Yigal Carmon (Hebrew יגאל כרמון) (born 1946) is the president and founder of the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), an organization which monitors and translates Arabic and Persian publications, radio and TV broadcasts and religious sermons into many languages and circulates them over the Internet.
- Colonel, IDF Intelligence from 1968–88
- Acting head and adviser on Arab affairs, Civil Administration in Judea and Samaria, 1977–1982
- Counterterrorism adviser to prime ministers Yitzhak Shamir and Yitzhak Rabin 1988-93
- Delegate, Israeli peace negotiations with Syria in Madrid and Washington in 1991-92
- Founder and President, MEMRI, 1998–present
On reporting "difficult realities"
According to Ruthie Blum, writing in the Jerusalem Post, Carmon and MEMRI's translations of material appearing in the Arabic and Persian media, "have been received with a combination of angst and ambivalence on the part of the press and politicians who don't like what they're seeing."
Carmon relates that his experience of portraying difficult realities in the Arab-Muslim world: "In 1994-5, before MEMRI was formally established, I taped TV broadcasts of [ Palestinian Authority chairman] Arafat calling for jihad. The reaction to that tape was: 'Kill the messenger'...And I protested by saying, 'But it's not me [calling for jihad]; it's him [Arafat].' To which they replied, 'That doesn't matter.'. Then one day, I asked a very senior journalist with whom I was friendly, 'Why are you criticizing our work? We're merely revealing the truth.' His reply is one I'll never forget: 'There is no such thing as truth,' he said. 'Every news item must be judged by the question of whom it serves. And you are serving the enemies of peace.' Horrified, I retorted, "And you're the one who's considered the reliable journalist, while I'm seen as biased?' So he said, 'If you want to play naive, do it with someone else, not with me. You know I'm right.' 'No,' I said. 'I do not know that you're right. There is such a thing as truth, and it is impartial'
On the use of the word "Jihad"
"Many words begin with a certain meaning and develop into other meanings and connotations over the years. The original meaning of 'jihad' in the Koran and in early Muslim history was 'holy war by sword.'. Over time, this concept evolved, so that, in the Hadith...one can find the word 'jihad' in different connotations. For example, the Prophet Muhammad is quoted as saying, 'We have returned from the little jihad [the actual war], and now we are heading toward the big jihad [the struggle against the evil within each of us, not the external war with our enemies]'...I participated in a conference organized by the Spanish government to commemorating the 11 March 2004 Madrid train bombings...following a comment by a Muslim participant that we shouldn't mention jihad in connection with the terrorist attacks - because jihad is something that Muslims respect - I got up and responded as follows: 'I'd like to relate to this comment not as an academic, but as a Jew....We Jews have in our Bible the edict of 'an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.' But our sages - many centuries ago - replaced this principle with the principle of compensation. God, of course, knows the word 'compensation.' If he had wanted to say that, he would have said it. But he chose the explicit command of 'an eye for an eye.' Our sages decided that this was no longer acceptable, and dropped it. The same is true of the Christians with regard to the Inquisition: First they believed that it was God's will, but later dropped it. It's only because we've already been through this that I take the liberty of suggesting to you Muslims that you, too, drop the edict of jihad, which isn't even one of the five pillars of Islam. It doesn't suit the humanistic principles of the 21st century.'
On the English version of Al-Jazeera TV
"If they copy the Arabic version...into English, then they will be committing suicide. Because the whole world will see what role Al Jazeera is playing in making the Muslim world extreme....[On the other hand, if the two channels were to take different stances on global issues, the organization would be] 'speak[ing] from two sides of its mouth'.
Journalist Brian Whitaker has accused Carmon of presenting false testimony to Congress when he allegedly misrepresented a Gallup poll. Responding to his charge of having an agenda, Carmon wrote "You are right: we do have an agenda. As an institute of research, we want MEMRI to present translations to people who wish to be informed on the ideas circulating in the Middle East. We aim to reflect reality. If knowledge of this reality should benefit one side or another, then so be it."
Regarding Whitaker's criticism of Carmon's "political background", Carmon responded that:
"You continually refer to my supposed "political background" as if I had something to hide, and I wonder if I am your real target here. As a civil servant and adviser on counter-terrorism to both Yitzhak Shamir and Yitzhak Rabin, prime ministers from opposing camps, my role was not a political appointment. If your complaint is that I am Israeli, then please say so."
Carmon also questioned Whitaker's own biases, stating that:
I note your website is "Al-Bab", ("The Gateway" in Arabic). Would I be justified in concluding that you are not, in fact, completely neutral about the Middle East, even though you are Middle East editor of a national newspaper? I wonder how you would judge an editor whose website was called "Ha-Sha-ar" ("The Gateway" in Hebrew)?
- "Facts are bipartisan"
- "Whatever the agenda, the research has to be scientific. If it isn't - if we were trying to prove that some phenomenon existed when it didn't, or vice versa - it wouldn't be an agenda, it would be bias"
- "Public declarations made by Arafat and his associates contradicted the spirit of the Oslo accords and reflected their genuine intentions"
- "There is an unholy alliance between the Left and the Right, who say that Arabs have a different culture which cannot and should not be changed. Such a position, of course, is complete nonsense and utterly immoral. Arabs are human beings like we are, and they deserve everything we enjoy."
- "The Palestinians...continue to educate their children to jihad by the sword, while telling their critics that jihad has many meanings."
- A Pessimist's View of the Peace Process
- Osama vs. Bush on Osama bin Laden and the 2004 US Election
- Madrid Bluff? March 11, 2004 Madrid bombings NOT al Qaeda