Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, April 2007, pages 17-18
By Richard H. Curtiss
MEMRI co-founder Meyrav Wurmser (The Hudson institute)
MEYRAV WURMSER, den mother of the neoconservatives, is now head of the Center for Middle East Policy at the far-right Hudson Institute in Washington, DC. A typical institute program included a Feb. 5 lecture by the former Israeli ambassador to the United Nations, American-born Dore Gold, who introduced his new book, The Fight for Jerusalem: Radical Islam, the West and the Future. Gold’s previous Arab-bashing book, published in 2004, was Hatred’s Kingdom: How Saudi Arabia Supports the New Global Terrorism, published by Regnery Publishers.
When I last wrote about Dr. Wurmser (April 2003 Washington Report, p. 14), she and her colleague, Col. Yigal Carmon of Israel’s Mossad, had launched the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), a nonprofit, 501(c)(3) organization. Founded in February 1998, MEMRI specializes in translating and distributing articles that present Arabs in a highly negative light, and providing these articles and free Internet advisories to the media in the U.S., Britain and, presumably, to other countries as well.
According to Vincent Cannistraro, a former CIA counterintelligence official, MEMRI is selective and acts as propagandists for a political point of view which follows the extreme right of Likud. “MEMRI follows a familiar pattern,” noted journalist Brian Whitaker. “Either it reflects badly on the character of Arabs or it in some way furthers the political agenda of Israel.”(See November 2002 Washington Report, p. 22.)
In recent years prominent people have quoted MEMRI translations, including, astonishingly, Richard Cohen of The Washington Post. Others, predictably, include Prof. Bernard Lewis of Princeton University; Israel-firster Charles Krauthammer of The Washington Post; Martin Peretz, editor-in-chief of The New Republic; U.S. Rep. Thomas Lantos (D-CA); and former CIA Director James Woolsey.
According to the conservative National Review, 250 foundations and individuals fund MEMRI’S activities. Among these private donors is the right-wing Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, which gave MEMRI $100,000 from 1999 to 2000. In 2001, the Randolph Foundation gave MEMRI $100,000, and in 2004 the John M. Olin Foundation gave $5,000, according to Media Transparency. All these donations were tax-deductible.
Prof. Halim Barakat of Georgetown University complained about MEMRI’s translations of his articles: “Every time I wrote Zionism, MEMRI replaced the word by Jew or Judaism,” he wrote. “They want to give the impression that I’m not criticizing Israeli policy, but that what I’m saying is anti-Semitic.”
Indeed, MEMRI seems bent on stigmatizing anyone who criticizes Israel and/or Zionism as being anti-Jewish.
With the exception of Meyrav Wurmser, who actually is an Israeli, neoconservatives are Americans extraordinarily sympathetic to Israel. Dr. Wurmser studied at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (SAIS). Her Ph.D. thesis was based on the Revisionist/Herut/Likud Party from Ze’ev (Vladimir) Jabotinsky through Menachem Begin to Yitzhak Shamir.
Wurmser has taught political science at Johns Hopkins University and at the United States Naval Academy. She writes articles for such pro-Israel publications as William Kristol’s Weekly Standard and the extremist Middle East Quarterly.
Among the neoconservatives who have prospered—at least until recently—in the George W. Bush administration are Paul Wolfowitz, former Deputy Secretary of Defense, whose obsequiousness toward President Bush was exceeded only by his reputation for craftiness; former Assistant Secretary of Defense in the Reagan administration Richard Perle, who resigned as chair, and later as a member, of the Pentagon’s Defense Policy Board, and who has received large profits as a lobbyist; former Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith; Elliott Abrams, a well-known figure from the Reagan era who was convicted and later pardoned on charges related to the Iran-Contra scandal and now is a central player as deputy national security adviser (see story p. 10); and ideologue Michael Ledeen, who basically believes that violence in the service of the spread of democracy is America’s manifest destiny.
Yet another neocon is Meyrav Wurmser’s husband, David Wurmser, an adviser to Vice President Dick Cheney on Middle East affairs.
Many of the neocons’ dreams now have turned to ashes, leaving a ruined Iraq but not yet having destroyed either Iran or Syria as most of the neocons desire. Strangely, it is Meyrav Wurmser who can’t stop talking about what might have been. In unguarded moments she clearly has no regrets about the havoc she and her fellow travellers have wrought upon the United States and its allies.
Wurmser seemingly pays little attention to non-Jewish neocons such as former Ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton (or their victims). Foremost among them, of course, is Vice President Richard Cheney, who became a willing accomplice of the neocons. Cheney might end up having to resign from the vice presidency, and his former chief of staff, I. Lewis (Scooter) Libby, may end up behind bars if President Bush doesn’t pardon him before the end of his second term. Ex-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld may get off scot-free only because he seemed to be more of a blowhard than a conspirator.
Then there is Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who never became a neocon, but on the other hand never fought enough against them. Former Secretary of State Colin Powell, who refused to be taken in by the neocons, was unceremoniously dumped at the end of Bush’s first term.
Meyrav Wurmser almost seems to look back on the neocons’ glory days as a golden time. After all, the neocons kept the United States busy and distracted from solving the Israeli-Palestinian problem.
According to Israeli writer Yitzhak Benhorin of the Israeli Web site Ynetnews.com, “Despite the fact that many neocons are no longer part of the government, it turns out that they are still one big happy family who make sure to remain in touch.” He continues, “Many are Jews who share a passionate love for Israel. Some of the accusations against the government regarding the war in Iraq is that it was undertaken primarily for Israel’s sake and that the attack on Iraq was actually an Israeli objective.”
In an interview with Ynet, Dr. Wurmser refuted the accusations and criticism. “Since I’m an Israeli in the gang, you wouldn’t believe what’s been written about me,” she said. “That I’m proof of the covert neoconservative connection with Israel and the Mossad.”
Wurmser went on to explain: “The group is comprised of academics, most of them lacking operational experience, which became part of the Bush administration but failed to get their ideas through the bureaucracy. These are intellectuals who came with great ideas, in which I still believe, but did not find a way to promote their beliefs in the complexities of bureaucracies.
“The final decisions were not in their hands,” she insisted. “In the Pentagon, the decisions were in the hands of the military, and the political leadership had a lot of clashes with the military leadership.”
Wurmser continued: “Powell curbed our ideas and they did not pass. There was a lot of frustration over the years in the administration because we didn’t feel we were succeeding.
“Now Bolton has left [the U.N.] and there are others who are about to leave. This administration is in its twilight days. Everyone is now looking for work, looking to make money…We all feel beaten after the past five years.”
Later in the interview, Wurmser stated: “Hezbollah defeated Israel in the war. This is the first war Israel lost.”
She continued: “The neocons are responsible for the fact that Israel got a lot of time and space…They believed that Israel should be allowed to win. A great part of it was the thought that Israel should fight against the real enemy, the one backing Hezbollah. It was obvious that it is impossible to fight directly against Iran, but the thought was that its strategic and important ally should be hit.
“It is difficult for Iran to export its Shi’i revolution without joining Syria, which is the last nationalistic Arab country,” Wurmser explained. “If Israel hit Syria, it would have been a harsh blow for Iran. The hit would have weakened it and changed the strategic map of the Middle East. The final outcome is that Israel did not do it. It fought the wrong war and lost.”
In an interview with a May 18, 2003 episode of the BBC program “Panorama” entitled “The War Party,” Meyrav Wurmser talked about the war in Iraq. She also referred specifically to the neocons’ real fundamental love of power and their 1996 paper written for then-incoming Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu called “A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm.”
“It was no more than a mental exercise in a think tank by a group of people. Yes, many of us are Jewish, there is no need to apologize for that. Most of us, all of us, in fact are pro-Israel. Some of us more fiercely so than others. But we have no problem also criticizing Israel…
“There is no dual loyalty. The people in the group are Americans first and foremost, and view themselves as American thinkers, and as people who are most interested in American policy. We see a tremendous similarity between Israel and America, and Britain for that matter, simply because these are leading democracies. In the case of Israel, it’s the only democracy in the Middle East.”
Wurmser continued, “We don’t claim credit for the activities of the group [the neocons] at all…You could say our power is a figment of our enemies’ imagination. It might be absolutely true. We are not claiming to be running the world. Our job is just to think, and if ideas get adopted, and if ideas turn into policy—wonderful. That’s what we’re here for…
When the attack on Iraq began, Wurmser said, “We actually opened a bottle of champagne. This was a moment we waited for, for many, many years. I mean we’ve been working on freedom for Iraq for the past nine years maybe. My personal feeling was that we were doing an incredibly good deed by pushing this war because, you know…people got their freedom out of it…
“Contrary to popular belief there is no conspiracy,” she insisted “and the group would not have been so powerful were it not for an administration and a president who is susceptible and was willing to adopt many of those ideas. Nobody hijacked anything. Nobody has brainwashed the American president. He’s acting according to his own convictions and beliefs.”
Richard H. Curtiss is the executive editor of the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs magazine.