Thursday, May 06, 2021

06-May-21: So will the injustice continue to be ignored?

From the Jerusalem Post paper edition, April 30, 2021

A story by Yonah Bob, a veteran journalist at the Jerusalem Post, published this past week pulls together some of the numerous strands of our efforts to bring Ahlam Tamimi to justice.

She's the Jordanian woman who freely admits to planting the bomb that destroyed the Jerusalem Sbarro pizzeria. 

Our daughter Malki was one of the many children whose lives ended there that day.

In a piece entitled "Will Ahlam Tamimi be extradited from Jordan for the murder of Malki Roth?" and published in the paper's online edition (as well as in this past Friday's paper edition), Bob recounts the basic facts of the August 9, 2001 massacre orchestrated by Ahlam Tamimi, as well as the terrorism trial that followed at whose conclusion she was

sentenced to 16 full life terms in jail, but was released in 2011, as part of the Gilad Schalit prisoner exchange.

The narrative jumps forward to March 14, 2017 when the US government let it be known, while unsealing long-secret terrorism charges against Tamimi under US law ["14-Mar-17: Sbarro massacre mastermind is now formally charged and her extradition is requested"], that it had

issued a request for Tamimi’s extradition. The reason? Roth was not only Israeli, but American as well. Given that Jordan’s King Abdullah is heavily reliant on US military and economic assistance, quick compliance could have expected. Instead, what has followed according to Malki’s father, Arnold Roth, has been “an egregious failure of justice.”

If you follow this blog of ours, you are in a position to know how calling the Tamimi case and the kid-gloves treatment of Jordan a failure of justice is no exaggeration.

The Jerusalem Post story briefly looks at two of the largest roadblocks impeding the progress of efforts to see Tamimi brought in chains from her safe harbor in Jordan to face criminal charges in Washington DC. 

One is expressed this way:

Yes, the US has huge leverage over Jordan – but how hard does it want to push?
That raises complex political and geostrategic issues that, just as in real life, are hinted at in the article but barely discussed.

The second has to do with this peculiar twist:
...Jordan signed a treaty with the US decades ago. But shortly after the 2017 extradition request, a Jordanian court ruled that the parliament had never ratified it. So the court said the treaty was not in effect and the government was barred from extraditing Tamimi.
The Court of Cassation, Amman [Image Source]
The Jordanian position was expressed by its highest judicial forum, the Court of Cassation. In a 2017 decision handed down just six days after the criminal complaint against Tamimi was unsealed and announced in Washington, that court in Amman gave a single reason why, in Bob's words, the treaty was not in effect. It should have been ratified, the judges ruled. 


And since the parliament did not ratify, the treaty - it was said - did not give Jordan a basis for complying with the US request for her to be handed over, allowing Tamimi herself, with the help of Aljazeera, to preposterously adopt the role of perplexed and misunderstood victim ["24-Mar-17: Our daughter's grinning killer is shocked the US is pursuing her and for no obvious reason"]

The ratification alibi is a claim that has never been made in a public way by any senior Jordanian official with the sole exception of its current deputy prime minister [we wrote about that too: "13-Nov-19: Thank you, Mr Foreign Minister"]. No one else - no Jordanian ambassador or other senior diplomat, no one speaking in the name of the Hashemite Royal Court - has ever addressed the issue for the record. 

It's almost as if they're too embarrassed. For just one reason, whatever the merits of the argument that Jordan's parliament never ratified the treaty after it was signed all those years ago, what's stopped them from doing it since then? No Jordanian source denies that they could simply ratify it this afternoon. Clearly there's something seriously disingenuous going on.

For its part, the United States has at all relevant times, right up until today, listed its 1995 Extradition Treaty with Jordan in the authoritative US catalogue of treaties it has with other countries. Check it out in the current and most recent online edition of "Treaties in Force" (sub-titled "A List of Treaties and Other International Agreements of the United States in Force on January 1, 2020"), a 570-page long PDF compiled and kept updated by the Treaty Affairs Staff, Office of the Legal Adviser, U.S. Department of State. 

The treaty with Jordan is listed there on page 245. The notation shows it was signed in Washington on March 28, 1995 and entered into force on July 29, 1995.

We don't know why reporters almost never refer to the Treaties in Force listing and ask the obvious questions. But the reality is they don't. Perhaps acknowledging that the treaty exists would lead to further questions which bring on discomfort and even more questions. 

Inside Jordan's parliament [Image Source]
The treaty exists. What's more, it has served as the basis for a series of extraditions by which Jordan willingly handed over fugitive Jordanian terrorists to the US. They were then put them on trial on US soil and US law and sent to US prisons. Yonah Bob's article names them.

With this in mind, you might expect a full-throated statement by senior US officials laying out a principled position. Something (we're making it up) along the lines of this:
"The United States, a supportive and generous strategic ally, believes Jordan has a clear and unambiguous obligation under our quarter-century old strategic agreement signed with His Majesty King Husssein, the revered late father of His Majesty King Abdullah II, today's king, to hand over to US justice the Jordanian fugitive who says she placed the bomb that killed so many innocents including two US nationals. Respectfully and in the name of our vital bilateral relations as well as justice, we expect Jordan to do this without further delay, thereby expressing honorable compliance with the principles that underpin our mutually beneficial alliance" and so on
but you would be disappointed. 

No US government voice has said anything like it. Not during the Obama presidency when the prosecution efforts got under way. And not during the four years of the Trump presidency when the criminal charge, sealed under conditions of strict secrecy in 2013, was finally unsealed in a blaze of welcome calls for justice to be done ["15-Mar-17: Sbarro and justice"].

What can we expect now? The Jerusalem Post offers this guarded view:
If there is hope, it might be if either the Biden administration shows a greater readiness to confront Jordan than either the Obama or Trump administrations, or if a new potential [Israeli] prime minister, like Bennett takes an interest in the issue. The coming months will show whether Biden, Bennett or any other new face has an interest in the issue, or whether the injustice will continue.

Since this is about hope, there's room be optimistic. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

14-Apr-21: Israel's Memorial Day and a message of justice

Yom Hazikaron, Israel's official Memorial Day when Israel stops to honor the fallen of its several wars, underwent a significant redefinition when it was extended by government resolution passed on February 5, 1997 [see the Knesset's English language explanation] to become, in addition, the country's "Memorial Day for Victims of Hostile Acts".

In plain terms, the day on which the nation remembers the lives taken by terrorists who target civilians of, in and beyond Israel. 

Arnold Roth was interviewed on i24NEWS' new "Global Eye with Natasha Kirtchuk" show during the evening hours of Tuesday April 13, 2021. A video of the segment (hosted on YouTube) is below, posted here with the kind permission of i24NEWS.


Sunday, April 11, 2021

11-Apr-21: Getting the word out today

The news industry doesn't give us an easy time. 

The only way our child's murderer, Ahlam Tamimi, the Jordanian woman who openly confesses to - boasts of is the more appropriate term -  bombing the Sbarro pizzeria in Jerusalem to kill and maim the Jewish children inside, will face justice is if public opinion is aroused enough to push the US government to firmly insist that Jordan complies.

It's incomprehensible to us that a succession of key US officials has stayed passive and acquiescent in the fact of Jordan's recalcitrance.

So long as the entire scandal remains suppressed, as it assuredly is, this isn't going to change.

Arnold Roth is an invited speaker on three public platforms today. Each is timed to coincide with Israel's Yom Hazikaron, the annual Memorial Day for the Fallen Soldiers of the Wars of Israel and Victims of Acts of Terrorism. It comes later this week, on Wednesday. It's immediately followed by Israel's Independence Day on Wednesday night and Thursday.

We hope you will find the time to join us at one of today's lectures/interviews.

---

StandWithUs | Sunday, April 11, 2021 at 11:00AM Pacific time (9:00 pm Israel time)

Bringing Our Child's Murderer To Justice | In 2001, Malki Roth was murdered in the Sbarro restaurant suicide bombing in Jerusalem along with 15 other people. Ahlam Tamimi, who now lives in Jordan, has shown no remorse for her despicable crimes. On this week’s episode of StandWithUs TV Live, Malki’s father, Arnold Roth will join us in conversation with Roz Rothstein, StandWithUs Co-founder and CEO, about terrorism, the impact Malki’s tragic death had on his family and the battle to have Tamimi extradited to the US to face charges. Join us live on Facebook.

UPDATE April 12, 2021: Here's the video 

 ---


The United Synagogue of the UK | Sunday, April 11, 2021 at 8:00 pm UK time (10:00 pm Israel time)

Remembering Malki | Ahead of Yom Hazikaron, join Rabbi Dov Kaplan in conversation with Arnold Roth, Chairman of Malki Foundation and father of Malki who was killed in the Sbarro restaurant bombing in Jerusalem in 2001. In partnership with the Malki Foundation, www.kerenmalki.org 
View the event at https://theus.tv/remembering-malki and available on demand afterwards

The United Synagogue "is the largest synagogue movement in Europe. Founded in 1870, today it comprises 62 local communities supported by a central office. The Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of Great Britain and the Commonwealth, Chief Rabbi Mirvis, is the spiritual head of our communities."

---

Beth Jacob Synagogue, Atlanta, Georgia | Sunday, April 11, 2021 at 8:00 pm EDT (3:00 am Monday morning Israel time), hosted by Rabbi Yitzchok Tendler. Log on details here.

UPDATE April 13, 2021: The video of the Beth Jacob Atlanta presentation is now up and viewable here.

Thursday, April 01, 2021

01-Apr-21: What, as elections approach, do Palestinian Arabs think about their society's corruption?

Screen shot from a YouTube clip called "Super Rich Palestinians"

Here's how the opening paragraph of a brief but concentrated report entitled "Corruption in the Palestinian Authority" reads:

"Corruption is endemic in the Palestinian Authority, the private sector and NGOs. It is spreading across all sections of Palestinian society."

The work of a Palestinian Arab organization - AMAN, The Coalition for Accountability and Integrity, based in Gaza and Ramallah - the report takes readers on a walk through a depressing landscape, touching on massive misappropriation of funds by senior officials, corrupt actions on the part of the highest-level judges, embezzlement in the Palestinian Arab intelligence agencies, the widespread smuggling of medications, the distribution of counterfeit drugs. 

"Stamping out corruption is an urgent need", its authors say. 

"There is no doubt that corruption is not new to the Palestinian Authority and that it has been endemic since the very beginning in Ramallah... This corruption began from the first moment that the PA began to gather the Palestinian people’s money and aid and pour it into the Fatah budget, even though this money was given to the Palestinian people, not the PA or its officials who have divided it amongst themselves."

The name of the revered Palestinian Arab leader Yasser Arafat is, not surprisingly, sprinkled among the charges. So is that of the current president, Mahmoud Abbas. And not in a kind and gentle way. 

The report was published in 2013. Has progress been made since then? Not if the events unfolding in the current chapter involving vaccines to combat the Covid-19 pandemic are anything to go by.

Jake Wallis Simons, in an exposé publish on March 9, 2021 in The Spectator ["Corruption affects everything in Palestine – even vaccines"], suggests that the situation remains grim.

Visit certain parts of the West Bank and you’ll encounter mansions owned by senior officials in the Palestinian Authority (PA). By any standards – let alone those to which ordinary citizens are accustomed – they are impressive, with arches, colonnades and tall windows. If you’d been watching them in recent weeks, you might have seen vaccines being quietly delivered to these residences in unmarked cars, having been skimmed off the supply intended for medical workers.

Those, at least, were the allegations made by a number of Palestinian human rights and civil society groups. Last week, the Palestinian health ministry was forced to come clean. In a statement, the ministry admitted that 10 per cent of the 12,000 doses it had received had been put aside for government ministers and members of the PLO’s executive committee.

The rest, it claimed, had been given to workers treating Covid patients and employees of the health ministry. Aside from the 200 doses that were sent to the Jordanian royal court, that is. And those reserved for presidential guards. And those that had been given to the Palestinian national football team... 

According to AMAN, a Palestinian anti-corruption body linked to Transparency International, almost 70 per cent of Palestinians believe that their government institutions are corrupt. An EU report found that embezzlement had led to a loss of £1.7 billion of aid money between 2008 and 2012 alone. Huge sums are spent on fake companies and projects, including – in 2017 – a non-existent airline...
The Spectator piece (that's just an extract above) is a revealing essay, an easy and short read but with some important messages for the many who take an interest in the Middle East and its conflicts. It reflects a concern about which we have written (often) since shortly after our child's murder at the hands of Palestinian Arab terrorists in the service of Hamas. 

Jake's bottom line is one we share: 
It’s high time for those on the Left to stop using the conflict to burnish their own political credentials and consider the real roots of the problem.
To which we would add: And it's time foreign governments, especially of donor countries providing aid to the Abbas regime in Ramallah, realize the funds they hand over so casually are part of the solution to what ails Palestinian Arab society. 

We think there are lots of people who think the same way: ordinary Palestinian Arabs.

Getting a real and reliable sense of what they feel about important issues is harder than most people would imagine. This has to do with the massive distortions, the centralized control of Palestine's media, the fear of the multiple overlapping security forces, the relative ineffectiveness of the institutions of justice, and other similar dark realities. 

And also the way "government jobs, which are prized due to the weak private economy, are awarded on the basis of cronyism rather than merit" [source]. The latest data show [here] that unemployment in Hamas-controlled Gaza is a fraction under 50% and rising. For the West Bank, we're still checking and will update. If you were in their shoes, how ready would you be to go finding fault with public officials who perhaps hold the key to your salary-earning job and perhaps those of your spouse and/or children?

We have focused over several years on Palestinian Arab studies of Palestinian Arab views via the Ramallah-based Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (commonly called PSR). We summarized their published reports for the first time a little over eight years ago ["15-Jan-13: Update on the Palestinian Arab Terrorism Index"]. And since then about a dozen more times [click here].

In a blog post some five and a half years ago, we posed these question about opinion measurement:
Polls are fine and useful and so on but there's another way of gauging public opinion that most of the world uses regularly. When were the last elections in either of the two Palestinian Arab entities? Why are elections such a low priority for people ruled by autocratic regimes, living with significantly un-free media, and ostensibly desperate to have their voices heard? ["03-Nov-15: What do they mean when the Palestinian Arabs say they oppose terror?"]
We're addressing this now because there are indications (and the matter is by no means certain) we're going to find out soon. 
Mercedes-Benz Palestine

The most recent PSR poll, published a week ago, is timed to throw light on where Palestinian Arab opinions stands as an exceedingly rare event - Palestinian Authority elections - seems to be appearing on the horizon. The full text of the PSR's Public Opinion Poll Number 79, released March 23, 2021, is online here

Actually, they are preparing for three separate but related upcoming elections: (1) For the Palestinian Legislative Council on May 22, 2021. (2) For President of the Palestinian National Authority on July 31, 2021; and (3) for the Palestinian National Council of the PLO on August 31, 2021,

Our interest is mainly limited to a sub-set of the analysis: what do its subjects think about corruption in the Palestinian Authority? 

Here's what the PSR data tell us about the views of Palestinian Arab adults, via a sample of 1,200 polled face-to-face in 120 randomly-selected Palestinian Arab locations by Palestinian Arab interviewers speaking in Arabic during the period between March 14 and March 19, 2021:
  • The perception of corruption in PA institutions: 84% 
  • The perception of corruption in the Hamas-controlled institutions of the Gaza Strip: 70%
  • Asked to assume that the PA (meaning Fatah) wins the elections, 36% of those polled say PA corruption will get larger; 16% say PA corruption will decrease. And though the poll report doesn't say this, we assume the remaining 48% expressed no opinion. If we're right, that's almost half the Palestinian Arab population who would rather not say. That may be the nmost significant statistic to emerge from this study. So now note the next bullet: 
  • Related to corruption as Jake Wallis Simons explains above, nearly two-thirds of Palestinian Arabs (62%) say the vaccination process in the West Bank lacks transparency and justice. The percentage who say it is transparent and just is 33%. Evidently on vaccination, almost no one lacks an opinion.
  • Also COVID-19-related: those dissatisfied with the PA's measures to contain the spread of the coronavirus are fully 50%. (Further break-down: In the West Bank which is ruled by Fatah/PA officials, those dis-satisfied are 61%. In the Gaza Strip which is dominated by Hamas, the dis-satisfied are 34%.) And 47% are satisfied.  

There's much more to think about, as there always is, in the PSR poll results. But the only other part we want to highlight at this point concerns overall goals and overall problems. Somewhat surprisingly, the problems and the goals seem not to match up - a phenomenon we have seen over and again among the Palestinian Arabs, (It's worth a short essay but not today.)

Main Palestinian Arab goals, according to PSR:

  1. "To end Israeli occupation in the areas occupied in 1967 and build a Palestinian state in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip with East Jerusalem as its capital: 43% 
  2. "To obtain the right of return of refugees to their 1948 towns and villages": 31%
  3. "To establish a democratic political system that respects freedoms and rights of Palestinians": 14%
  4. "To build a pious or moral individual and a religious society, one that applies all Islamic teachings": 11%

And the most serious problem confronting Palestinian society today?:

  1. Poverty and unemployment: 30%
  2. Curbing the spread of corruption in public institutions: 25%
  3. "The continuation of occupation and settlement activities" of the Israelis: 24%
  4. "The continued  siege of the Gaza Strip and the closure of its crossings": 13%
  5. "The lack of national unity": 6%

We'll know we're getting to a better place with our Arab neighbors when their goals align with their problems. Till then, there's not much room for optimism.

[This post, like many others before it, has been translated into the Polish language ("Co Palestyńczycy w obliczu zbliżających się wyborów myślą o korupcji w ich społeczeństwie?") by courtesy of Malgorzata Koraszewska over on the Listy z naszego sadu website. Our sincere thanks to her, and great appreciation to readers of this blog in Poland.]

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

16-Mar-21: I remember shedding tears that day: Four years later

The article below is cross-posted from Frimet Roth's The Good, The Bad, The Ugly blog and was authored by Frimet. 

It was published there on March 15, 2021 under the heading A call to President Biden. Please check out the video clip at the bottom; we produced this - with the help of talented friends - to mark the anniversary about which Frimet writes.

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Exactly four years ago, during the evening hours of March 14, 2017, Department of Justice and FBI officials invited my husband and me to a meeting in a Jerusalem hotel.

There they shared with us news that we believed would herald the arrest and trial of our child's murderer. Ahlam Tamimi had by then been enjoying freedom and security in Amman for five and a half years. In October 2011, she had been released in the lop-sided Shalit Deal with the terror organization Hamas.

The moment she landed in her native country Jordan, she began boasting of the terror bombing attack she had masterminded on Jerusalem's Sbarro pizzeria in August 2001. The eatery had been packed with families that hot summer afternoon. The number of victims reached 15, including 8 children, among them our Malki.

Tamimi repeatedly urged her admirers to follow in her footsteps from the platform of a weekly talk show she hosted on the global Arabic-language Al Quds TV station. She also addressed live audiences both in Jordan and in several neighboring Arab countries to which she travelled during those years with ease.

On that March 2017 evening - it happens to have been my birthday - those US officials told us charges against Tamimi, the existence of which we knew nothing about until that moment, had just been unsealed. And her extradition to the US for trial had been demanded of Jordan pursuant to the 1995 Extradition Treaty between the two countries.

I remember shedding tears that day as I sat at the table across from those officials. I had little doubt that this monster would soon be where she belongs - behind bars in a US Federal penitentiary, this time until her last day on earth.

But here we are in 2021 and we are no closer to justice now than we were then. 

King Abdullah's regime steadfastly refuses to honor the extradition treaty that Jordan signed and ratified with the US in 1995. 

Jordan receives generous financial aid from the US as well as praise and adulation from the White House and from numerous individual members of Congress.

My husband and I are incredibly disturbed by the apparent passivity on the part of the US in the face of Jordan's brazen contempt for the rule of law.

It often seems to us that Jordan is the tail wagging the dog in this much lauded "partnership".

We truly hope that you, President Biden, will impress on Jordan that the existential support lavished on the Hashemite Kingdom is contingent on this evil woman being brought to justice.

We produced the video below with friends to mark the fourth anniversary this past weekend. It's also accessible via YouTube.


Friday, March 12, 2021

11-Mar-21: Interpol and justice


Trying to bring the central figure in our daughter's murder to justice has been one of the hardest and most painful things my wife and I have ever had to do.


That person, a Jordanian woman called Ahlam Tamimi, should have been put on trial in Washington under US law a long time ago. The charges against her were unsealed by senior Department of Justice officials almost exactly four years ago to the day, on March 14, 2017. We had already planned to mark that somber anniversary with a renewed call to the US government for meaningful pressure to be brought to bear on its ally and treaty partner, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.

It is inexplicable to us that Jordan, which signed a treaty with the US more than a quarter century ago for the mutual extradition of fugitives like Tamimi, remains in flagrant breach of that treaty even while it continues to be a recipient of colossal sums in US foreign aid each year.

Today we learned of a further reversal: the blunt and unwelcome announcement by Interpol on March 8, 2021 that it has succumbed to pressure from the fugitive's family, lawyers and clan in Jordan and has cancelled the Red Notice which operated until now to encourage member governments to arrest her if she enters their jurisdiction. 

We learned about this via the Arabic-language media and are trying to get clarification from the US justice system.

My wife and I will not give up in our efforts to see this loathsome person - the embodiment of murderous bigotry - eventually brought to justice to answer for her crimes.

Arnold Roth
Jerusalem
thisongoingwar@gmail.com 

Monday, February 22, 2021

22-Feb-21: On pursuing justice: A Merseyside perspective

Mr Cohen's article as it appears in the Jewish Telegraph
The following is an op ed by Johnny Cohen of Liverpool in the United Kingdom. Mr Cohen is a respected pillar - and veteran leader - of the city's Jewish community and currently serves as president of the Merseyside Jewish Representative Council.

His article is published under the title “Arnold’s anger over the release of woman who murdered daughter” in this past weekend’s Jewish Telegraph in the United Kingdom. 

Their online edition does not include this welcome piece. So with Mr Cohen’s permission, we are grateful to reprint it here.

* * *
In March 2014, the Liverpool Jewish Forum hosted a special visitor from Israel, Arnold Roth.

He and wife Frimet, parents of a profoundly disabled daughter Haya, had set up the Malki Foundation following the brutal murder in 2001 in the Sbarro Pizzeria massacre in Jerusalem of their older 15 year-old daughter Malki, one of two US nationals among 15 civilians, including 7 children and a pregnant woman, who were killed. 130 others were injured, many severely.

The Foundation, Keren Malki, enables families in Israel to provide quality care at home for children with disabilities, and later I spent a few years as a Trustee, until I found that time pressures did not allow me to do justice to that position.

Arnold’s talk concentrated on the foundation and on Malki herself, not on her murder. But he did express anger and disappointment that the woman who directed Malki’s murder, Ahlam Aref Ahmad Al-Tamimi, was one of more than 1,000 Israeli-held security prisoners who had planned/perpetrated various terror attacks against Israeli targets, but were released from prison in exchange for Gilad Shalit in 2011.
Liverpool, March 2014:
Johnny Cohen (L) and Arnold Roth (R) listen intently
as Nicole Gordon of Malki Foundation UK describes
the foundation's work

Tamimi, the first woman ever to be admitted to the ranks of Hamas terrorists, had pleaded guilty in an Israeli court in 2003, did not express remorse for her role, and had received 16 consecutive life sentences and an additional 15 years in prison.

Legislation has existed for years empowering the US to arrest, try and convict terrorists in US courts under US law if they kill a US national anywhere. Malki was a citizen of the United States and also of Australia and Israel. Another victim of Tamimi’s Sbarro bombing, a young mother who is also an American national, remains comatose 20 years after the bombing.

In 1995, an extradition treaty was signed and ratified between the US and Jordan, accepted as valid by both countries. But in 2017, a Jordanian court ruled that Tamimi could not be extradited, because the treaty was never approved by the Jordanian parliament. Yet, back in 1995, Jordan had permitted U.S. agents to enter the country to arrest Eyad Ismail, a suspect in the 1993 World Trade Centre bombing.

Jordan refuses to allow Tamimi’s extradition.

* * *
In 2013, the Obama administration issued a formal criminal complaint against Tamimi for “Conspiring to use and using a weapon of mass destruction against a US national outside the US resulting in death and aiding and abetting and causing an act to be done,” but never made this public.

Only in March 2017, did the Trump administration unseal it, saying “The charges unsealed today serve as a reminder that when terrorists target Americans anywhere in the world, we will never forget – and we will continue to seek to ensure that they are held accountable.” The Justice Department formally notified Jordan of its request that she be extradited to face trial in Washington.

In 2018, the Trump administration offered a $5 million reward for the capture of the only woman on the FBI’s Most Wanted Terrorists list.

Arnold and Frimet Roth have campaigned since 2012 for the United States firmly to urge compliance by Jordan to bring Tamimi to justice. As a result, in December 2019, President Trump signed into law a powerful sanction that potentially will stop U.S. foreign aid to Jordan because of its treaty breach.
Liverpool, March 2014:
Arnold Roth describes the Malki Foundation's
work to a student assembly at the King David School

Also, in April 2020, seven Congressional lawmakers wrote to Jordan’s Ambassador in Washington, noting how the sanction reflects “the deep concern of the Congress, the Administration and the American people” and affirming that “it is of the highest importance to US/Jordan relations that an outcome is found that honours Jordanian law while ensuring this unrepentant terrorist and murderer of innocent Americans is brought to US justice.”

Back in 2014, I did not imagine that Tamimi would remain free until today in Jordan, protected from justice by King Abdullah II, a ruler who Arnold now describes as “coddled by both the United States and Israel.”

Tamimi hosted a TV programme from Amman for 5 years, shown in America and elsewhere, and has given lectures and made numerous public appearances extolling the bombing. She has boasted that two of the factors leading her to pick the pizzeria as a bombing target were the crowds that gathered there during lunch hour and that she ‘knew there was a Jewish religious school nearby.’

How ironic that “tamimi” in Hebrew means innocent or unblemished, especially given that last weekend’s Torah portion Mishpatim, dealing with civil law, clearly specifies death as the penalty for murder.

* * *
We should remember that our Rabbis said that pursuit of justice is the cornerstone of Judaism, with which the Torah begins and ends. We cannot consider ourselves pious Jews without a firm commitment to making the world a more just and righteous place. When injustice stares us in the face, when Mishpat Tzedek (Justice and Righteousness) are being abused and forsaken, as Arnold argues forcefully, we must have the courage to stand up and speak out in pursuit of the ultimate tzedek to ensure that people are judged fairly.

Furthermore, our rabbis tell us that although 'you are not required to complete the task, neither are you at liberty to abstain from it.' So Arnold’s correct first step is to seek from the United States, Israel and Jordan acknowledgement of a gross injustice.

In this, he is surely exercising his rights under the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), which recognised human rights to be the foundation for freedom, justice and peace. Article 3 grants everyone the right to life and to live in freedom and safety, Article 8 the right to seek justice and Article 28 the right to a social and international order where the rights in the Declaration can be fully realised

* * *
What follows is based on an online talk by Arnold Roth last week “Terrorism: Seeking Justice for Its Victims” [YouTube].

Although the US insists that the extradition treaty is valid, little evident pressure has been, or is being, exerted by the US to elicit Jordanian compliance. Nothing has materialised from the 2019 legislation which created the powerful sanction to withdraw the significant aid given annually to Jordan. Referring to the billions of dollars of both financial and military aid, Roth suggests that “if the US administration insisted, there’s no way the Jordanians could refuse a request to hand over Tamimi.” He says that his repeated requests to discuss the issue with State Department officials have been “essentially ignored.”

There has been no concrete development since Henry Wooster became the Ambassador of the United States to Jordan in August 2020, despite his statement then that “all options are on the table.” The Office for Victims of Overseas Terrorism, a Justice Department agency tasked with assisting terror victims and their families, has also declined to comment.

Although Arnold made visits to, and had considerable dealings with, Jordan pre-2001, he has never received any concrete responses from the Jordanian Embassy in Washington to justify why Jordan's regime has been honouring, sheltering and celebrating a self-confessed, proud murderer of Jews since 2011. Or why the Jordanian parliament will not ratify the valid extradition treaty. He has not been granted a single interview to examine the issues.

The media, especially in the US, have failed to address jihadist hatred and barbarism and the FBI’s “most wanted terrorist.” Indeed media outlets have glorified Tamimi’s hateful ideologies, rather than focus on peace efforts. The influential BBC showed its hand from the outset during the week of shivah, mourning, for Malki in 2001. BBC Radio 4’s Today programme wanted to interview Arnold, but only together with a parent of a Palestinian suicide bomber. The BBC equated Arnold’s loss of a child as a victim of terror with the death of a “martyr” knowingly targeting terror.

Although Roth was at one time Israel’s representative at the UN re terrorism, nobody from the Israeli Government has openly analysed the issues or engaged with him since the Shalit exchange.

An Interpol ‘Red Notice’ (a request to law enforcement worldwide to locate and provisionally arrest an individual pending extradition) was issued in 2016, but with no development.

* * *
Johnny Cohen
[Image Source: Jewish Chronicle]
So what can we do?

If we have any contacts/influence, direct or indirect, especially in the USA, Jordan or Israel, call for Tamimi to be brought to justice to face Federal terrorism charges in a Washington DC court,
We must not let the Roth family down.

In the words of the prophet (Isaiah 1:27): "Zion will be redeemed through Justice

Friday, February 05, 2021

05-Feb-21: The Sbarro savagery: The on-air apology BBC Arabic broadcast to its viewers [Video]

This screen cap comes from the October 8, 2020 edition of BBC Arabic's hugely popular, five-nights-a-week news and analysis show, Trending. This edition contained a segment of about 6 minutes devoted to explaining the 'predicament' of FBI Most Wanted Fugitive Ahlam Tamimi, a boastful bomber of children including ours, whose husband, it was claimed, had been forcibly deported from Jordan on October 1, 2020. Outrage against the BBC's judgement soon followed.

In October 2020, we (Frimet and Arnold Roth who write this blog) protested what we see as the inexcusably disgraceful way the BBC's BBC Arabic unit aired a fawning and - in our view - completely misleading news segment about the Jordanian woman who killed our daughter Malki.

The details are laid out in these earlier reports (listed chronologically):

How the BBC handled the Ahlam Tamimi matter is also the subject of a front-page expose (photo on the right) in the current (February 3, 2021) edition of the London-based Jewish Chronicle
It's also at the heart of an incisive column, "Terrorism, Malki Roth’s murder and questions to answer for the BBC’s Arabic service" by Chris Blackhurst, published in Reaction. We have an extract from it below.

We mentioned in our February 4, 2021 post that BBC management, responding to the public outrage over what the clever people at BBC Arabic did when they sympathetically showcased the world's most wanted female fugitive Ahlam Tamimi, arranged for one of the BBC Arabic Trending program's presenters to deliver an on-air apology. This was broadcast on October 29, 2020.

There's much criticism we want to share about the apology's content and style. (To understand how we feel about what's said - and how it's presented - we urge you to pause now and read our previous post: "04-Feb-21: The BBC is sorry they showcased a terrorist. But do they actually grasp the problem?")

One of the puzzling aspects was that the apology itself was not stored away as video-on-demand on any of the BBC's media platforms. In other words, if you didn't see it in real time, there was no way to review it or draw your own conclusions afterwards. Once delivered, the apology immediately disappeared. (A few more words about that below.)

So this week, we asked BBC management to allow us to republish their highly problematic October 29, 2020 apology here on our blog. To their great credit, they didn't hesitate to give their explicit permission. 

Here it is:

As you see, it comes with no English sub-titles. But in sharing the on-air apology video with us, the BBC also sent us their translation of the Arabic. 

Here it is below - unedited, unchanged. The speaker is BBC Arabic’s Rania ‘Attar; one of Trending’s regular presenters since it got started in 2017.

On 8 October, BBC Arabic’s Trending programme item on social media reactions to a phone call made by Ahlam Tamimi to a Jordanian radio station. Trending then broadcast a short clip recorded with Tamimi.

This item was in breach of the BBC’s editorial guidelines. Tamimi was convicted on terrorism charges and sentenced to multiple life sentences in Israel for an attack that killed 15 civilians including eight children, she is on the FBI’s most wanted terrorist list and is a member of an organisation proscribed by the UK and  several international governments.

Therefore, any contact with her should have been approved in advance by senior editors in the BBC, as per our editorial guidelines. That approval was not sought and would certainly not have been given.

This item should not have been shown.  It was a clear breach of our editorial guidelines and we apologise for it.

As we wrote in our February 4 post, this apology has some troubling features. 

  • It’s devoid of any on-screen headline. There is no photo of Tamimi or of the massacre or of anything else that would catch a viewer's attention. In fact, there's no visual link to convey that this is important. All that the audience experiences is the rapidly spoken flat-toned speechlet of the cold-faced presenter herself saying that it’s about Tamimi. There's simply no indication that this has any special significance.
  • On the positive side, it’s delivered by the same journalist who was the program’s presenter when they showcased the Sbarro monster a few weeks earlier. That on its own is important. But her tone is monotonous and uninflected, and her brief recitation lasts just a minute. 
Arnold Roth showed the BBC’s transcript along with the video clip to an expert Arabic-to-English translator who pointed out some problems. The biggest was in the opening words. 

On screen, the Trending presenter, Rania ‘Attar, speaking Arabic says this:
“Our viewers, I read you a message from the BBC”.
The transcript that the BBC gave us does not have those words or anything like them.

The omission leaves us feeling that the non-Arabic speakers at the world’s most important broadcast enterprise, including senior BBC management, don’t realize that this (using our words and not hers) is what their audience actually heard from Trending’s presenter:
“Friends, what I’m about to say is not me speaking but something the BBC people have obliged me to say. So here goes. We’ll get this out of the way in a minute and get back to our show.”

Image source: REACTION screen cap
And one more important thing to know about this on-air apology.

As CAMERA Arabic points out [here in Arabic] all of the Trending program's segments for October 29, 2020 were stored on the BBC website for some time after they went to air. But not the apology. 

If you go now to BBC Arabic's YouTube channel, you can still see all of those October 29, 2020 Trending segments today. But (and we hope BBC senior management see these words) you will not see the apology that went to air the same night. It alone is missing

As we noted above, Chris Blackurst, who served as editor of the UK's The Independent in the recent past, published a powerful takedown today in his first column for Reaction (background here). Since his excellent comments are behind a paywall, here's a brief extract:

Even though [Malki] died 20 years ago, [Arnold Roth's] pain at her loss is obvious and still raw. It does not diminish. Imagine, then, in October last year, him turning on theBBC Arabic TV programme, Trending, to watch the mastermind of her deathbeing interviewed and treated respectfully... 

Listening to Roth and observing his anger and hurt, you do wonder. One man’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter and all that... This isn’t about IRA versus Britain or Palestine versus Israel; it is about grief and torment. Here, there was not even an attempt at balance, no account of what happened, and Tamimi’s role. That one-sidedness was then compounded by the robotic, distanced apology.

Perish the thought that the BBC’s Arabic service is pursuing a political agenda at the expense of the Corporation’s mission statement: “To act in the public interest, serving all audiences through the provision of impartial, high-quality and distinctive output and services which inform, educate and entertain.”

Shame on you, BBC.

[From "Terrorism, Malki Roth’s murder and questions to answer for the BBC’s Arabic service", Reaction, February 6, 2021]. 

As we keep saying, and as respected voices like Mr Blackhurts's are reiterating, there is a serious problem here. Arnold Roth expressed it this way in his interview this week with the Jewish Chronicle:

There's a toxic culture at BBC Arabic... This isn’t journalism. It’s the advocacy of pushing their own hateful views. She confessed to all the charges in court and is unabashedly proud of what she has done. Yet BBC Arabic wants to treat her like Joan of Arc. I believe in senior management’s good faith but fear they don’t fully grasp the BBC Arabic agenda. The language barrier leads, I suspect, to the Arabic producers and reporters playing BBC senior people for fools.[Jewish Chronicle. February 4, 2021]

Since you are here at our blog, you likely know that we are in the midst of a years-long battle to see justice done. We want the woman who boasts - boasts! - of killing the children inside the pizzeria brought to justice in Washington. We believe the US Department of Justice wants to see her stand trial and we are doing all we can to expose the obstacles (about which we have never been explicit) and get them removed. 

What the BBC allowed to be done in shamefully platforming Tamimi and what she stands for is a microcosm of what we personally have encountered over and over again. And still do. 

The media part of this is particularly painful. Faced with a news story involving pure unadulterated evil in a very specific political setting, a broad spectrum of editors, reporters and commentators prefer to stay silent. 

Or, as the BBC did in October, put lipstick on a pig rather than deal with the crucial matters (of terrorism, justice, malfeasance, cover-up) at hand. 

Tamimi's years of illicit freedom and the fact that Jordan breaches its own extradition treaty with its most powerful and important ally in order to keep her safe and out of the reach of law enforcement is a time bomb. Failing to deal with terrorism, with those who do it and with those who ensure it endures and thrives has real consequences. 

And so does lethal journalism.

UPDATE February 9, 2021: And another valuable contribution on holding the BBC to account comes today from Jake Wallis-Simons in The Spectator: "What’s the problem with BBC Arabic?". A brief extract:

...it should come as a cause for concern – if not necessarily surprise – that a Jewish Chronicle investigation has uncovered evidence of shameful and systematic bias at the channel. The idea for the investigation came after a conversation with an Australian-born Israeli called Arnold Roth, 69, whose teenage daughter Malki was one of 15 people killed by a Palestinian suicide bomber in 2001. The female terrorist who masterminded the attack, Ahlam Tamimi, was released from jail in a prisoner exchange in 2011 and went to live in Jordan, where she became a celebrated media personality.

Last year, BBC Arabic broadcast a fawning interview with the convicted terrorist. Incensed, Roth complained and won an apology from Jamie Angus, head of the World Service. Roth suspected, however, that this was not an aberration but a symptom of a rotten culture at the heart of the licence-fee-funded Arabic channel.

The investigation appears to confirm this view.

We're waiting to see where, if at all, this attention goes and who steps up to propose actual next steps. 

Thursday, February 04, 2021

04-Feb-21: The BBC is sorry they showcased a terrorist. But do they actually grasp the problem?

The presenter of BBC Arabic's Trending tribute to Ahlam Tamimi
introduces the fugitive terrorist [Image Source: Screen Capture] 

Arnold Roth writes: 

I’m not a broadcaster, not a journalist, not a policy-shaping official. But I have things I feel ought to be heard and known about one of the world's most important media platforms, the BBC. 

I am writing now because there is an important, sober and factual expose of the problems there in today's edition of a British weekly ["Shame of BBC Arabic as systematic bias revealed | A JC investigation shows a pattern of anti-Israel bias and inaccuracies", Jewish Chronicle, February 3, 2021]. 

I am quoted briefly there but want to raise some larger aspects of the deeply disturbing affair.

On November 9, 2020 I took part in an intense meeting with senior executives at the BBC. The subject was a complaint I had published some weeks earlier [see “Why does BBC‏ ‏promote my daughter’s murderer?” Arnold Roth/Palestinian Media Watch, October 13, 2020] about a Jordanian woman, a fugitive from US justice, being given the celebrity treatment before a global audience tuned in to a BBC show that has a huge following among Arabic speakers.

The meeting, by video conference, was at my request. 

I was and continue to be impressed that the senior executive at BBC World Service responded positively to me and without hesitation. He could easily have ignored or deflected what was clearly an uncomfortable proposal. That’s pretty much what the vast majority of media organizations and their editors and management with whom I have tried to engage have done during the past four years.

Is this because I am rude? Nasty? Perhaps, but I believe it has more to do with how I bring disturbing messages with me.

* * *

But first some needed background.

My daughter, Malka Chana Roth, a beautiful high school student with a sunny disposition, was one of 15 innocent people murdered in a pizzeria attack carried out by Islamist terrorists in the center of the city where we live, Jerusalem, on August 9, 2001. A sixteenth victim remains in a coma all these years later.

That Islamist terrorist, who was 21 years old at the time and responsible for selecting the target and planting the bomb, was a part-time news-reader at a Palestinian Arab TV station and personally reported the news on camera some hours after engineering the massacre. She went on to publicly call the savagery “my operation”. She has been explicit about how she wanted her victims to be children and took pains to ensure that is what happened. In this she succeeded on a monstrous scale.

My wife and I are battling to see the woman whom the BBC so generously profiled in its October 2020 broadcast, Ahlam Tamimi, locked up for life in a maximum-security prison. Dedicated investigators, prosecutors and agents in the US Department of Justice are too.

This is a battle we have waged – in the literal sense, a fight for justice – since February 2012. There have been meaningful achievements along the way, most notably the unveiling of terror charges against Tamimi on March 14, 2017. 

But what counts is that Tamimi remains free. She’s based in Jordan’s capital, living a life of privilege, influence, public adulation.

Jordan is a monarchy with friendly ties throughout the Western world. It happens also to be a tightly controlled state with famously unfree media. Despite the restrictive policies and willingness to silence the regime's critics, it has extended a rare degree of generosity to Tamimi. Most notably this has extended to the privilege of allowing her to host her own television program devoted to promoting terror and terrorists. 

That show, distributed and watched globally via Hamas satellite TV from a studio in Amman every week for five years, allowed Tamimi’s unique incitement to terror to reach Arabic-speaking audiences in virtually every country on earth.

The Jordanian woman not only spearheaded the atrocity and has never stopped boasting about it. She boasts on camera of slipping into Jerusalem multiple times by means of her media credentials, of selecting the target with great care; of personally planting the bomb. And in due course she celebrated the many deaths and injuries with manifest glee. On any reasonable view, this is a monster.

That along with her years of exposure via frequent public appearances – live and via television – in large parts of the Arab world have made her a global celebrity.

I can barely type those words. 

It’s a crushing reality made much worse by foolish political decisions and the moral cowardice of a long line of public and media figures. In practice, the outrage tends to be somewhat muted largely because, unless you are fluent in Arabic, you probably have had no idea till now.

* * *

This is not how we thought things would turn out.


Malki was just 15 years old - a lovely almost-young-woman brimful of musical talent, sweetness, empathy - when she stood with her lifelong friend Michal Raziel at the counter of the Sbarro pizzeria in the center of Israel’s capital on a hot school holiday afternoon in the summer of 2001.
Sbarro immediately after the attack [Image Credit:
Avi Ohayon and Israel Government Press Office]

The human bomb (a term I urge people to think about and use), a religious zealot in his twenties from a family of well-off Palestinian Arab restaurateurs, was brought right up to the shop’s entrance by Tamimi. She fled the scene before he walked in.

Had anyone stopped the young ordinary-looking man at the door to check the contents of the guitar case slung over his shoulder (but guards were not posted in those more innocent days), they would not have found a musical instrument.

Instead, it was filled with kilograms of tightly packed explosives, grotesquely augmented with a large quantity of human-flesh-ripping nails.

The explosion that ensued was thunderous. The outcome was utter carnage. An Israeli court convicted Tamimi on terror charges after she admitted to all of them.

But eight years later she walked out, thanks to a deal made by Israel with Hamas for the freedom of an Israeli hostage, Gilad Shalit, held by the terrorists for more than five years.

Tamimi returned to Jordan and her family and was received there as a conquering heroine and role model. Her wedding less than a year later was a live TV event.

For us, things then went downhill quickly. From bad to worse to literally unbearable.

In March 2017, the US unsealed terrorism charges against Tamimi. They had been issued in 2013, but at the request of the prosecutors they were kept confidential and secret by order of the court.

The charges were based on a Federal law that applies to acts of terror committed outside the territory of the US that cause the death of American nationals like my Malki.

The Jordanian was added to the FBI’s Most Wanted Terrorists list the same day and is still there – the second female ever to be on the list - along with a multi-million-dollar reward for her capture and conviction.

The Hashemite Kingdom response came, to our astonishment, just six days later.

Jordan’s highest court handed down a ruling that the extradition treaty signed by the late King Hussein -- the widely admired father of the current king -- with the Clinton Administration in 1995 was invalid. It was therefore unenforceable, the judges declared, and had been since the day it was signed.

Jordan, as a result, not only would not, but could not, hand Tamimi over for trial. So said the highest tribunal in the land.

For their part, King Abdullah II and his diplomats and ministers found it unnecessary to say a single public word. With two small exceptions, they have remained silent ever since. A handful of news stories blandly reported the legal decision. But no questions were ever asked by any reporters – questions like: how could Jordan protect an admitted mass murderer and, in the process, thumb its nose at its American benefactor? And what about the string of fugitive terrorists whom Jordan had in fact extradited to the US when so requested?

And that was that.

The woman who confesses happily (the videos show how literally true this is) to blowing up children in a fast-food place morphed into arguably the most protected fugitive alive.

* * *

With all its exhausting frustrations, the situation is not static.

Tamimi learned this past September that Jordan intended to deport her husband, Nizar Tamimi. He is a convicted murderer who was released in that same deal as Ahlam Tamimi despite having been sentenced to a life term.

On October 1, 2020 he appears - though the matter is not clear - to have left Jordan to take up residence in Qatar.
The US State Department posted a $5M reward, still in effect,
in January 2018 [Image Source]

It appears he went alone. His wife, the FBI’s Most Wanted. fugitive -- has said noisily and repeatedly that she calls Jordan home and will not leave. Let’s note that Qatar has no extradition treaty with the US or, as far as I can tell, with any other country. The Tamimis have both visited Qatar several times in the past few years and have said to the media that each of them was given residential rights there.

Ahlam Tamimi quickly embarked on a campaign demanding the restoration of her right to live in Jordan with her husband. The female fugitive who has boasted for years of spearheading a slaughter of children says her entitlement to have him back is enshrined in Jordanian law. That it’s a matter of elementary human rights.

With a perfectly straight face, she presents herself as the victim of an incomprehensible injustice.

It’s a message she delivered personally by calling-in to various Arab media outlets, including a high-profile talk-radio station in Jordan’s capital, Amman, called Melody FM.

On October 6, she phoned the presenters of a popular program there and managed to start explaining that she wanted to address Jordan’s king over the airwaves so he would know about the abridgement of her rights and would restore them.

The presenters, claiming there was an audio problem, abruptly cut her off.

The barely-disguised silencing of one of Jordan’s best-known voices instantly became a major issue. On social media, an Arabic hashtag meaning “Your voice is loud and clear, Ahlam Tamimi” got tremendous traction.

* * *

Which brings us to the United Kingdom.

Some 48 hours later, the daily edition of a prime-time current affairs TV show called Trending produced in London went to air on BBC Arabic, amplified by global distribution via YouTube.

The Trending program included a six-minute segment overviewing some of what I have just written. The core message was Tamimi’s demand for her infringed rights to be restored, delivered by the $5 Million woman herself speaking straight into the camera.

In a disturbing example of ill-conceived advocacy, what was conveyed is that here was a Jordanian woman, deprived of something fundamental, deserving support, sympathy, intervention.

A brief video clip overviewing the back-story then drove home to viewers the notion of Tamimi as a victim of cruel injustice, a detainee (that’s a key word) eventually released from imprisonment… and now, being victimized all over again by her own royal majesty!

What possessed the BBC reporters and producers to put this abomination to air? [1]

Screen cap from the Palestinian Media Watch
English translation of the Ahlam Tamimi appeal
promoted 
in the BBC Arabic program
From senior levels of the world’s largest broadcasting organization [2]the BBC has expressed its apologies. The media, including Britain’s major Jewish news platforms, have duly reported this. The Jewish News, another British-Jewish weekly gave this front-page coverage in October: "22-Oct-20: Whose business is it if BBC engages in advocacy journalism?"

It’s my opinion that the apologies mis-state what’s happened here. They are not directed at the actual problem and fail to adequately deal with how the problematic sequence of events presages a problematic future. The one carried in the UK Jewish News weekly put it this way:

“Following an editorial review, we found that this segment was in breach of our editorial guidelines and we removed the clip from our digital platforms last week. We accept that the segment should not have been shown and apologise for the offence caused.”
By my count, to this point the BBC has issued at least five Tamimi/Trending apologies. All of them are framed as a breach of the BBC’s editorial guidelines, as a failure to meet the BBC’s own standards, as a mistake.

All are inadequate because, failing to identify the problem they therefore do not address it.

Not one of them details Tamimi’s crime. Or her explicit and repeated admissions of guilt. Beyond that, they fail to ask what the British public needs to know: Given the BBC’s history, scale, standing and massive resources, how could this have happened?

BBC Arabic is a very serious media business with a weekly audience, according to the BBC’s own dataof some 43 million. Its Twitter account alone has 7.7 million followers. It broadcasts programs and hourly news bulletins 24 hours a day, 7 days a week on radio and via cable, satellite, streaming video and BBC News Arabic television. It has an impactful web-based presence on YouTube, Twitter and Facebook.

Far from being some minor add-on to a mainstream media operation, BBC Arabic is a full-blown world-class competitor to the likes of Aljazeera, SKY News Arabic, Al Arabiya, Iran’s Alalam, and Arabic channels from France and Russia. Friends familiar with the Arab world have told me it’s considered the most credible and least problematic of the pack.

Then there’s the matter of public resources that have been placed at its disposal. In October 2017 (according to a BBC media release: “BBC Arabic launches Trending), the British Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office – the UK’s foreign ministry – handed £291 million, equivalent to US $387M at today’s rate, to BBC management as part of the biggest expansion of BBC World Service since the 1940’s when all it did was radio.

BBC Arabic is the largest beneficiary of that funding. And the Trending program is singled out for special focus in the media advisory.

With more than 250 staff (some estimates say 400) in London and bureaus in (at least) Cairo, Baghdad, Ramallah and Washington DC, it’s seen as having a serious role in British foreign policy and projecting British influence into strategically important demographics.

Now zoom down to the BBC’s October apologies and you are left wondering how one of the world’s most important Arabic-language media platforms, controlled and funded by Her Majesty’s Government, could have thought it right to give the world’s most wanted female fugitive a sympathetic platform so as to portray her as a victim.

* * *

Some aspects that bear on that question:

  • The BBC Arabic Trending show’s presenter introduced Tamimi, the confessed bomber and fugitive murdering terrorist, by calling her “the Jordanian prisoner of Palestinian origin [who] has returned to the headlines.” That’s it – the entire description.
  • A subtle but related point: the Arabic word usually translated as prisoner is more accurately rendered as detainee – meaning a person captured or held for one reason or another. And maybe for no reason at all.
  • They made no mention of the death toll. Deaths don’t even get a mention in this report. The production people could have framed this as being about fifteen innocent people, Israelis and tourists, adults, children and infants, murdered by the Jordanian. And that more than 130 others were injured, some horribly. That the dead included a mother and a father and three of their children under the age of ten – five members of a family, leaving young, orphaned children at home. Instead, they breezily air-brushed all these realities out.
  • They did not say Tamimi specifically chose a pizzeria filled with children. Or that, based on previously checking out the area to plant a different bomb the previous month, she decided this was the most child-rich target to be found that day (school holidays) at that hour (lunch time) in Israel’s bustling capital.
  • They concealed how, for Tamimi, this attack, from the outset of its planning, was all about murdering Jewish children and mutilating (think of those nails) as many as possible.
  • That she has no regrets: “You know how many casualties there were? This was made possible by Allah. Do you want me to denounce what I did? That's out of the question. I would do it again today and in the same manner.” [Source: An earlier published interview]
  • With absurd delicacy, Trending whitewashes Tamimi as someone “accused of participating in the bombing”. Accused? Tamimi confessed to the Israeli court that tried her for terrorism, admitting all the charges against her and denying none of them. She was then convicted and sentenced. In a different context, calling her accused might be disingenuous. Here, it’s simply an attempt to deceive.
  • Tamimi has gone on to publicly admit, to boast about, to regale in the celebrity that comes with being the cause of so many horrific deaths.
  • This, along with her current freedom – a finger in the eye of the Zionists -  is what has made her the figure of adulation that she has become,  without any doubt.   
  • BBC Arabic did not say that Tamimi, speaking to a documentary film maker, framed the massacre as part of a religious struggle between Islam and the Jews.
  • They did not say Tamimi is currently the most wanted female fugitive in the world with a State Department reward of $5M for her capture and conviction.
  • They did not say that an Extradition Treaty was signed by the present king’s father and the Clinton State Department in 1995. That the US says it is perfectly valid today - despite a Jordanian court ruling that cites a dubious technical defect (and suggests no other basis) for its finding.
  • That no court in Jordan goes so far as to claim Tamimi is innocent or “accused” or suspected – only that, whatever she is, Jordan is not obliged to do anything. No legal source outside Jordan has supported the logic of the Jordanian judges.
  • The Trending people did not spend even a moment telling viewers about the unremitting misery that the destruction of so many lives – mostly of children and infants – inflicted on ordinary Israeli, American, Australian, French, Brazilian and Dutch families. Or that Tamimi smiled happily into the camera when informed by an interviewer how many children (eight) perished at her hands.  
  • They did not name Malki or Michal or any of the other luminous lives this beast snuffed out. For those packaging and marketing it, they don’t advance the tale of Tamimi’s victimhood. So, who cares?

It’s simply stunning that, in the considered judgement of BBC’s leadership, what happened here amounts to a mere breach of guidelines, some kind of technical error. As if they were saying, “Perhaps a rule or two may have been infringed. But now leave it to us to see it doesn’t happen again,” et cetera.

* * *

Totally missing in the BBC’s public statements on this scandal is any sign of introspection.

What, you might want to ask, is wrong with the BBC staffers who put this to air? Were they brought up to think this way? Is this what they learned in journalism school? Is this how the BBC trained them?

Malki, of blessed memory

I don’t know where the foreign ministry of the United Kingdom stands on any of this, though I wish I did. While they are the channel through which large slabs of tax-payer money are poured into BBC Arabic, giving it a voice of unmatched authority and tremendous reach, they have deferred to the providers of “Sorry, we’ll do better next time” to handle the flack.

The BBC incomprehensibly handing one of the world’s most powerful megaphones to a terrorist isn’t a procedural issue. It’s not a marginal disciplinary matter. And it is surely not some trivial search to find the most efficient words.

Reasonable observers making an honest assessment would see, I believe, that the Trending show and its well-funded staff have just served up an unblinking validation of Tamimi’s demand to be heard and supported. This blood-drenched celebrity jihadist, on the run from Interpol and the FBI, is promoted as an icon of resistance. The unimpeachable BBC brand is there to seal the credibility of the framing.

* * *

But there’s more.

While rejecting the steps my wife and I urged them to take in our meeting, BBC management in mid-November sent me a video clip along with an Arabic-to-English translation of what it says. It’s one more apology – but this time, one they told us went to air on the Trending program itself at the end of October.

As reported in today's 
Jewish Chronicle UK cover story
(Though they were good enough to email me the actual video of the on-camera Arabic-language apology, I am unable to find it found online now and I believe it's not there - not anywhere. There is also no mention of it on Twitter, Facebook or elsewhere in BBC’s social media world. I certainly believe the BBC when they say it went to air. I’m just not sure how impactful it could have been and wondering how much impact they wanted it to have if they made it disappear the instant after it was delivered on-air. In any event, I have it because they gave it to me, and I plan to ask for permission to publish it.)

This apology has some odd features. 

It’s devoid of any on-screen headline. It has no photo of Tamimi or of the massacre or of anything else that would catch an audience’s attention. There's no visual link to convey that this is important. No sign other than the rapidly spoken flat-toned words of the cold-faced presenter herself that it’s about Tamimi. Or about anything else of significance.

On the positive side, it’s delivered by the same journalist who was the program’s presenter when they showcased the Sbarro monster a few weeks earlier. That on its own is important. But her tone is monotonous and uninflected, and her brief recitation lasts just a minute.

I showed the BBC’s transcript along with the video clip to an expert Arabic-to-English translator who pointed out some problems. The biggest was in the opening words. On screen, the TV presenter speaking Arabic says this:

Our viewers, I read you a message from the BBC”.

The transcript that the BBC gave me does not have those words or anything like them.

The omission leaves me feeling that the non-Arabic speakers at the world’s most important broadcast enterprise, including its top management, don’t realize that this (now expressed in my words, not hers) is what their audience heard from Trending’s presenter:

Friends, what I’m about to say is not me speaking but something the BBC people have obliged me to say. So here goes and we’ll get this out of the way in a minute and get back to our show.”

In the wake of a searing experience, watching incredulously as the killer of my child (roll those words around in your own minds) is presented to millions of viewers as if she were the overworked head of some worthy charity in need, the pro forma apology underscores how, sorry to say, I fear BBC management has lost the plot.

The professionals who formulate and deliver BBC Arabic content don’t need more rules, guidelines or direction. Whatever may be called for, it’s surely not another apology.

What’s just happened and what it says about a precious British resource is far too serious for that. Getting the world’s most important broadcaster to understand this ought to be at the top of some senior UK government official’s list of things that - once and for all - need to be gotten right at the BBC.

UPDATE February 6, 2021: If you have read this far, we want you to know of an update post ["05-Feb-21: The Sbarro savagery: The on-air apology BBC Arabic broadcast to its viewers [Video]"] with additional revelations that expose unacknowledged dysfunctionality at the BBC..

Footnotes

[1] I amplified my criticisms of what the BBC did in several other published pieces during October 2020. See  “‘BBC lost its moral compass’ by giving mass murderer a platform” [Jewish News UK, October 21, 2020]. And “Father of murdered daughter condemns BBC for giving platform to Ahlam Tamimi” [Jewish News Syndicate, October 14, 2020]. And via a televised interview with SKY News Australia [“Father of murdered child ‘nauseated’ BBC gave terrorist killer a platform”, October 18, 2020]

[2] 22,000 staff of whom 16,000 plus are in public sector broadcasting). Add in part-time, flexible, and fixed-contract staff and it’s 35,402 [Wikipedia]