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American Mainstream Media Amplifies Israeli Propaganda Voices like MEMRI, Stalinsky, and Friedman in a Time of Genocide

Dearborn, Michigan, the city that’s home to the largest Muslim population and mosque in the U.S.— and the center of Arab American culture — has been the subject of many “bigoted,” “Islamophobic,” and “inflammatory” pieces published in some of the nation’s most highly recognized news outlets over the years. 

In a time of worldwide protests for a ceasefire in Gaza and for the freedom of Palestine, these discriminatory and hateful pieces about Dearborn and the Middle East seem to be on the rise in connection to Israel’s propaganda and ongoing genocide in Gaza. 

On February 2, 2024, the Wall Street Journal published an opinion piece called “Welcome to Dearborn, America’s Jihad Capital” by Steven Stalinsky, the executive director of the pro-Israel Middle East Media and Research Institute (MEMRI) since 1999. On the same day, the New York Times published a piece titled “Understanding the Middle East Through the Animal Kingdom” by Thomas Friedman, the NYT foreign affairs columnist since 1995.

Stalinsky’s Islamophobic op-ed about Dearborn led to an increased security presence at places of worship and major infrastructure points, and an alarming rise in hateful rhetoric targeting and endangering the city forcing President Biden, Michigan elected officials, and Arab American community leaders to condemn the article. 

A few days after an International Al-Quds Day protest held on April 5 in Dearborn by Al-Quds Committee Detroit to oppose Israel’s Zionist settler colonial occupation of Palestine, the city made headlines once again after MEMRI published a “controversial” clip on its page and sent it to mainstream media outlets. In the video, local activist Tarek Bazzi was speaking to the crowd when a man started chanting “Death to America.” A handful of people repeated after him. 

Event organizers released a disclaimer stating they are not liable, responsible, or connected to any actions, opinions, or chants by attendees. Community leaders and local scholars denounced that chant as wrongful due to its potential to be taken out of context, further clarifying such slogans have nothing to do with the American people, and everything to do with American policies enabling genocide.

On April 12, Abdul Bari, the man who started the chant, spoke to CBS Detroit, clarifying that he isn’t affiliated with the organizers and that he takes full responsibility. He added that the slogan was taken out of context, stating:

It’s an ideological viewpoint that we’re against American imperialism. We’re against the capitalist system. We’re against any system that perpetrates genocide, invasions, occupations, that exploits the people in its own country in horrible ways.”

Even after clarifying his stance, five Michigan House Republican lawmakers called on Attorney General Merrick Garland to investigate the Al-Quds Day rally, according to an April 15, 2024 press release

We are writing to call for you to investigate the recent rallies held across the US, where participants chanted ‘Death to America,’ ‘Death to Israel,’ and advocated for violence against the United States and its allies,” they told Garland. “These anti-American and anti-Semitic calls for inciting violence are not protected speech and pose a serious threat to public safety and the American values of freedom and democracy.” 

TMJ News decided to investigate the history of and scholarly criticism against MEMRI, Stalinsky, and Friedman, and the reason for mainstream media’s hyperfocus on Arabs and Muslims in a time of genocide.

History and Criticism of MEMRI, Stalinsky, and Friedman 

MEMRI, an American non-profit press monitoring and analysis organization, was co-founded by Israeli ex-intelligence officer Yigal Carmon and Israeli American political scientist Meyrav Wurmser in 1998. The controversial organization translates copies of media from Arabic, Persian, Urdu-Pashtu, and Turkish into English, and sends reports to politicians, journalists, academics, and other parties. 

Its translated posts have been regularly cited in mainstream media outlets in the U.S., including the New York Times, Fox News, Los Angeles Times, and the Washington Post.

In his article that is more than 21 years old, journalist Brian Whitaker, who worked for The Guardian from 1987 and was its Middle East editor from 2000 to 2007, investigated “whether the ‘independent’ media institute that translates the Arabic newspapers is quite what it seems.”

My problem with MEMRI is that it poses as a research institute when it’s basically a propaganda operation,” he said. “As with all propaganda, that involves a certain amount of dishonesty and deception. The items you translate are chosen largely to suit your political agenda. They are unrepresentative and give an unfair picture of the Arab media as a whole.”

MEMRI’s story selections for translation made Whitaker uneasy because they always either show the character of Arabs in a negative light or “further the political agenda of Israel.”

He also shared that its work is “subsidized by US taxpayers because as an ‘independent, non-partisan, non-profit’ organization, it has tax-deductible status under American law.”

In 2011, MEMRI received a $200,000 grant from the US State Department’s Office of International Religious Freedom. 

According to Professor Norman G. Finkelstein, an American political scientist and Israel-Palestine scholar, MEMRI uses the Nazis’ propaganda techniques by taking things out of context to do personal and political harm to people they don’t like.

As shared by the Council on Islamic Relations, the late novelist and scholar Professor Halim Barakat, who taught at the Center for Contemporary Arab Studies at Georgetown University, told InFocus that he published an article in 2002 about Zionism in London’s Al-Hayat Daily, but “MEMRI selectively edited what he wrote.”

I know how to make a distinction between Judaism and Zionism, but they distorted the article,” he said. “They left out certain things and tried to make it look anti-Semitic.”

As for Stalinsky, the executive director of MEMRI, the national media watch group FAIR (Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting), that offers criticism of media bias and censorship since 1986, criticized his opinion piece “Welcome to Dearborn, America’s Jihad Capital,”  as a “vilification of Arab Americans” that holds the same thoughts that resulted in the U.S. forcing Japanese Americans into concentration camps.  

Enlightened society would like to think that times like that have been relegated to the dustbin of history, but the fact that we’re seeing this today in the Journal is proof that scary times are here again,” FAIR stated. 

Additionally, FAIR criticized NYT foreign affairs columnist Friedman for his article, “Understanding the Middle East Through the Animal Kingdom.” It stated that his “comparison of official enemies to vermin is a hallmark of propaganda in defense of genocide,” citing the Genocide Watch list that includes dehumanization as the fourth of ten stages of genocide, which equates victims “with animals, vermin, insects or diseases.” 

Since the start of Israel’s complete siege on Gaza, Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant declared that Israel is fighting “human animals.” The FAIR statement indicates that Friedman’s language was akin to Israel’s in dehumanizing West Asia (Middle East) in his article.

“Dehumanization overcomes the normal human revulsion against murder,” Genocide Watch’s description states. “At this stage, hate propaganda in print, on hate radios, and in social media is used to vilify the victim group.”

Another report by FAIR criticized Friedman’s column on December 1, 2023, which advocated for Israel to stop its mission and negotiate a ceasefire in exchange for a return of the hostages, while managing to “project his habitual Orientalism” and show no empathy for the Palestinians. 

They cited the late Palestinian American academic, political activist, and literary critic, Edward Said, who criticized Friedman in 1989 in a review of his book: From Beirut to Jerusalem: One Man’s Middle Eastern Odyssey. 

In his review, “The Orientalist Express: Thomas Friedman Wraps Up the Middle East,” Said wrote: 

When [Friedman] arrives finally at the vexed problem of press coverage, he warns us that the media are unfair in their relentless fixation on Israel (this from the journalist-author of a 600-page book on the subject), then he compliments the Israelis on manipulating the media brilliantly, then he blathers on about Israeli troops beating up three-year-olds, and how that vigorous form of outdoor exercise provides them with self-knowledge! Friedman seems to have no inkling that people were and have been killed or beaten when he and his media colleagues were not there to report the story, or that such things as imperialism, or demography, or conflicting ideas played a role while he wasn’t around to comment on the case.”

Dearborn, a Threat to U.S. Foreign Policy

After analyzing mainstream media’s blatant allegiance to Zionism and genocide-supporting journalism, a clear picture begins to emerge as to why Dearborn continues to be targeted: it poses a great threat to U.S. foreign policy.  

In his op-ed titled, “I’m the Mayor of Dearborn, Mich., and My City Feels Betrayed,” which was published in the NYT on February 20, 2024, Dearborn Mayor Abdullah Hammoud criticized Biden’s simultaneous call for the Arab American vote and unwavering support for Netanyahu’s bombing of community members’ family members and friends. 

Hammoud highlighted the importance of Arab American voters in Michigan, as they’ve become a “dependable voting bloc for the Democratic Party” over the years and “were part of the wave that delivered for Joe Biden four years ago.”

Hammoud’s op-ed was published a week before the presidential primary election, announcing to the nation ahead of time his “uncommitted” vote.

I am choosing hope,” he said. “The hope that Mr. Biden will listen. The hope that he and those in Democratic leadership will choose the salvation of our democracy over aiding and abetting Mr. Netanyahu’s war crimes.”

Only a few weeks after Biden’s condemnation of Stalinsky’s Islamophobic op-ed and a day before the presidential primary election, the Wall Street Journal published an editorial titled, “Will Dearborn, Mich., Determine U.S. Israel Policy?” with the subtitle, “The pro-Palestinian Democratic left wants to force Biden to stop the war in Gaza against Hamas.”

FAIR criticized the editorial by calling out WSJ’s concern and fear that Arab Americans live among us. “What are they doing to threaten the United States? Voting,” FAIR stated.

The WSJ editorial piece was written in response to Palestinian American Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) calling for Democrats to vote “uncommitted” in the Michigan presidential primary. 

What the financial class’s top paper is saying is that an ethnic voting bloc in Dearborn might ‘claim’ not to be a Fifth Column—but in fact they are at best unwitting stooges, and at worst lying traitors, effectively supporting official enemies of the US government,” FAIR wrote. “(The Journal’s logic would delegitimize virtually all opposition to US violence—since ending such violence would no doubt be welcomed by its ostensible targets, who are by definition enemies.)”

More than 100,000 Michigan voters voted “uncommitted” on February 27, 2024. Biden lost in both Dearborn and Hamtramck, which also has a large Arab and Muslim population.

The number raises concerns for the Democratic Party because Biden won Michigan by only 154,000 votes in 2020. 

Also, FAIR reported that opposition to Biden’s Israel policy surpasses Arab or Muslim Americans, as a recent poll reveals that nearly 74% of Michigan Democrats want a “unilateral ceasefire.”

As Sheikh Usama Abdulghani stated in his Eid al-Fitr sermon at the Hadi Youth Community Center on April 10, 2024, “everybody in America, the majority of people are against this war… they’ve spoken out very loudly.”

The Imam, who was at the Quds Day rally, highlighted the double standard when Muslims protest compared to when non-Muslims do.

They think you Muslims are second-class citizens,” he said. “They think you don’t get to protest.”

On April 15, Tarek Bazzi released a video on Instagram clarifying his stance, condemning MEMRI’s agenda, and the community’s quick response to the incident. 

The Fox News article was sourced from MEMRI run by Steven Stalinsky, the Zionist hypocrite and liar who wrote the very same Wall Street Journal article that labeled Dearborn America’s Jihad Capital,” Bazzi said. “This genocide defending Zionist ended the article by urging counter-terrorism agencies to pay close attention to what’s happening in Dearborn, meaning he clearly has ill intentions for this community and for Arabs and Muslims in general… So again, reject the slogan, but move on and strike back. Don’t just apologize and then bend over backwards to prove to everyone that you’re not an extremist.” 

He affirmed the importance of re-contextualizing the subject matter. 

Refocus the attention to the complete moral bankruptcy of these outlets and individuals, who are up in arms about the slogan ‘Death to America,’ but not about the actual tens of thousands of deaths at the hands of the U.S. Empire and the Zionist regime,” he said.

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