Monday, January 19, 2015

19-Jan-15: The dilemmas of funding and enabling terror

This self-confessed murderer, honored as the "success model" of Jordan Media
Institute's journalism grad students, has her own weekly TV show on a Hamas
satellite channel. From studios in Amman, she incites and encourages terrorism
to a global audience. Here she demonstrates prison-friendly dinner recipes in
a video we found on YouTube.
For those following our efforts to expose the Jordan Media Institute, here's an update.

JMI is the 'center of excellence' school for aspiring journalists whose "best and brightest" graduate students published a homage to a confessed and convicted murderer in early December 2014. Under the headline Success Model, they paid tribute to a female journalism student who had planned and engineered a massacre in the center of Jerusalem in 2001 on behalf of Hamas.

The explosion inside the Sbarro pizzeria - augmented by the use of nails to make the bomb's devastating effect even more vicious - took the lives of our daughter and 14 other victims, most of them children. Easy to see why the upwardly-striving JMI cadre saw that particular woman with those specific achievements as their model for professional success, right? Their action speaks for itself.

The details of the JMI scandal are in several of our previous posts listed at the foot of this one.

We are pursuing the JMI because of what it and the scandal represent. For too long, and in too many cases, enthusiasm for terrorism is quietly excused or overlooked or ignored because it's perceived as being part of the landscape, something about which nothing can be done etc. There is never any excuse for that.

But the JMI case is different, special. It is happening at a proud, well-run, promising and potentially important pro-democracy, pro-human rights institution (according to its self-description) that encourages performance-monitoring and which exists because of generous encouragement, guidance, support and funding of well-intentioned Western governments and NGOs (we name them here) along with a number of businesses from the Arab world. Organizations with aspirations like these are not so easily found among Arab countries.

We have personally contacted nearly all those Western parties over the past three weeks and alerted them to what's dysfunctional there. We have told them in particular about the open adoration (in Arabic, not in English) expressed by JMI's students for a homicidal jihadist who keeps saying publicly how proud she is to have killed so many Jewish children. We have explained how the JMI has failed to condemn the obscene homage, preferring first to simply ignore it, then to hide it, and now, through euphemism and double-talk, to pretend that it has been adequately addressed and reversed.

In our letters, we suggested that the backers should express their protest by terminating further support for the JMI's work. We have requested, and several (though not all) have agreed, that they insist on their names and logos being removed from the JMI's Partners and Donors Page.

Yesterday, the Amman embassy of one of those governments replied to us via a courteous and comprehensive letter. Among the points it raised was an aspect we had not known about: the JMI management had invited its Western supporters in for a confidential discussion on January 13 and had used the opportunity to explain their version of events. (Note: Though we addressed our concerns and demands to the JMI itself via a polite letter, the only response was a one-line email from a senior figure there the tone of which was, to put it mildly, the opposite of helpful.)

We responded immediately to the ambassador's letter with one of our own on Monday. It is reproduced below. Because we have no wish to embarrass that ambassador's government or its strategies, the text is slightly doctored to conceal the specifics of the country whose embassy sent it.
January 18, 2015
Your excellency,

Thank you for your detailed response... As private citizens who have been educated through bitter personal experience about the workings of realpolitik, my wife and I have few illusions about our ability to change the policies of [your country], or any other government, on terrorism. We keep trying because it horrifies to us to see how easily the people who put a polite face on jihad are managing to fool those who fund and enable it. 

We suspect you now consider the scandal at Jordan Media Institute to be over. We have a different opinion and will keep pursuing a constructive response from the Western sponsors who make possible and defend the JMI’s work. Below, I offer some reactions to the points in your well-reasoned email (in the order in which they appear in your letter).
  1. As parents deeply devoted to their children, you and I share important values. I sincerely appreciate the personal sympathy you expressed. But you are not accurate when you describe me as "personally offended". My wife and I are infuriated by the dangerous games played by the JMI management in the past month. I remind you respectfully that the subject we are discussing is not some offensive cartoon or personal rudeness. It is support for terror and encouragement for the murder of Jewish children. It is possible you do not realize that the convicted and unrepentant murderer Tamimi is a household name in Jordan. The details of her crimes are well-known there and hugely admired. When the journalists of JMI declared her to be their "Success Model", it was not some minor slip. That they made it a showcase event and repeated it on every page of the important JMI Journalists website speaks for itself. It is an unambiguous warning of how those young people view the trajectory of their professional careers in journalism. Is there any doubt that they view themselves as fighting for what Tamimi represents? They say openly that she is their inspirationIgnoring the deeply malevolent reality at JMI is to guarantee that it keeps growing. And please bear in mind that their tribute to Tamimi was not meant to be seen by Western governments and NGOs – this is why it was published in Arabic only. My letters to several dozen of them during December (along with letters from others who learned the details via my published articles) are the reason it was taken down. Every other explanation is contradicted by the facts.
  2. You praise the JMI for creating a new generation of Arab journalists who “abide by the highest professional standards and moral values”. I am not so confident. I emailed the Director of Training at the JMI, Yasar Durra, at the suggestion of one of the Western ambassadors in Amman. I asked the questions that appear in my letter to you concerning the homage paid by his students to the sociopathic female jihadist. You will surely agree that those “highest professional standards” and “moral values” ought to have guided the actions of the very JMI person responsible for teaching them to young journalists. But Mr Durra’s reply to me in the name of JMI was nothing more than an insulting one-line note referring to junk mail. He did not refer to even one of the serious concerns I raised.
  3. “XXX and Human Rights” [not the actual name] is a great title for the JMI workshop in which your country took part. Now that I know about it, I propose this challenge to you. When even one journalism student of JMI writes an article in any language about the trampling of my 15 year-old daughter's human rights (no human right can ever surpass the right to remain alive) or those of any other victim of Tamimi, we can agree that the Embassy's money was well spent. At that moment, I will be happy to acknowledge that JMI is the "good, professional and adequate partner" that you describe.
  4. Once discovered, was the article removed from the webpage in question without further delay, as you write? Not exactly. The entire JMI Journalists website was taken down 3 days after my articles began to appear. In place of the incendiary tribute to my daughter’s murderer, those responsible placed a sign dishonestly claiming that the domain name had expired. This may seem trivial but the domain name was a year away from expiring. They used a silly lie to cover their red faces. They then restored the entire site a few days later, in mid December, minus the homage to Tamimi and without a single word of explanation. Had they wanted to clarify their policy, or apologize, or take a stand against jihad or terror or the murder of Jewish children, that would have been the perfect time to do it. They did not do any of those things. I imagine they hoped this fuss would just disappear. 
  5. It is true, as you write, that "JMI published a statement on the webpage stating that an article was removed from this webpage which did not meet JMI values and professional standards." In case they eventually realize how much damage it does, I have ensured it remains archived online here. You might not have noticed that their statement does not appear on the JMI website where funders might see it. It was posted exclusively on the JMI Journalists website. Furthermore, the language of the statement itself highlights the seriousness of their failure. Can you imagine a publication in [your country] using language like "values and professional standards" when they are dragged into the spotlight for praising murder and calling for acts of terror? It is incredible that the JMI people chose this way of demonstrating good faith and integrity.
  6. Until you mentioned it, I was not aware that an "explanation" was given to "donors and partners in a meeting on 13 January". It has not been reported anywhere, as far as I know. But what sort of explanation? To say that publishing a tribute to a celebrity terrorist amounts to "inadequate internal oversight procedures" is bizarre. Did they define what kind of "measures they intend to implement in order to avoid similar incidents in the future"? And when they refer to "similar events in the future" do they mean events like incitement to murder? Or do they really mean that they want to prevent their students from bringing more shame and dishonor to the JMI management and its fund-raisers?
  7. Some comments now about this paragraph of your letter. You write: At no moment in that process did I have the impression that JMI as an institution or its members took the issue lightly, were not aware of its implications or showed any complacency or complicity regarding the issue at hand. On the contrary, they showed willingness to acknowledge that something had gone wrong, to draw the appropriate conclusions from that experience and to redress the issue. They apparently took the matter as an opportunity for an internal discussion with their students on how to improve and learn further. If you are right about the mindset of the JMI management, we might have expected them to make a public statement on the JMI website where funders would see it but they did not. They might have addressed terrorism, jihad, Tamimi, incitement, intolerancebut they did not. They might have issued a press release or other truly-public statement but they did not. They might have published it in the English or other European languages but (as far as I am aware) they did not. They would have addressed the person who raised these matters (me) and answered what I wrote to them, which includes some specific demands, but they did not. Instead they discussed it internally, behind closed doors, using terms more appropriate to a boarding school coping with naughty children. 
  8. You are kind to write that “the memory” of my daughter Malki “has been a force for good in this context”. But on this, we have a profound and complete difference of opinion. 
When millions of people took to the streets of France last weekend, their actions said something precious about how terror is spreading everywhere and the determination of civilized society to fight and defeat the threat. In that spirit, the governments and NGOs whose names and logos are on the JMI's trophy page have a real opportunity to do something concrete to show they mean it. I am distressed to think that [your country]  – which has a proud record in fighting jihadism – has decided to ignore that opportunity and prefers to politely look the other way when encountering it at JMI.

Solidarity like that which brought political leaders and ordinary citizens out into the winter chill of Paris is deeply moving. But what is happening at JMI is the exact opposite. There, we are seeing the trivialization of the danger, the use of slogans and empty words to imply positive action when there is none, and the resort to pathetic fig-leaf tactics to cover up the JMI’s moral nakedness and their tolerance of Islamist terror.

As we continue our efforts to shine a bright light into that dark corner. my wife and I sincerely hope the government of [your country] chooses to publicly declare its rejection of the JMI’s actions, its failures and its lethal tolerance of Islamist terror.

Arnold Roth

The ambassador has not yet replied. Nonetheless, we are hopeful of a thoughtful response at some point. Meanwhile, to get familiar with the background events of the past month, we invite you to take a look at our previous posts relating to the scandal at Jordan Media Institute:

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