Juan Cole, Professor of History at the University of Michigan, published the following article at his blog on 2/11/2004: Bin Laden’s Audio Threat to States. It was reproduced on AntiWar.com, prompting a lawsuit threat from MEMRI’s founder and president, Col. Yigal Carmon.
In his article, Prof. Cole alleges that MEMRI had chosen a misleading interpretation of the word “wilayah” in their re-translation of a speech by Osama bin Laden, which was originally broadcast on, and translated by, Al Jazeera. The speech was a few days before the election which saw George Bush re-elected, defeating John Kerry.
(Bin Laden:)“In conclusion, I tell you in truth, that your security is not in the hands of Kerry, nor Bush, nor al-Qaeda. No. Your security is in your own hands. And every state [wilayah] that doesn’t play with our security has automatically guaranteed its own security.”
(Cole:) MEMRI is claiming that the word used for “state” in this sentence means state as in Rhode Island and New Jersey. But while they are right to draw attention to the oddness of the diction, their conclusion is impossible.
Prof. Marc Lynch (“Abu Aardvark”) wrote earlier on a similar vein: MEMRI’s disgusting partisanship. And see his detailed follow-ups on the issue:        – and he has a dedicated section for his discussions on MEMRI.
Prof. Cole went on in the article to raise questions about MEMRI’s funding and the political goals its work serves, as well as describing its approach as “cherry-picking”. In response, Yigal Carmon wrote to Prof. Cole disputing his claims and threatening him with legal action.
The letter, together with Prof. Cole’s points in response, are found here:
Intimidation by Israeli-Linked Organization Aimed at US Academic; MEMRI tries a SLAPP (23/11/04)
The following compilation of comments from the blogosphere is instructive, including follow-up links: Bloggers Respond (25/11/04)
More on MEMRI (25/11/04) – Contains testimony from another editor (Norbert Mattes, INAMO, Germany) who was threatened with legal action by Yigal Carmon
MEMRI Funding (24/11/04)
MEMRI and Bias (24/11/04)
So what happened next? MEMRI Watch asked Prof. Cole, and he said that he heard nothing more about it since then.