Meyrav Wurmser

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Born in Israel and living in the US since 1992[1] , Meyrav Wurmser is described as a "leading scholar of the Arab world" on her profile page at the Hudson Institute. Wurmser is the cofounder of MEMRI and a columnist for several right-wing publications. She is married to the neoconservative analyst David Wurmser. Since 2002 Wurmser has been director of the Center for Middle East Policy at the Hudson Institute in Washington, DC. She has been described as an "ardent Zionist"[2] for her role in helping to draft the now infamous "A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm" paper which proposed the overthrow of Saddam Hussein as a step towards reshaping Israel's strategic environment.

Contents

History

Wurmser wrote her PhD thesis on Revisionist Zionism and received her doctorate in political science at George Washington University. She has taught political science at Johns Hopkins University and the US Naval Academy. She has pursued a career as a political analyst for the US and Israel.

Wurmser contributed to two important policy papers prior to the US-led 2003 invasion of Iraq which were absorbed by the Bush Administration. The first paper, "A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm," was originally prepared for Israel, for Likud party leader and then incoming Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The second, titled "Coping with Crumbling States: A Wetern and Israeli Balance of Power Strategy for the Levant," was also written with A Clean Break's principal author, David Wurmser (Meyrav's husband). Both papers were contributed to by other well-known neoconservatives such as Richard Perle and Douglas Feith.

Although the website has since been taken down and the company has undergone an image change, Wurmser was listed as a client of Benador Associates[3] a US public relations firm known for its promotion of right-wing commentators.[4] Benador Associates also represented other neoconservatives such as Richard Perle and James Woosley who like Wurmser, are also known for their roles in manufacturing US consent for the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

Investigative journalist Jim Lobe describes Benador as follows:

When historians look back on the United States war in Iraq, they will almost certainly be struck by how a small group of mainly neo-conservative analysts and activists outside the administration were able to shape the US media debate in ways that made the drive to war so much easier than it might have been… But historians would be negligent if they ignored the day-to-day work of one person who, as much as anyone outside the administration, made their media ubiquity possible. Meet Eleana Benador, the Peruvian-born publicist for Perle, Woolsey, Michael Ledeen, Frank Gaffney and a dozen other prominent neo-conservatives whose hawkish opinions proved very hard to avoid for anyone who watched news talk shows or read the op-ed pages of major newspapers over the past 20 months.[4]

Projects

Endowment for Middle East Truth

Since 2008 Wurmser has been listed on the advisory board of the Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET), a group which describes itself as the "first unabashedly pro-Israel and pro-American think tank and policy shop on Capitol Hill."[5] EMET was involved in the distribution of over 20 million DVDs of a film called "Obsession" in swing states prior to the 2008 US Presidential election. Called "controversial" by some, the 60 minute film was also criticized for being deeply Islamophobic:

Critics allege that the movie "Obsession" is "hate propaganda" which paints Muslims as violent extremists and, among other things, explicitly compares the threat posed by radical Islam to that of Nazi Germany in the 1930s.[6]

On her EMET profile Wurmser includes the following:

During her tenure at MEMRI, Wurmser helped educate policy makers about the distinction between what Palestinian and Arab leaders were saying in Arabic to their own people, and what they say to Western diplomats and journalists in English.[7]

Views

Arabs

In 2003, just months before the US invaded Iraq, Wurmser accused the "Arab world" of borrowing ideas from "communism, fascism and Nazism" in an article titled "Support Freedom in the Muslim World:"

The fortunes of democracy in the Arab world are often examined in the context of the Arab world’s relations with the West. Specifically, it is argued that the Arab world came to reject Western ideas because of the long history of Western colonialism and intervention in the region. But the Arab world in fact did look to the West for new ideas, especially over the last 100 years. Unfortunately, it borrowed from the wrong ideas: communism, fascism, and Nazism.[8]

In 2002 Wurmser claimed that Arab politics is plagued by a "culture of hate:"

Once again, terrorists from the Middle East have demonstrated – in the most heinous of forms – their hate and dismay of Americans and their way of life. Rogue regimes - such as those of Iraq, Iran, Libya, Syria and the cheering crowds of the Palestinian Authority who celebrated the most severe terror attacks against the United States - have declared war on our values of freedom. But the enemy of the United States is not only these terrorists and their immediate accomplices who committed these atrocities. It is the culture of hate that plagues Arab politics and the leaders who foment it.[9]

Islam

In "The Roots of Islamic Radicalism" Wurmser begins by referencing Bernard Lewis and then proceeds to argue that reactionary movements that have committed terrorist attacks in the name of Islam are mainly compelled by "hatred" for the West, rather than opposition to the foreign policies of governments like the US. Wurmser argues that simultaneous envy and hatred are at the core of radical Islamic attitudes to Western civilization:

  • Today its governments are dictatorial, its populations largely uneducated and impoverished, and its politics violent and oppressive. The defeat and resultant humiliation of this world, and its inability to stand up to the challenges of modernity and secularization, have bred feelings of resentment toward the West. These sentiments characterize much of Middle Eastern culture today. Yet this sense of humiliation and resentment is paradoxically mixed with feelings of admiration toward the West.[10]
  • Elements within Middle Eastern societies, especially the Sunni religious extremists, hate the West because our success exposes the malaise of their world.[10]
  • The problem in the Arab world today is not just the absence of good governance and open societies, nor is it just the terrorist organizations themselves. One can defeat al Qaeda and bring orderly politics to those unfortunate lands, like Afghanistan, which have been victimized by radical Arab Sunni terrorist groups. But the West will still face the same problem, for it originates in the politics of its ostensible friends in the center of the Arab world. In their tyrannical rule, they have failed to govern responsibly, and this, in turn, has fueled a rage which, in self-defense, these regimes have deflected toward America. For decades, the United States has anchored its position in the Arab world to a crumbling foundation-a decrepit collection of failed, brutal regimes. If America is to win this war and play as useful a postwar role in reshaping the region as it did after its two great victories in the last century, then it must build the new world around its most cherished principle-freedom-and choose its friends and associates on that basis.[10]

Wurmser expands on these ideas in a longer essay titled The Roots of Islamic Radicalism.

Zionism

A regular theme in Wurmser's work is the idea that Zionism represents the core of Jewish national identity and that those that criticize Zionist policies are threats to the Israeli state. Wurmser also regularly expresses concern about what she describes as the declining state of Zionism in Israeli society:

The issue at the core of this discussion is Israel’s changing identity in an age when Zionist idealism and the patriotic culture that it created are in decline, and when the upcoming convergence is likely to deepen questions like the secular-Israeli divide and the connection between the Jewish people and the land of Israel.[11]

In "Post-Zionism and the Sephardi Question," Wurmser argues that some Mizrahi Jewish academics with a "distinctly Mizrahi outlook" are "challenging the legitimacy of the Israeli state from within" because they criticize the notion of turning Israel into an ethnically enforced "Jewish State."[12]

True to post-Zionism, an intellectual movement that believes that Zionism lacks moral validity, post-Zionist Mizrahi writers believe that Israel has no right to exist as a Jewish state. According to Mizrahi post-Zionism, the Mizrahim, about half of Israel's Jewish population, are "Arab-Jews," who like the Palestinians are victims of Zionism. While this new school of intellectual radicalism remains so far contained within the halls of academia and without broad support among the broader Mizrahi population, it, nevertheless, represents a new and worrisome twist on the post-Zionist phenomenon that continues to dominate Israel's academia and media.[12]

Israeli Society

During the Israel-Lebanon war of 2006 wherein many considered Israel defeated by Hezbollah, Wurmser emphasized the militarization of Israeli society as an explanation for why Israel could not accept its defeat:

This is a nation of soldiers, parents of soldiers, and friends of soldiers, and so a loss of faith in the army is a loss of faith in oneself.[13]

Israeli Left

Wurmser regularly takes task with the Israeli left, a group which Israeli intellectuals such as Ilan Pappe describe as a small and marginalized group in Israeli society.

Israel's Withdrawal from Gaza/Israeli Settlements

On several occasions Wurmser referred to Israel's partial withdrawal from Gaza (Israel still controls the air, land and water of Gaza and has imposed an illegal blockade since June 2007)[14] as a "trauma" that has resulted in a growing affinity within Israeli society among Jewish settlers and regular Israelis.[15][16]

Many Israelis might still oppose the construction of settlements, but they are coming to empathize with the settlers themselves. The settlers' leadership's decision, which was followed mostly, to avoid the use of violence against the military and police who carried out the evacuation helped legitimize the movement in Israeli public opinion. Moreover, the emotional images of both settlers and soldiers hugging and crying reminded many Israelis that the embattling sides of Israeli society are, in fact, brothers who care deeply about their homeland. This reminded many in Israel that the settlers are an inherent part of Israeli society. Slowly the settlers are no longer considered as outside actors in the Israeli saga; they now embody Israel's necessity to face tragic choices. Once pariahs, they are now viewed as the salt of the earth who worked endlessly and selflessly for the good of the state and the country. The settlers may snatch victory from the jaws of defeat, since they are attaining the compassion of the Israeli center and are entering a newly established Israeli consensus. In this new consensus, the settlers will not be viewed as the extreme fringes of Israeli society, but as a significant part of its core.[15]

Although Wurmser admits to one case of Israeli settler violence against Palestinians, she nevertheless portrays Israeli settlers as a devoted and mostly peaceful group in Israel that faces strong opposition from the Israeli left (a group which Wurmser routinely criticizes in her work) and marginalization by Israeli governments that have left the settlers with feelings of "abandonment" after sending them to "define and secure the Israeli frontier."[15]

And it is precisely the gap which has thus far emerged between the nonviolent nature of the protests on the Right, and the harshness of response advocated by the Left, that has led many on the Right to argue that the Left seeks severe measures against the settlers, not to protect debate and democracy, but to crush a debate that they are beginning to lose.[16]

US Foreign Policy Recommendations

In the lead-up to the US invasion of Iraq Wurmser argued for regime change in the Middle East:

Regimes and elites will have to be changed across the Middle East, not only in Iraq. But the real victory in the long term will only be achieved after the war is over, when we launch policies that nurture and support the forces that will foster freedom—a transformation as great as that achieved in Germany and Japan in the wake of World War II.
For freedom to win, America must not abandon it, but wield its idea as its most effective weapon.[8]

Bush Administration's Iraq/Afghanistan Foreign Policy

In 2006 Wurmser called the Bush Administration's "Forward Strategy of Freedom" a "success" in promoting "the president’s vision for a free and democratic Middle East"

With the fall of the dictatorial governments in Kabul and Baghdad, democratic ideas have clearly begun to capture the imagination of people in the region...[17]

Affiliations

Notes

  1. PBS, "Targeting Hamas", NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, 23 July 2002
  2. Brian Whitaker, "Language Matters", Guardian, 28 September 2005
  3. Benador Associates, "Meryav Wurmser", Benador Associates Website, accessed on 3 October 2010
  4. 4.0 4.1 Jim Lobe, "The Andean condor among the hawks", Asia Times, 15 August 2003
  5. EMET, "About EMET", EMET Online, accessed on 1 October 2010
  6. Ali Gharib and Eli Clifton, "Neo-cons, Ex-Israeli Diplomats Push Islamophobic Video", IPS News, 24 September 2008
  7. EMET, "Meyrav Wurmser", EMET Online, accessed on 1 October 2010
  8. 8.0 8.1 Meyrav Wurmser, "Support Freedom in the Muslim World", Hudson Institute, 4 January 2003 (accessed on 3 October 2010)
  9. Meyrav Wurmser, "No More Excuses", Hudson Institute, 29 April 2002 (accessed on 3 October 2010)
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 Meyrav Wurmser, "The Roots of Islamic Radicalism", Hudson Institute, 1 September 2001 (accessed on 3 October 2010)
  11. Meyrav Wurmser, "Israel Analysis Group—Session II", Hudson Institute, 10 July 2006
  12. 12.0 12.1 Meyrav Wurmser, "Post-Zionism and the Sephardi Question", Hudson Institute, Spring 2005, accessed on 2 October 2010
  13. Meyrav Wursmer, "The 1973 Syndrome What’s wrong with Israel?", Hudson Institute, 9 August 2006 (accessed on 3 October 2010)
  14. B'Tselem, "The siege on the Gaza Strip: 1.5 million people imprisoned" , B'Tselem, accessed on 1 October 2010
  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 Meyrav Wurmser, "Phoenix From the Ashes?", Hudson Institute, 24 August 2005 (accessed on 1 October 2010)
  16. 16.0 16.1 Meyrav Wurmser, "Color War Two flags and an Israeli schism", Hudson Institute, 24 August 2005 (accessed on 1 October 2010)
  17. Meyrav Wurmser, "The Address Is in Damascus Israel’s strategic mistake", Hudson Institute, 19 July 2006 (accessed on 3 October 2010)
  18. Foundation for Middle East Peace, "Irving Moscowitz, U.S. Donor to Israeli Settlements and Related Causes", FMEP website, accessed on 13 November 2010
  19. Endowment for Middle East Truth, "Dr. Meyrav Wurmser", EMET website, accessed on 13 November 2010
  20. 20.0 20.1 20.2 Hudson Institute, "Meyrav Wurmser", Hudson Institute website, accessed on 13 November 2010
  21. Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies, "A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm", IASPS website, accessed on 13 November 2010
  22. Jerusalem Summit, "Board", Jerusalem Summit website, accessed on 13 November 2010
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