How the Internet Developed the Global Jihadi Movement
February 22, 2017
Yigal Carmon is President and founder of MEMRI, which bridges the language gap between the West and the Middle East and South Asia, providing timely translations of Arabic, Farsi, Urdu-Pashtu, Dari, and Turkish media, as well as original analysis of political, ideological, and intellectual trends.
Robert R. Reilly:
Our speaker tonight needs very little in the way of introduction because you’ve already seen his introduction. I simply repeat: of course, he’s the President and founder of the Middle East Media Research Institute. May I ask how many of you are familar with MEMRI? Ah. Well, I can even be briefer. So you know what MEMRI does and does so valuably for all the countries in the West and elsewhere. Yigal’s background; he was a colonel in the Israeli Defense Force Intelligence Corps, counterterrorism advisor to two Israeli Prime Ministers, overseeing the national deployment against terrorism. As you know since you are familiar with MEMRI, it provides timely translations in Arabic, Farsi, Urdu, Pashto, Dari [and] Turkish media, as well as others and of course, also has a significant Russian translation service. I should also point out that the MEMRI is active in [promoting] and in circulating their thought[s]. I also want to make sure that I acknowledge the presence of Ambassador Alberto Fernandez, who is the Vice President of MEMRI. [I’m] glad Alberto is here tonight.
Now, I’m going to keep this short. I’m just going to offer you a little analogy. This is the first complete unexpurgated edition of Mein Kampf in English. Now, it’s very interesting to look at the date of this publication: New York, 1941. Now, when one thinks back, wouldn’t it have been nice for people in the United States who didn’t read German to be able to know what Adolph Hitler thought and said he would do back in 1925-27 or at least by 1933 when he became Chancellor? Not in 1941 when it was getting a little late in the game. I- I only offer that as an analogy to MEMRI because we have no excuse today thanks to the invaluable work that Yigal Carmon, Alberto Fernandez, and their colleagues do. There’s no excuse for not knowing and we can’t say well, it’s because we don’t know Arabic,we don’t know Farsi,we don’t know Pashto, Urdu because it’s all translated. It’s all up there. If we’re being told one thing in English and yet they say something else when they’re speaking Arabic, we now know because of the valuable- invaluable work that MEMRI does.
So without further ado, please join me in welcoming Yigal Carmon, who’s going to talk to us about, “How the Internet Created the Jihadi Movement.”
It’s an opportunity to talk a little bit about our… about Bob; a friend, in fact, family. For those who don’t know, Jews and Catholics are family. Bob is for me, for many years, a source of inspiration. Someone who naturally, without hesitation, chooses to struggle with the deepest and most problematic aspects of inter-religious relations. In natural courage, he says the truth without blurring, without smoothing the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, without unnecessary offense, but also without unjustified respect. He is a model of inspiration, of intellecutal conduct, and that leads to unique insights and I want to thank you on this occasion, Bob, for your friendship and for your work.
Robert R. Reilly:
Thank you, Yigal.
Stop now or I’ll change the title of your lecture talk.
I want to refer to Mein Kampf with the story by Bernard Lewis that a few months before the Iranian Revolution, he read the book of Ayatollah Khomeini and he gave it to the government. And the CIA at the time said, ‘We don’t know what- This is some nonsense, some nothing, just some old guy wrote a book in Paris. It’s nothing to… We don’t even know about it, actually.’ It was a few months later that it became most important document that is haunting us to this very day. Today, I will speak about the internet and the jihadi world, which has become our world.
I want to begin this presentation with paraphrasing the words of Winston Churchill about the RAF pilots in World War II, “Never have so many owed so much to so few.” And in fact, this could be reversed with regard to the internet companies and the social media. Never have so few caused so much damage to so many. The internet, like other inventions of the modern time, like energy or particularly nuclear energy, like transportations, like medicine, food, include in it the good and the bad, the blessing and the curse, development and regression, building and destruction. I could go on and on. Without restraints, it can bring a catastrophe and this is what it is doing, actually, right now. In my coming words I will present to you what is in the internet in areas that relate to our work: jihad, anti-Semitism, Holocaust denial, incitement to genocide, not necessarily of a particular- of many minority groups. But in fact, it is just the tip of the iceberg and so much exists in areas that I’m not dealing with. Maybe you don’t, but in almost every area of life this happens. We know the blessing of it, the blessing of free, accessible information, total human connection through this tool, but we are not aware enough of the destruction that it causes.
Before I present things, I want to tell you that the team in MEMRI that deals with the jihadi material day in, day out, all the time, watching this material online, needs and gets psychological help and the truth is I don’t know how far we can go on with it. I brought one copy. It’s all on the site. I guess you didn’t see. This has 257 pages, both sides, many pictures in every one of them, beheadings, crucifixions, stoning, burning, drowning, throwing from high places, amputating, everything. This is what is today on Twitter, also Facebook, on Instagram, on every- all of them, just all of them. This is what inspires some. This is what opens the eyes of people to options in their lives if they feel the need, if they are bitter, if they are vengeful, if they are…