‘BBC lost its moral compass’ by giving mass murderer a platform
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‘BBC lost its moral compass’ by giving mass murderer a platform

Father of teenage girl who was among 15 killed in a Jerusalem suicide bomb attack condemns the broadcaster for giving the unapologetic killer a sympathetic platform

Tali is a reporter at Jewish News

Aftermath of the Sbarro bombing in 2001, with a smiling Ahlam Tamimi
Aftermath of the Sbarro bombing in 2001, with a smiling Ahlam Tamimi

The father of a teenage girl who was among 15 people killed in a suicide bombing in Jerusalem condemned the BBC this week for giving the boastful killer a platform – despite the broadcaster issuing a fulsome apology.

Arnold Roth, whose 15-year-old daughter Malki died in the attack on the Sbarro pizza restaurant in 2001, told Jewish News that the BBC’s apology for inviting convicted Hamas terrorist Ahlam Tamimi onto its Arabic TV service was “empty, cruel and pointless”.

BBC Arabic programme Trending reported that Ahlam Tamimi, who masterminded the deadly attack, was appealing to Jordanian King Abdullah II to intervene after her husband’s Jordanian residency was revoked. The report said: “The staff of the [BBC] programme Trending reached out to Ahlam to hear her request to the Jordanian king. Let’s listen.”

Tamimi’s personal appeal for clemency for her husband was broadcast, followed by a short account of her sentencing. The report, since removed from the BBC’s YouTube account, was shared online with the description: “‘Ahlam Tamimi, your voice is loud’ – responses of solidarity on Jordanian and Palestinian sites with Palestinian Ahlam Tamimi”.

Photo of Ahlam Ahmad Al-Tamimi released by the FBI (Wikipedia/ Source https://www.fbi.gov/wanted/wanted_terrorists/ahlam-ahmad-al-tamimi/@@download.pdf
Author FBI)

A BBC spokesperson told Jewish News: “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.”

Despite the apology, Roth said that he was “stunned by the coldness of the BBC’s formalistic, paint-by-numbers reaction to the torrent of criticism they received from an enraged public”.

He added: “I urge everyone with a sense of justice to re-read the detached, distorted, disingenuous response they issued (not to me or my wife – we haven’t heard a word from them) and ask themselves whether this empty, cruel, pointless and evasive ‘sorry not sorry’ note ought to close the chapter.

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.

“They didn’t get the name of some capital city somewhere wrong. They misplaced their moral compass. They didn’t even mention that this woman boasts of killing… the killing of which she boasts is of children. Jewish children, as it happens. My Jewish child among them.”

Malki Roth

Tamimi proudly claimed credit for the attack in 2001. Admitting to scouting the location of Sbarro – a popular eatery in downtown Jerusalem – because it was known to be a favourite for families, she previously said that she only felt disappointed as she had “hoped for a larger toll”. She was released from an Israeli prison as part of the Gilad Shalit prisoner exchange in 2011, her husband was also released in the Shalit prisoner exchange after being convicted of terrorism for murdering an Israeli student in 1993.

They didn’t get the name of some capital city somewhere wrong. They misplaced their moral compass. They didn’t even mention that this woman boasts of killing… the killing of which she boasts is of children. Jewish children, as it happens. My Jewish child among them

Lord Michael Grade, former chairman of the BBC, told the Jewish News there were “very serious issues of balance and impartiality raised” by the broadcast and the corporation, and possibly Ofcom, should investigate.

Bob Blackman, the Tory MP and Conservative Friends of Israel officer, had written to the BBC Director General Tim Davie asking for an apology to the families of Tamimi’s victims, after Roth told Sky News Australia that he was “nauseated” by the BBC coverage.

Malki and Arnold Roth in 2000

Blackman, the MP for Harrow East added: “Giving a platform for Tamimi’s appeal to be reunited with her husband is understandably deeply distressing for the families of her victims, who will never be reunited with their loved ones”.

The Tory MP instead suggested that the BBC should dedicate more coverage to ongoing extradition attempts by the United States, where a reward of up to $5million for information that leads to Ahlam Tamimi’s arrest or conviction has been offered.

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport and the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office were approached for a comment.

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