Saturday, November 24, 2018

24-Nov-18: How Jordan's mainstream media showcase a couple of role-model jihadist murderers [Video]

From a family snapshot taken a few weeks before
our daughter Malki's life ended in the massive
explosion at Jerusalem's Sbarro pizzeria
[This is the first part of a three-post look at the little-known and deeply troubling way the Kingdom of Jordan deals with a Hamas murderer/terrorist living unhindered and free in its midst. In the next two parts, we ask what this means in the context of current US efforts to see our daughter's killer extradited from there to face trial on US federal charges.]

Who is Ahlam Tamimi?

Being the parents of a child murdered by a proud and pleased woman who doesn't stop boasting about what she did was never going to be easy.

Regular readers know that Malki, our sweet, vivacious fifteen year-old eldest daughter was one of the victims of the Hamas bombing of the Jerusalem Sbarro pizzeria on August 9, 2001. The mastermind of the attack, convicted for her role in scoping out the target site because of the attractive number of Jewish children who frequented it and planting the human bomb there before fleeing, was sentenced to 16 terms of life imprisonment. She was the first-ever Hamas female jihadist. Her name is Ahlam Tamimi.

Tamimi walked free, along with 1,026 other Arab terrorists - most of them killers - in the catastrophic deal Israel made with the Hamas terrorists to secure the freedom of an Israeli hostage, Gilad Shalit, in October 2011. She has been living free-as-a-bird in Jordan, not under cover, not in hiding, ever since.

She married another convicted Arab terrorist/murderer, Nizar Tamimi, in the summer of 2012. He is her cousin. (Another cousin is Ahed Tamimi, the 17 year old blondish "icon" of Palestinian "resistance" recently released from an Israeli prison.)

The United States Department of Justice unsealed terrorist charges against Ahlam Tamimi on March 14, 2017. That same day, her name was added to the FBI Most Wanted Terrorists list and the US let it be known it was asking Jordan to extradite her to face charges in a Washington courtroom. The two countries have had an active extradition treaty since 1995.
Al-Tamimi was returned to Jordan upon her release from incarceration. Jordan’s courts, however, have ruled that their constitution forbids the extradition of Jordanian nationals. The U.S. has worked and will continue to work with its foreign partners to obtain custody of Al-Tamimi so she can be held accountable for her role in the terrorist bombing. The FBI also announced today that Al-Tamimi has been placed on its list of Most Wanted Terrorists. [DOJ media release, March 14, 2017]
A few days after the announcement, Jordan announced that its courts had ruled that the 22 year old treaty was, under Jordanian law, of no legal effect. Consequently, Jordan said, it would not be handing Tamimi over to the Americans.

It was announced some months later, on January 30, 2018, that a $5 million reward is now offered by the US State Department for information leading to Tamimi's arrest and conviction. The reward is nominally still in effect. But we have come to realize there are serious, unpublicized and troubling problems connected with how the reward actually works in Tamimi's case. All our efforts (and we have tried hard) to get answers to our questions from the Rewards for Justice unit at the State Department and from other State Department officials have been unsuccessful. We'll come back to that later.

The voice of incitement

Between February 2012 and September 2016, Ahlam Tamimi hosted her own television program called “نسيم الأحرار” - “Nassem al-Ahrar”, or in English: “Breezes of the Free”. This was produced and distributed by Alquds TV, one of Hamas' two global satellite channels, from a studio in Amman, Jordan. It is inconceivable the Hashemite government didn't know and couldn't have stopped it. As a practical matter, the Tamimi show served as an Islamist-inflected voice for and by Palestinian terrorists behind Israeli bars - an invaluable, strategically important two-way channel of communication, encouragement and incitement to terror.

Tamimi, already a celebrity by that time across large parts of the Arab world as a result of her frequent appearances in the news and in front of live audiences, leveraged it as a platform to further cement her status among Arab-speaking audiences wherever the Alquds TV content can be seen - literally everywhere.

In addition to being broadcast over the air, the weekly program was distributed to global audiences via dozens, perhaps hundreds, of little-known websites specializing in streaming video content - meaning a viewer need only have a smartphone or laptop with Internet connection; no TV, no satellite dish, no impediment to achieving the widest imaginable influence.

Screen shot: Jordan's Ro'yaTV promo for their Caravan "youth show"
She dropped out of the program without warning in September 2016. As we learned much later, she was very briefly taken into police custody in Jordan on an Interpol warrant (never reported outside the Arab world as far as we know) at that time. She subsequently lowered her profile (we explained the circumstances here) for a time as the efforts to have her extradited and brought to trial in the US worked their way through Jordan's channels of power. 

Throughout her years back in her homeland Jordan, she has appeared both widely and often in the darker and more extreme corners of the Arabic media, always encouraging terrorism, always basking the glory of having defeated the Zionists by being released back into freedom despite the many Jews she murdered.

Needless to say, she has never shown the slightest remorse for her savagery.

Jordan's beloved

Followers of Frimet Roth's blog already learned exactly a month ago ["Our daughter's murderer - live on Jordanian TV yesterday"] that Ahlam Tamimi, seated beside her husband, recently took a central role in a totally-mainstream Jordanian TV program.

Caravan is a weekly TV show on Jordan’s privately-owned Ro'ya TV channel, evidently the most watched of Jordan’s TV channels. Caravan doesn't appear to have anything political to say. It aims explicitly at a young audience - not children - and gives the impression of trying hard to seem hip in a vaguely Western way.

In its October 23, 2018 edition, the show's attention was entirely given over to Ahlam and Nizar Tamimi, Jordan's best-known husband-and-wife team of convicted, unrepentant Palestinian Arab murderers. And as becomes painfully clear, a pair of well-loved Jordanian heroes whom 'everyone' knows and respects.

We asked some Arabic-speaking friends to review it and give us their impressions. Here's what one told us:
The Tamimis were on for 45 minutes. There wasn’t anything especially headline-worthy of anything they said. They never talked about their terrorist act, just their life in prison. You would think they had been sentenced to jail for parking tickets. The host of the show was fawning all over them, calling them special guests over and over again. The husband said “we are living the best life possible now”. The details of their so called heroic imprisonment were quite banal. How they smuggled letters to each other, how they got hope from programs such as the one they were on that talked about prisoners in Israeli jails. How they survived mentally by “challenging” the prison system... At one point, asked what her ambitions were at the age she became a terrorist, she rambled on but ended up praising Jordan and King Abdullah... Watching the show, I was literally cursing into my phone... 
Ro'yaTV tweet: The obsequious Tamimi tribute received
heavy promotion on social media [Twitter]
From our friend's report, it appears no mention was made in the entire hour-long program of the atrocities carried out by the Tamimi couple. No indication of the acts of savagery that earned them their conviction before Israeli courts. Not a word about Ahlam Tamimi's constant incitement to terrorism. No hint of her repeated public endorsement of how murdering Israeli children serves the interests of the Palestinian Arab resistance.

There was also no reference to how she claims now to be innocent of all the charges brought against her by the Department of Justice; or of how she believes the conflict between the Palestinian Arabs and the Jews, far from being about occupied territories and national self-determination is actually a "religious struggle".

The transcript

We asked for the Arabic-to-English translation help of our friends at Palestinian Media Watch (thanks very nuch, guys). Here are a few extracts:
  • Presenter (Aya Al-Khayyat): [01:22] "There are many heroes behind bars. They have many stories and wars and a great struggle against the enemy and the occupier. Today in Caravan we are honored to be able to host a number of released prisoners to get to know their great story...
  • Welcome Nizar Tamimi and Ahlam Tamimi... It is a great honor for us to host you in the Caravan studio. The first question is: How did you get to know one other and how did you get married?”  [laughs]
  • Nizar Tamimi says they met after he was already imprisoned in 1993. [Imprisoned? Why? Viewers are left to assume it may have been for a traffic offence; there's no hint given of the brutal murder of an Israeli man of which he and several other Tamimi cousins were convicted in 1993]. Ahlam, he says, was a Jordanian citizen who came to study in Palestine. At that time, visits by relatives, both second and third degree, to the prison were permitted. They were related (he doesn't say how - in reality they are related in several different ways since the Tamimis are deeply involved in marrying within their clan) and she came to visit him. They stayed in touch.
  • Nizar Tamimi: [03:54] "Then in 2001, Ahlam was arrested because of her involvement in the struggle and jihad activity [Notice that the fifteen people she murdered, the sixteenth person who remains unconscious to this day - these are not important enough to be mentioned even once in this program] In prison, we were in contact... It was difficult to be in contact, it was not permitted, and the security conditions became more stringent after the outbreak of the Al-Aqsa Intifada. Praise to Allah, in 2005 we managed to make a marriage pact while we were in prison... Praise God, we are now living well."
  • Presenter asks Ahlam Tamimi how she felt when sentenced to multiple terms of life imprisonment.  
  • Ahlam Tamimi: "...A life sentence is not a logical thing. But the security establishment of the Zionists aims to compare [Translator: seeks to balance] the state of fear generated by the Palestinians via the struggle activities [Translator: operations] that we have been waging over the years – with life imprisonment. They consider that every dead Israeli should be answered with a life imprisonment sentence and in this way placate the anger of the Zionist families of those killed in the various operations... Nizar was arrested in 1993 and remained in prison for about 20 years [sic – in reality 18 years]. I was arrested in 2001 and I remained ten and a half years [sic – just barely ten years] in prison. Nizar got a life sentence, I received 16 life sentences! And that’s to be expected. When we choose to go on the path of struggle, we or any Palestinian, there are known scenarios [ahead]. Either you are arrested or you die as a shahid [martyr] or you get injured or you become a fugitive. When we choose to go on that path, we are ready for any possible scenario..."
  • Presenter: [15:26] "This is admirable! You, the people of the struggle, elevate the name of Jordan!"
Abdullah Barghouti's mother sheds tears over her son's
sad fate - being locked away by the Zionists. No mention at all
of the 70 Israelis his terrorist bombs blew to pieces.
  • There's a break next - some coverage of a current art exhibition focusing, like the program, on prisoners. This includes an interview with Abdullah Barghouti's mother. She says he wants to be released, that he is optimistic and hopes to be released "in the next deal". [How did Barghouti get locked away in an Israeli cell? The answer isn't given; Barghouti built the exploding guitar that destroyed Sbarro along with other bombs that in total took erased 70 Israeli lives. He has boasted on American TV that, when eventually released, he will kill more Israelis.]
  • Video grab (on the right): On display in the art exhibition, a portrait of Kuwaiti mass murderer Abdullah Barghouti, the Hamas master bomb-maker. His worried mother, speaking with considerable emotion, is interviewed live on the program and with maximum sympathy. She says she is optimistic he will be out of prison soon.
  • Ahlam Tamimi [this segment of the interview is at the art exhibition]: [18:47] When we were in prisons of the occupation and we heard that one of the artists was painting us or writing us a poem or a story, it encouraged us a lot - that there are people who remember us.  …
  • [Back in the Caravan studio]
  • Presenter: [20:23] Were you aware of [the Shalit deal] while you were still in prison?
  • Ahlam relates that the Shalit Deal had been under discussion from the time Shalit was abducted in 2006 until the mass prisoner release in 2011. She notes that in this transaction, out of thousands of prisoners, only 1,450 prisoners were released [sic – in fact the number is 1,027]. And the others expected their names to be included in the list but unfortunately they did not leave. But, thank God, there is always hope, and the proof is that there will be another deal, inshallah. And with the help of Allah, all prisons will be emptied. 
  • PresenterInshallah.
  • A member of the audience congratulates the program’s guests and asks whether the Jordanian government stays on top of the issue of Jordanian prisoners [in Israeli prisons]. Ahlam Tamimi answers that the embassy [in Israel] does take an interest in the prisoners, but it does so only to a minor degree, and it is to be hoped that this degree of interest [by Jordan] will grow.
  • Presenter asks if they feel the support of the [Arab] street for them and for the Palestinian cause. Did they feel this support when they were in prison? Nizar Tamimi answers that there is radio and television in prison. This has happened thanks to the efforts of the prisoners, their protests and strikes. There are programs focusing on peace demands and so on for the prisoners. These strengthen and encourage the prisoners.
  • Presenter asks Ahlam Tamimi what her aspirations in life are or were. The enemy's media [Israel of course] disseminates the message that those who join the Palestinian resistance lack aspiration, lack a love of life apart from the desire to succeed in injuring their enemies.
  • Ahlam Tamimi: [40:00] I was a student at Bir Zeit... This was one of the main universities in Palestine that produced most of the demonstrations and martyrs (shahids)... It set in motion a strong situation of struggle. Once the school day came to an end, the lecturers and the university administration would organize themselves according to the students' wishes. Once school was over, we would organize the Palestinian street according to our desires. Our aspiration in Palestine, from when we were youths right up until now, is to liberate our land. This is not just the aspiration of the Palestinians but of every Arab citizen. It’s an issue of the whole world - in every land where there is an occupation, it is unacceptable from a human standpoint... Palestine is an issue of the world, mainly of the Arab citizen, whenever he is found, especially when we’re speaking of the place of the Prophet's journey [refers to Jerusalem] who is the prophet of all Muslims. So it is very important that we try constantly to raise  the problem of Palestine in the education of our children. How can we raise a generation of liberation if we do not educate our children about the Palestinian problem in the educational curriculum, in life, in the family and so on? How else will they know there is an occupied Palestine, and that they have to turn [their attention] to it? You in the universities [she turns her attention to the students in the audience] - it is highly important that you turn to actions – as students, in your clubs, and wherever you are found, actions in which you revitalize the Palestinian problem... Jordan is in the first line in this subject: our geography is one, our concern is one. His Majesty and the Hashemite monarchy never ever abandoned the Palestinian problem… 
  • Thus we hope there will be  more activities by young people to support the issue of Jordanian prisoners and Palestinian prisoners. So that we can direct our words towards the Zionist Entity [Israel of course] saying: "No! To the matter of the prisoners there are consequences not only within Palestine but also extending out to Jordan, to Tunisia, to the entire Arab world.
When Ahlam Tamimi urges "more such activity", it needs to be absolutely clear that she is not referring to knitting classes.

Smiling faces, unconcealed admiration: The murdering Tamimis
Back in the mainstream

It's evident the Tamimis, who in April 2017 began maintaining a relatively low profile, have now been given a signal to emerge and to take their place in Jordan's public spaces.

At the same time, they have taken care, or been carefully instructed, not to sound violent or directly threatening, though the female clearly does engage in incitement to terror and violence directed at the young audience that Caravan seeks.

It's worth underscoring the central point here: not a single word of the entire program addresses why the Tamimis were in prison, or the length of their sentences (multiple life terms). This is not “reality” programming but rather soft-focus, inspirational television, in some ways like certain religion-centric shows familiar to us in the West. But the people getting the adulation. the respect and the platform are not mere eccentrics or Bible thumpers. They're coldly enthusiastic murderers. Utterly unrepentant and embraced as role-models and heroes by mainstream Jordanians - and their mass media - because of that.

The full video of the Jordanian tribute to the Tamimis which originally went to air on October 23, 2018 is online here. As far as we can tell, no one in the mainstream media has given this any attention at all. 

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