Middle East Forum

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Middle East Forum logo, Screengrab from Middle East Forum

The Middle East Forum (MEF) is a right-wing Zionist think-tank based in Philadelphia, USA. It was founded by Daniel Pipes in 1990.

Politics and ideology

MEF reflects the extreme politics of its founder and has an explicitly right-wing and Zionist agenda. Its homepage states:

The Middle East Forum, a think tank, seeks to define and promote American interests in the Middle East. It defines U.S. interests to include fighting radical Islam, whether terroristic or lawful; working for Palestinian acceptance of Israel; improving the management of U.S. democracy efforts; reducing energy dependence on the Middle East; more robustly asserting U.S. interests vis-à-vis Saudi Arabia; and countering the Iranian threat. The Forum also works to improve Middle East studies in North America.[1]

MEF’s declared Mission restates the above and adds that:

MEF sees the region, with its profusion of dictatorships, radical ideologies, existential conflicts, border disagreements, political violence, and weapons of mass destruction as a major source of problems for the United States. Accordingly, it urges active measures to protect Americans and their allies.[2]

In 2014 MEF revised its mission statement to remove mention of 'robustly asserting US interests vis-à-vis Saudi Arabia'. Analysis by Rightweb surmises that the reason for this change 'could be that Israel and Saudi Arabia are strategically moving closer together, united by a common desire to maintain status quo in the region and counter a rising Iran'.[3]

Activities

On its website MEF declares it seeks to 'help shape the intellectual climate in which U.S. foreign policy is made'.[4]This is achieved through “public outreach” to US and foreign media, and through programmes seeking to intimidate opponents of its ideology.

Public outreach

MEF’s public outreach is directed primarily at US intellectual elites through articles in influential newspapers such as the Los Angeles Times, New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Washington Post; and through lectures and speaking tours in Philadelphia, New York City, Seattle, and Boston. MEF scholars produce a weekly newspaper column which runs in the New York Post and the Jerusalem Post, and they appear regularly on US and foreign television and radio.[5]MEF also publishes the Middle East Quarterly which it declares to be “the only journal on the Middle East consistent with mainstream American opinion.”[6]

Intimidation of opponents

MEF founder Daniel Pipes is notorious for smearing and bullying his opponents. The pro-war journalist Christopher Hitchens writes that Pipes “confuses scholarship with propaganda” and “pursues petty vendettas with scant regard for objectivity.”[7]Two MEF projects pursue Pipe’s “propaganda” and “petty vendettas”; Campus Watch focuses on US academia whilst Islamist Watch “combats the ideas and institutions of lawful Islamism”.[8]

Legal Project

The Middle East Forum's Legal Project was reportedly established to 'protect the right in the West to freely discuss Islam, radical Islam, terrorism, and terrorist funding'.[9] It has provided financial support to 'critics' of Islam and Counterjihad activists facing prosecution and those convicted to facilitate appeals. Dutch Party for Freedom leader Geert Wilders and French anti-Muslim activist Christine Tasin are among those who have received funds, according to right-wing news site Breitbart.[9]

In May 2009 the Legal Project presented a Washington DC conference on 'Islamist lawfare', in collaboration with the Federalist Society Center for National Security Law, and the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression. [10]

The director of the Legal Project during this period was Brooke Goldstein.

Funding and finances

Middle East Forum's IRS approval was granted in January 1995. According to its latest available tax filings ( reviewed in 2016) it had an income of $4,126,021 and assets of $3,723,479 in 2014.

This was a decrease on the previous year's income, which showed an income of $5,907,628 in year ending 2013/12, and assets of $3,237,739.

MEF's business is described as: 'International, Foreign Affairs and National Security : Promotion of International Understanding'and Other Instructions and Training Activities: Publishing activities' [11]

Funders

Increasing use of secretive donor slush funds

Much of the think tank's income in recent years has been channelled through the opaque conservative vehicle Donors Capital Fund. In 2014 this totalled USD $1.95million. A smaller amount of $30,000 for the same year came via the affiliated Donors Trust. Our analysis of past donations to MEF indicates that recent big funders such as Sears Roebuck heiress Nina Rosenwald's Abstraction Fund, among others, is possibly now using the DCF as a conduit. Rosenwald sits on MEF's executive committee.

In total, MEF has received USD $10,365,000 of unspecified grants via the Donors Capital Fund according to a search on the Conservative Transparency Database. [12]

Known funders over time

2013 filings

Funders: Newton and Rochelle Becker Foundation, Mz Foundation, Jewish Federation Of Greater Philadelphia, Jewish Community Foundation Of The Jewish Fed Council Of Greater L A, Jewish Communal Fund, Fairbrook Foundation, Edgerly Foundation [30]

2012

Abstraction Fund, Edgerly Foundation [31]

Organisations that MEF funds

2014

2013

2012

2011

2010


Through its Middle East Forum Education Fund (MEFEF) it states that it 'distributes about $2 million annually in separately earmarked funds to some 75 individuals and groups, all of them working to promote the Forum's goals of forwarding American interests and preserving Western civilization'. [37]

Although 'a number of MEFEF recipients work quietly behind the scenes', MEF's website cites recent funding 'public accomplishments' as:

  • NGO Monitor – 'Exposed the Swiss government's multi-million dollar funding of non-governmental organizations that demonise Israel and support boycott, divestment, and sanctions against Israel. As a result, 10 Swiss MPs condemned an anti-Israel event in Zurich sponsored by the Swiss Foreign Ministry'.
  • Shurat HaDin – Won a $655.5 million judgment in a US court against the Palestinian Authority, for its role in six terrorist attacks resulting in the deaths of American citizens.

Other 'select recipients' are:

Adi Schwartz | AMCHA Initiative | Algemeiner | Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC, Australia) | Banafsheh Zand | Berlin International Center for the Study of Antisemitism (BICSA, Germany) | B'nai B'rith Moshe Dayan (France)| Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA) | Center for Democracy and Human Rights in Saudi Arabia (CDHR) | Center for Security Policy (CSP) | Citizens For National Security | David Horowitz Freedom Center (DHFC) | Defending America For Knowledge and Action (DAFKA) | Danish Free Press Society (Denmark) | Discourse Institute (Great Britain) | Dispatch International (Denmark) | Emerson Vermaat (Netherlands) | Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET) | European Coalition for Israel (ECI, Belgium) | Ezra Levant (Canada) | Friends of Israel Initiative (FOII, Spain) | Fuel for Truth (FFT) | Helle Merete Brix (Denmark) | Human Rights Voices | I Like Israel (ILI, Germany) | Im Tirtzu (Israel) | Independent Secular Movement (MIS/SIM) | Iranian-American Forum | Israel Institute for Strategic Studies | Israeli Christians Recruitment Forum (ICRF, Israel) | Jewish News Service Inc. | Joe Kaufman | Joshua Charles | JSS News (France) | Michael Mandelbaum | Morning Star News | Nima Gholam Ali Pour | NoBadDeal.comShraga Simmons | Patrick Poole | Philippe Karsenty (France) | Phyllis Chesler | Project Oasis | Raymond Stock | Richard Benkin | Research Institute for European and American Studies (RIEAS, Greece) | Shireen Qudosi | Stop Iran Rally | Tariq Ismail | Véronique Chemla (France) | William Mayer | Wolfgang G. Schwanitz |

Overseas donations declared

2012

According to IRS filings from 2012, the Middle East Forum spent a total of $807,616 funding projects in the Middle East.

Although grantees receiving this funding are not declared, in that year the forum gave a total of $787,616 to overseas causes outside the Middle East as well. [38]

2013

Filings from 2013 show that the MEF spent a total of $1,134,898 in the Middle East for the purpose of research. [39]

2014

Filings from MEF's 2014 Form 990 declare that it spent $783,500 on 'program services' (research) for 20 organisations in the Middle East region and $454, 595 on research grants for 22 individuals. [40]

Recent tax filings grant amounts known/declared for US-based organisations

2014

Paid out $192,634 in research grants to 'domestic' individuals in the US. These include:

2013

[41]

Various other payees: Taube Foundation For Jewish Life And Culture, Shalem Foundation (Research - Eval - Promoting Org Respon & Transparency-Report-Inc) | Investigative Project on Terrorism Foundation

Circa 2011


Summary from the Economic Research Institute

Revenue: $2,267,173
Assets: $1,029,240[43]

Tax returns

Tax Returns 1999 | Tax Returns 2000 | Tax Returns 2001| Tax Returns 2002 | Tax Returns 2003 | Tax Returns 2004 | Tax Returns 2005 | Tax Returns 2006

Donations received 2001-09

Conferences

MEF co-sponsored the 2008 Rome conference 'Identity Crisis: Can European civilization survive?, held under the auspices of the European Freedom Alliance in conjunction with the European University of Rome and the Lepanto Foundation. Panelists included counterjihad activists Robert Spencer and Bat Ye'or.

Personnel and Board Members

Middle East Quarterly

List of Experts

Board Members

Source: Juan Cole, Informed Comment, Dec. 8, 2004. (Comments below by Cole)

2013-14

Executive committee includes:

Affiliations

Contact

1500 Walnut Street
Suite 1050
Philadelphia, PA 19102
TEL: (215) 546-5406
FAX: (215) 546-5409
E-Mail: info@meforum.org


Notes

  1. Homepage of the Middle East Forum website, (accessed 30 May 2008)
  2. Middle East Forum website, About the Middle East Forum: Mission (accessed 30 May 2008)
  3. Yoel Guzansky and Sigurd Neubauer, Israel and Saudi Arabia: A Changing Region, a Possible Partnership?, The National Interest, July 24, 2014
  4. Middle East Forum website, About the Middle East Forum: Mission (accessed 30 May 2008)
  5. Middle East Forum website, About the Middle East Forum: Mission (accessed 30 May 2008)
  6. Middle East Forum website, About the Middle East Forum: Activities (accessed 30 May 2008)
  7. Christopher Hitchens, ‘Pipes the Propagandist’, Slate.com, 11 August 2003
  8. Islamist Watch Homepage (accessed 30 May 2008)
  9. 9.0 9.1 Oliver Lane, COURT OF APPEAL OVERTURNS CONVICTION OF WOMAN PROSECUTED FOR INSULTING ISLAM, Breitbart News, 22 December 2014, accessed 3 February 2015
  10. Conference on Islamist Lawfare - May 19, Washington DC, The Legal Project, 8 May 2009, accessed October 2015
  11. Citizen Audit:Middle East Forum, accessed 9 October 2015
  12. Conservative Transparency Database, latest search for MEF grants as of 12 October 2016
  13. Klarman Family Foundation, 990 Form, 2012.
  14. Klarman Family Foundation, 990 Form, 2011.
  15. MEF Funding, rightweb.irc, accessed 29 January 2016
  16. Milstein Family Foundation, Form 990, 2012
  17. Abstraction Fund, 990 Form, 2014
  18. Abstraction Fund, 990 Form, 2013
  19. Abstraction Fund grants, Conservative Transparency, accessed 12 October 2016.
  20. Abstraction Fund, 990 Forms, 2000-2009
  21. Newton and Rochelle Becker Charitable Trust Donations, Conservative Transparency, accessed 20 October 2016.
  22. Education Foundation for Old Safed, 990 Form, 2011.
  23. Education Foundation for Old Safed, 990 Form, 2009.
  24. Jewish Communal Fund, 990 Form, 2014. accessed 26 October 2016.
  25. Jewish Community Foundation of San Diego, 990 Form, 2013
  26. [Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, Form 990, 2011.
  27. [Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, Form 990, 2012.
  28. [Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, Form 990, 2013.
  29. [Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, Form 990, 2014.
  30. Edgerly Foundation, Form 990, 2013.
  31. Edgerly Foundation, Form 990, 2012.
  32. Middle East Forum, 990 form, 2014, accessed 02 November 2016.
  33. Middle East Forum, 990 form, 2013, accessed 02 November 2016.
  34. Middle East Forum, 990 form, 2012, accessed 02 November 2016.
  35. Middle East Forum, 990 form, 2011.
  36. Middle East Forum, 990 form, 2010.
  37. As of 2015
  38. Form 990 2012, Foundation Center, accessed 1 February 2016 DOUBLECHECK
  39. Form 990 2013, Foundation Center, accessed 1 February 2016- DOUBLECHECK
  40. [Form 990 2014], Foundation Center, accessed 28 Sept 2016
  41. Conservative Transparency database, Middle East Forum, accessed 27 May 2015
  42. The Counterjihad Movement: the global trend feeding anti-Muslim hate, Hope Not Hate, 2011, p61.
  43. Economic Research Institute, Middle East Forum Nonprofit Organization Information (accessed 30 May 2008)
  44. Source: CAP research based on the seven foundations’ Form 990s files with the U.S. Internal Revenue Service from 2001 to 2009, Center for American Progress, Donors to the Islamophobia network, Fear, Inc, p.14
  45. Robert Spencer,Resisting Stealth Jihad, Middle East Forum, January 2009
  46. Haras Rafiq, [Detoxifying Islamists], Middle East Forum, 27 January 2010