Middle East Forum

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Middle East Forum
Meflogo.gif
Abbreviation MEF
Motto Promoting American Interests
Formation 1990
Type Foreign Policy Think Tank
Location Philadelphia
President Daniel Pipes
Website meforum.org

The Middle East Forum (MEF) is a American conservative[1] think tank founded in 1990 by Daniel Pipes, who serves as its president.[2] MEF became an independent non-profit organization in 1994. It publishes a journal, the Middle East Quarterly.

The MEF describes its aims as "[to] promote American interests in the Middle East and protect the Constitutional order from Middle Eastern threats."

The MEF sees the Middle East — with its "profusion of dictatorships, radical ideologies, existential conflicts, exportation of extremism, border disagreements, political violence, and weapons of mass destruction" — as a source of problems for the United States.[3]

According to the MEF, "U.S. interests in the Middle East include fighting radical Islam; working for Palestinian acceptance of Israel; robustly asserting U.S. interests vis-à-vis Saudi Arabia; and developing strategies to deal with Iraq and contain Iran; and monitoring the advance of Islamism in Turkey".

The Forum's actions include combatting lawful Islamism, protecting the freedom of public speech of anti-Islamist authors, activists, and publishers,and working to improve Middle East studies in North America.

Based on a belief that the United States has vital interests in the region of the Middle East, according to the organization, they advocate strong ties with Israel and other democracies as they emerge; work for human rights throughout the region; seek a stable supply and a low price of oil; and promote the peaceful settlement of regional and international disputes.[4]

The Middle East Forum, a 501(c)3, has established the Legal Project to protect researchers and analysts who work on the topics of Islam and related topics from lawsuits designed to silence their exercise of free speech and to discuss key issues of public concern.[5] The Legal Project aided Geert Wilders' legal defense when he faced a criminal indictment for his views in 2009.[6]

Mission statement[edit]

The mission of the Middle East Forum is defined in "About the Middle East Forum" on the organization's website as follows:[3][4]

The Middle East Forum, a think tank, seeks to define and promote American interests in the Middle East. It defines U.S. interests to include fighting radical Islam, whether terroristic or lawful; working for Palestinian acceptance of Israel; improving the management of U.S. democracy efforts; reducing energy dependence on the Middle East; more robustly asserting U.S. interests vis-à-vis Saudi Arabia; and countering the Iranian threat. The Forum also works to improve Middle East studies in North America.

MEF sees the region, with its profusion of dictatorships, radical ideologies, existential conflicts, border disagreements, political violence, and weapons of mass destruction as a major source of problems for the United States. Accordingly, it urges active measures to protect Americans and their allies.

Toward this end, the Forum seeks to help shape the intellectual climate in which U.S. foreign policy is made by addressing key issues in a timely and accessible way for a sophisticated public.

Publications and projects[edit]

Middle East Quarterly[edit]

The Middle East Quarterly (MEQ) is a quarterly journal devoted to Middle Eastern affairs. It was founded in 1994 by Daniel Pipes and the current editor is Efraim Karsh, Research Professor and former Director of Middle East and Mediterranean Studies at King's College London. [3]

According to Middle East Quarterly's website, "policy-makers, opinion-makers, academics, and journalists" consult MEQ "for in-depth analysis of the rapidly-changing landscape of the world's most volatile region." The journal also seeks to publish "groundbreaking studies, exclusive interviews, insightful commentary, and hard-hitting reviews that tackle the entire range of contemporary concerns – from politics to economics to culture, across a region that stretches from Morocco to Afghanistan."[7]

Middle east quarterly.jpg

Campus Watch[edit]

In 2002, the Middle East Forum initiated the Campus Watch program and identified what it finds to be the five major problems in the teaching of Middle Eastern studies at American universities: "analytical failures, the mixing of politics with scholarship, intolerance of alternative views, apologetics, and the abuse of power over students."[8] Winfield Myers is the current director of Campus Watch (2007).[9]

Initially, Campus Watch published a list of problematic instructors, which led some professors to accuse Campus Watch of "McCarthyesque" intimidation; in protest, more than 100 other academics asked to be listed too.[10] Subsequently, Campus Watch removed the list from its website.[11][12]

Islamist Watch[edit]

On April 21, 2006, the Middle East Forum launched Islamist Watch, a project that Islamist Watch states it "combat[s] the ideas and institutions of nonviolent, radical Islam in the United States and other Western countries. It exposes the far-reaching goals of Islamists, works to reduce their power, and seeks to strengthen moderate Muslims." Islamist Watch seeks to educate the government, media, religious institutions, the academy, and the business world about lawful Islamism. It focuses on the political, educational, cultural, and legal activities of Islamists in the United States and, to a lesser degree, in other historically non-Muslim countries, especially Western Europe, Canada, and Australia.[13]

According to the organization's website, Islamist Watch does not focus on counter terrorism and only indirectly concerns Islamism in Muslim-majority countries such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan, and its three main "activities" include "research, advocacy, and activism."[13]

In 2012, Marc Fink became the director of Islamist Watch.

The Legal Project[edit]

The Middle East Forum established the Legal Project in June, 2007, to protect researchers, analysts, and activists who work on radical Islam and related topics from predatory lawsuits designed to silence their exercise of free speech.[14]

According to the Legal Project's website, it acts in four ways to counteract Islamist threats to free speech, "Fundraising for an Escrow account to supplement the court costs and litigation fees for victims of Islamist lawfare (all funds raised go directly to lawfare victims); Arranging for pro bono and reduced rate counsel for victims of Islamist lawfare; Maintaining an international network of attorneys dedicated to working pro bono in the defense of free speech; and, Raising awareness about the issue. Efforts include briefings by legal experts on how to avoid libelous statements, and consultations with libel lawyers before publishing on certain topics."[14]

Criticism[edit]

In 2002 Juan Cole, a professor of Middle Eastern history at the University of Michigan, criticized MEF in Salon magazine, writing that "The Middle East Forum is not really a forum. Somebody rich in the community has set Pipes up with a couple of offices and a fax machine and calls him a director." Salon noted that "aside from Pipes, the Middle East Forum has a single researcher, whose job, according to the Web site, extends into fundraising."[15] But in 2002, MEF had a staff of 10. As of 2009, it had over 20 staff members, the majority of them engaged in research or activism.[16]

Professor Joel Beinin, professor of Middle East History at Stanford University and a former President of the Middle East Studies Association (MESA) of North America, who is named on the Campus Watch website, offered this criticism:

Another effort to police dissent is focused on those who teach Middle East studies on college campuses. Middle East Forum, a think tank run by Daniel Pipes and supportive of the Israeli right wing, has established a Campus Watch website. ... Campus Watch notes that:

"Middle East studies in the United States has become the preserve of Middle Eastern Arabs, who have brought their views with them. Membership in the Middle East Studies Association (MESA), the main scholarly association, is now 50 percent of Middle Eastern origin."

Some Americans have foolishly believed that all U.S. citizens have equal rights regardless of their country of origin and that pointing to peoples' country of origin to discredit them is a form of racism. This too, is outmoded thinking according to Campus Watch.[17]

One recent project of Pipes and his Middle East Forum is Campus-Watch, a website designed to police dissent on university campuses. Campus- Watch’s original statement of purpose, which was subsequently removed from the website due to criticism of its character, was to "monitor and gather information on professors who fan the flames of disinformation, incitement, and ignorance." Campus-Watch alleged that Middle East scholars "seem generally to dislike their own country and think even less of American allies abroad. The reason was that "Middle East studies in the US have become the preserve of Middle Eastern Arabs, who have brought their views with them".[18]

Response[edit]

Various writers associated with the Middle East Forum have in turn criticized Cole[19] and Beinin.[20] Martin Kramer critiques Joel Beinin and his appointment to MESA as:

the avatar of the "new left" insurgency that swept through Middle Eastern studies in the 1980s. As a member of a Zionist-socialist youth movement, he had gone to live on a kibbutz in Israel. Hell hath no fury like a socialist scorned: the experience turned him into a fervent anti-Zionist and critic of Israel. When he is not lecturing, writing, and demonstrating on behalf of Palestine, he is railing against the "perils of a neoliberal, repressive ‘pax Americana'." "I'd encourage students to get involved in all political issues," he told The Stanford Daily during the 1998 U.S.-Iraq confrontation, "because the political system in the United States is corrupt."

Beinin is entitled to his radical views. What is telling is that the membership of MESA, that supposed reservoir of collective wisdom about the Middle East, should have chosen him as president. MESA presidents don't do a great deal—the job only lasts one year—but the choice says a lot about the state of academic consensus. And what Beinin's elevation says is quite simply this: never has the Middle Eastern studies guild been more opposed to American values, U.S. policy, and U.S. influence in the Middle East.

It's worth remembering this in the fall of 2002, when MESA next convenes in Washington, and its boosters again assert that academic Middle Eastern studies are in "the nation's interest." This questionable claim, invoked to justify continuing federal subsidies under Title VI, deserves closer scrutiny than ever before. This is the task of Congress.

[21]

while Alexander H. Joffe criticizes the works of Juan Cole, in particular his assertion Israel benefitted from 9/11:

Cole: our press and politicians do us an enormous disservice by not putting the Israeli announcement about the Jerusalem barrier on the front page. This sort of action is a big part of what is driving the terrorists (and, of course, Sharon himself is a sort of state-backed terrorist, anyway). The newspapers and television news departments should be telling us when we are about to be in the cross-fire between the aggressive, expansionist, proto-fascist Likud coalition and the paranoid, murderous, violent Al-Qaeda and its offshoots.—July 11, 2005

MEQ: The separation fence has reduced terrorism 75 percent. Saudi Arabia, India, Morocco, Turkey and even the United Nations in Cyprus built similar barriers before Israel, in each case reducing terrorism or, in the latter case, communal violence.

Cole: According to the September 11 Commission report, Al-Qaeda conceived 9/11 in some large part as a punishment on the U.S. for supporting Ariel Sharon's iron fist policies toward the Palestinians. Bin Laden had wanted to move the operation up in response to Sharon's threatening visit to the Temple Mount, and again in response to the Israeli attack on the Jenin refugee camp, which left 4,000 persons homeless. Khalid Shaikh Muhammad argued in each case that the operation just was not ready.—July 8, 2005

MEQ: Martin Kramer points out that the 9-11 Commission determined the hijacking plan was conceived by early 1999, that Sharon's visit to the Temple Mount took place in September 2000 when he was head of the opposition, and that the Jenin operation took place in April 2002, seven months after 9/11. After these factual problems were pointed out, Cole surreptitiously changed his original posting.

Cole: It is obvious to me that what September 11 really represented was a dragooning of the United States into internal Middle East political conflicts. Israel's aggressive policies in the West Bank and Gaza have poisoned the political atmosphere in the Middle East (and increasingly in the Muslim world) for the United States. It is ridiculous to suggest that radical Islamists don't care about the Palestine issue.—September 9, 2004

MEQ: Cole ignores events such as the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, the attacks on U.S. embassies in East Africa in 1998, and on the USS Cole in 2000, all of which took place during periods of seeming progress in Israeli-Palestinian relations. [22]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Scrutiny Increases for a Group Advocating for Muslims in U.S.
  2. ^ "Middle East Forum" listed in "Search Results" and "Resource Library" on the website of the Foreign Policy Association; cf. organization website for Meforum.org, Middle East Forum, one of DanielPipes.org", "Daniel Pipes's websites" (incl. its "Mission" statement), all accessed February 24, 2007.
  3. ^ a b "About the Middle East Forum", accessed May 10, 2010.
  4. ^ a b Daniel Pipes, "The MEF Mission", danielpipes.org (personal organization website of Daniel Pipes), n.d., accessed February 17, 2007.
  5. ^ Meforum.org
  6. ^ CanadaFreePress.com
  7. ^ Middle East Quarterly. Publication website hosted by its sponsoring organization, Middle East Forum, accessed February 19, 2007.
  8. ^ Qtd. from "Mission Statement," in "About Campus Watch", Campus Watch (campus-watch.org), n.d., accessed February 17, 2007.
  9. ^ "Who's Who at Campus Watch", Middle East Forum (meforum.org), n.d., accessed February 17, 2007.
  10. ^ Tanya Schevitz, "Professors Want Own Names Put on Mideast Blacklist", San Francisco Chronicle September 28, 2002, accessed February 17, 2007.
  11. ^ Tanya Schevitz, "'Dossiers' Dropped from Web Blacklist", San Francisco Chronicle October 3, 2002, accessed February 17, 2007.
  12. ^ Hussam Ayloush, "Column a Slur on Muslim Community", Orange County Register December 1, 2002, accessed February 17, 2007.
  13. ^ a b "Islamist Watch" (information page), Middle East Forum, n.d., accessed February 17, 2007.
  14. ^ Michelle Goldberg, "Mau-mauing the Middle East," Salon (30 September 2002).
  15. ^ Middle East Forum staff page, accessed August 28, 2009.
  16. ^ Joel Beinin, HNN.us, Who's watching the watchers? History News Network, September 30, 2002
  17. ^ "US: the pro-Sharon thinktank." Le Monde diplomatique .
  18. ^ [1]
  19. ^ [2]
  20. ^ Kramer, Martin (Winter 2002). "Professors of Palestine". Middle East Forum. Middle East Quarterly. Retrieved 2010-11-04. 
  21. ^ Joffe, Alexander H. (Winter 2006, p. 66-72). "Juan Cole and the Decline of the Middle East Studies". Middle East Forum. Middle East Quarterly. Retrieved 2010-11-04. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]