Middle East Forum
|Motto||Promoting American Interests|
|Type||Foreign Policy Think Tank|
The Middle East Forum (MEF) is a American conservative think tank founded in 1990 by Daniel Pipes, who serves as its president. MEF became an independent non-profit organization in 1994. It publishes a journal, the Middle East Quarterly.
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.
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. The Legal Project aided Geert Wilders' legal defense when he faced a criminal indictment for his views in 2009.
The Middle East Forum promotes American interests in the Middle East and protects Western values from Middle Eastern threats.
The Forum sees the region — with its profusion of dictatorships, radical ideologies, existential conflicts, border disagreements, corruption, political violence, and weapons of mass destruction — as a major source of problems for the United States. Accordingly, we urge bold measures to protect Americans and their allies.At home, the Forum emphasizes the danger of lawful Islamism; protects the freedoms of anti-Islamist authors, activists, and publishers; and works to improve Middle East studies.
In the Middle East, we focus on ways to defeat radical Islam; work for Palestinian acceptance of Israel; develop strategies to contain Iran; and deal with the great advances of anarchy.
Publications and projects
Middle East Quarterly
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. 
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."
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." Winfield Myers is the current director of Campus Watch (2007).
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. Subsequently, Campus Watch removed the list from its website.
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.
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."
In 2012, Marc Fink became the director of Islamist Watch.
The Legal Project
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.
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."
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." 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.
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.
- Bradley Foundation - A financial sponsor of the Middle East Forum
- Scrutiny Increases for a Group Advocating for Muslims in U.S.
- "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.
- Daniel Pipes, "The MEF Mission", danielpipes.org (personal organization website of Daniel Pipes), n.d., accessed February 17, 2007.
- "About the Middle East Forum", n.d., accessed February 17, 2007.
- Middle East Quarterly. Publication website hosted by its sponsoring organization, Middle East Forum, accessed February 19, 2007.
- Qtd. from "Mission Statement," in "About Campus Watch", Campus Watch (campus-watch.org), n.d., accessed February 17, 2007.
- "Who's Who at Campus Watch", Middle East Forum (meforum.org), n.d., accessed February 17, 2007.
- Tanya Schevitz, "Professors Want Own Names Put on Mideast Blacklist", San Francisco Chronicle September 28, 2002, accessed February 17, 2007.
- Tanya Schevitz, "'Dossiers' Dropped from Web Blacklist", San Francisco Chronicle October 3, 2002, accessed February 17, 2007.
- Hussam Ayloush, "Column a Slur on Muslim Community", Orange County Register December 1, 2002, accessed February 17, 2007.
- "Islamist Watch" (information page), Middle East Forum, n.d., accessed February 17, 2007.
- Michelle Goldberg, "Mau-mauing the Middle East," Salon (30 September 2002).
- Middle East Forum staff page, accessed August 28, 2009.
- Joel Beinin, HNN.us, Who's watching the watchers? History News Network, September 30, 2002
- Goldberg, Michelle. "Mau-mauing the Middle East". Salon.com September 30, 2002. Accessed February 16, 2007.
- Rubin, Barry, and Judith Colp. Hating America: A History. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004. ISBN 0-19-516773-2.