaders and people.
Mostly, however, the voices we hear are those of anti-Jewish and anti-Israel ideologues, whose outlandish conspiracy theories rival those of the inventors of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.
Those wild fantasies are not uttered by provincial imams addressing illiterate peasants, but by supposed intellectual elites. Memri has featured four such probing minds recently.
The stand-out example of the recent crop was Syrian-French writer Adnan Azzam who, not surprisingly, attributed the war in Syria to a Zionist plot.
But, embarking on a more original path, Azzam revealed that Zionist interference in global affairs goes back to the 18th century, when “they changed the course of the French Revolution, and beheaded the King of France within 24 hours, without trial”.
Not satisfied with that bloody regicide, “The Zionists took Napoleon, the young boy from Corsica, and said to him… We will give Corsica back to Italy and Corsica will be independent again… They showered him with money and sent him to Egypt.”
That was a hard act to follow, but Sheikh Bassam Al-Kayed, head of the Islamic Scholars Association in Lebanon, gave it a try.
The sheikh assured his TV audience that the Jews were behind just about every civil strife in the world and, when the interviewer asked whether such plotting was continuing today, Al-Kayed quickly enlightened him.
“Don’t you know what’s going on in Burma?” the sheikh asked. “The Buddhists are trained by the Jews to do what they are doing [to the Muslims].”
Meanwhile, Ahmad Sabi, media adviser to the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, revealed that under the 1979 Camp David Peace Accords, “carcinogenic pesticides were imported from the Zionist entity… and Egypt now suffers from endemic diseases.”
After these presentations on Jewish chicanery past and present, Gamal Zabran, head of the political science department at Port Said University, looked to the triumphant future.
He assured his listeners that “the elimination of the Zionist entity is beyond debate, and the only question has to do with the circumstances”.
When the interviewer had the temerity to ask why the Arab regimes did not act on their endlessly repeated promise to “liberate Jerusalem”, Zabran quickly updated the timeline by predicting that “By next year, Allah willing, Israel will be annihilated.”