Friday, March 16, 2018

16-Mar-18: An Arab-on-Israeli vehicle ramming in the Samarian hills Friday afternoon; tragic results

Reports a short time ago, just before Shabbat starts, say there has been what seems like yet another Arab-on-Israeli vehicle-ramming attack, this time with disastrous consequences. The precise details seem still, at 5:00 pm, to be cloudy. We will update once we have firmer information.

Times of Israel says a Palestinian Arab driving on Route 585 close to the entrance to the Israeli community of Mevo Dotan (population: about 400) in the north Samarian hills, has plowed into four Israeli service personnel, all around 20 years old. There are also reports saying five. All are said to be in a bad way.

Israel National News says two of the Israelis are dead (but this is not confirmed yet). It appears two others are in serious condition.

The driver is evidently (though not confirmed) in Israeli custody.

Ynet says it's not yet clear whether the ramming was deliberate or accidental. It describes the driver as 26, from the Arab town of Barta'a in the Wadi Ara region. He is said to have light-to-moderate injuries and is being treated at the scene.

But the Jerusalem Post, in reporting on what happened, connects it to today being yet another in an endless series of organized seriously-violent tantrums. It says
Clashes between Palestinian protesters and Israeli security forces were reported on Friday afternoon as the Palestinians mark “100 days of rage” following US President’s Trump decision to move the US embassy to Jerusalem, channel 10 reported. 

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

14-Mar-18: Following up last week's Acco ramming attack

Ten days after the dramatic scene of an Israeli pedestrian being struck by a fast-moving late-model car and hurled high into the air ["04-Mar-18: Vehicle ramming attacks, two of them, in Israeli Arab Akko"], some details of who's responsible started emerging today.

A Times of Israel report this afternoon (Wednesday) says
  • Four persons were injured in what it terms "a car-ramming attack" in Acre, northern Israel. They are a pair of IDF soldiers, a Border Guard service person and a civilian,
  • The Israel Police view is, to use the term they frequently deploy, that the attack was "nationalistically motivated". In plain language, this means terrorism.
  • The suspect is a 26 year-old male from Sh'faram, an Israeli Arab. 
  • He was remanded in custody today. There will be no change in that status till March 21. Presumably another hearing will take place that day.
  • Counsel representing the accused denies that his client is a terrorist or that his motivations were "nationalistic"
  • "The court has placed a gag order on all other details pertaining to the case." This has been the case since the day of the attack. The court hasn't given any explanation.
At Ynet, they add that the accused was not present in the Haifa Magistrates Court today. The remand was extended in absentia, as he remains hospitalized. As we noted last week, he was hit by several bullets when Israel security personnel stopped him.

Not that this necessarily means a thing, but Hamas claimed credit last week for what it called the “brave and heroic” ramming, describing it as "continuing the resistance against the crimes of the occupation".

Sunday, March 11, 2018

11-Mar-18: Why do so many thwarted Arab-on-Israeli terrorists survive?

The IDF Samaria Military Court compound [Image Source]
If you're a regular visitor to this blog, you won't need reminding that when it comes to the deaths of Palestinian Arabs in circumstances that involve the Israeli military, there's rarely just a single agreed version of the facts. Our question in this post is: why are such deaths so rare?

Bear with us.

The Palestinian Arab side are currently - as they have periodically for years - urging news readers to accept that an innocent fisherman ["High Court delays release of Gaza fisherman’s body", Times of Israel, March 8, 2018] was killed in cold blood by Israeli naval forces. That he's dead is sadly beyond dispute, but the circumstances are not:
“We are sure that the wounded are fishermen who went out to sea to make a living – and nothing else,” the head of the union told Haaretz daily... Incidents involving IDF using excessive or deadly force against the Palestinians have been on the rise since US President Donald Trump announced his decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and move the US embassy there." [RT, February 25, 2018]
Another Gazan fisherman was shot dead by Egyptian forces [Al Araby, January 13, 2018] a few weeks earlier. But for reasons that most readers can intuit, considerably less media attention has been paid to that.

Which brings us to events that unfolded in Israel's Gaza-envelope communities this morning:
Gaza resident arrested after crossing into Israel with grenade, knife | Times of Israel | March 11, 2018, 10:04 am | The IDF arrested two Palestinians early Sunday after they separately crossed the border fence from the Gaza Strip into Israel, one of them carrying weapons. The military said in a statement that troops apprehended the two Gazans shortly after they had crossed the fence. One was found carrying a grenade and a knife. The army said he is suspected of planning to carry out a terror attack in Israel. One of the suspects is from the north of the Strip while the other was from the south. The army said the two incidents appeared unrelated due to the different locations. The two were transferred to security forces for interrogation, likely by the Shin Bet security service. Gazans are apprehended crossing into Israel fairly regularly, many of them apparently seeking to escape an increasingly difficult humanitarian situation in the Strip. Suspects are believed to sometimes carry weapons in the hopes of being sent to Israeli prison rather than back to the Palestinian enclave.
It's too soon to categorize today's two Gazan Arab arrivals. Are they terrorists? Social climbers? Economic refugees?

But it's not too soon to absorb the fact that both are alive. And that at least one of them came equipped with weapons. And that Gazans entering Israel always arrive without badges stuck to their foreheads announcing that they are on jihadist missions and looking to create mayhem. That assessment has to be made in the heat of the pursuit by IDF service personnel.

Given the blood-curdling ideology which Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and other like-minded terror organizations successfully pump into the heads of their followers and subjects, it's usually strategically wise to assume the most malevolent interpretation.

The intercepted pipe-bomb from the February 13, 2018 attack. The metal
ball bearings are there to rip apart the flesh of the victims [Image Source]
Just to reinforce that point, all of these incidents of terror-centered Arab-on-Israeli violence were recorded in the past 14 hours - and all were almost certainly intended to produce deaths:
  • Three Palestinian Arabs armed with Molotov cocktails were apprehended by IDF forces near Route 90, one of Israel's most strategic arteries, running from the northern border all the way to Eilat in the south. It's Israel's longest road. Israel National News says: "The possibility that they are members of a terror cell that threw Molotov cocktails along central roads over the past month is being investigated."
  • Around 10:55 pm last night, an IDF post located just outside Psagot, an Israeli community of about 2,000 residents, came under shooting attack.
  • Then near midnight, shots were fired at soldiers manning the busy Beitunia Crossing, a short distance north of Jerusalem and close to Givat Ze'ev (no injuries, no serious damage). A manhunt is underway in both cases. The distance between the sites of the two shootings is only about 30 km.
  • Police, quoted by Times of Israel, say two Palestinian Arab children, both of them 16 years old and living in Jenin, were stopped this morning by Border Police guards at the security checkpoint next to the entrance to the Samaria Military Court. It's in northern Israel in the village of Salem and close to Megiddo (called Armageddon in the Bible). They were found to be carrying pipe bombs - one per boy - concealed on their bodies. Each one also had a lighter "with which officers suspect they intended to ignite the bombs. The entrance to the court was temporarily blocked while a sapper inspected the devices, which contained explosives, and neutralized them." The background is extraordinary: though it may come as a surprise to even dedicated followers of news from our area, this morning's weaponized children were carrying out the seventh thwarted attempt at pipe-bombing that same court complex in the past four months. Previous intercepts happened on February 14, 2018 (three Palestinian Arabs arrested); February 13, 2018 (single attacker, his pipe bomb packed with metal shards); February 7, 2018 (single Palestinian Arab male attacker);  December 28, 2017 - again, a 16-year-old Palestinian boy with a pipe bomb); December 17, 2017 (a Palestinian Arab with two pipe bombs - one attached to his body under his clothing, and a second one in his coat pocket); October 15, 2017 (single attacker, one pipe bomb). Again - all aiming at the same target.
Motives don't get enough attention in this part of the world. Perhaps that's because the urgency of the task at hand and the potential price of the security people failing to act quickly enough. The result is  that there's always a premium on decisiveness and on certain prevention.

Fortunately for those Gazan infiltrators who come across the border for the personal benefits of the experience, and for the pipe-bombers turning up like lemmings at the doors of the Samaria Military Court compound, the IDF usually doesn't shoot first and ask questions later, at least when circumstances permit. If they acted differently, the number of dead thwarted terror-attackers would be substantially greater.

Let us know if you ever see a mainstream news article that reaches the same conclusion.

Sunday, March 04, 2018

04-Mar-18: Vehicle ramming attacks, two of them, in Israeli Arab Akko

Initial image from the attack scene via Haaretz
Reports coming in around noon today (Sunday) say there has been a pair of Arab-on-Israeli vehicle ramming attacks. Haaretz ["Three Wounded in Suspected Car-rammings in Northern Israeli City of Acre"] says an Israeli Border Guard officer and two soldiers were injured
in suspected car-rammings in two different incidents in the northern Israeli city of Acre. One person was wounded on Yehoshafat St., near the city's outdoor market, and two others by the railway station downtown.
Here's how Times of Israel describes the locations
The first victim was hit by the car outside the Acre city market. The driver then continued toward a train station and hit the other two victims.
Israel National News says
Police emphasize that the background to the incident is still unclear.
Ynet says
According to eyewitnesses, the driver began his rampage after receiving a speeding ticket. Police said they were investigating the matter.
There are varying reports about the attacker's condition but agreement that he was shot by someone Israeli. Haaretz, quoting the police, says the
motivation behind the incident remains unknown.
We've just posted a shocking video via a tweet which makes it hard to believe this was anything other than an attempt to kill Israelis. See it here.

Other reports (we will be adding details) says three Israelis aged 20 were rushed to the Nahariya hospital. Via social media, we hear that two are in light-to-moderately injured condition; one is in critical condition.

Wikipedia says that Acre, usually called Akko or Acco by Israelis, is on
the northern extremity of Haifa Bay. The city occupies an important location, as it sits on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, traditionally linking the waterways and commercial activity with the Levant. The important land routes meeting here are the north–south one following the coast and the road cutting inland through the Plain of Esdraelon; Acre also benefits from one of the very rare natural harbours on the coast of the Land of Israel. This location helped it become one of the oldest cities in the world, continuously inhabited since the Middle Bronze Age some 4000 years ago. Acre is the holiest city of the Bahá'í Faith, and as such receives many Baha'i pilgrims. In 2016, the population was 47,808. Acre is a mixed city, that includes Jews, Muslims, Christians, Druze and Baha'is...
More details about the attacks when we have them.

UPDATE 1:50 pm on Sunday March 4, 2018: Times of Israel says the victims are two IDF soldiers, a Border Guard service person and a civilian in his fifties, and that all are lightly injured. The driver of the attack vehicle, a Hyundai SUV, was shot multiple times and critically wounded. It quotes Israel Radio saying that the driver is an Arab Israeli male from Sh'faram, a city of 40,000 with a Sunni Muslim majority "alongside large Christian and Druze minorities" [Wikipedia] and that the particulars of his identity "could not be immediately confirmed by police".

UPDATE 3:00 pm on Sunday March 4, 2018: Wisely cautious, Times of Israel only now quotes an Israel Police statement that the suspected car-ramming attack in Acre was a “nationalistic attack.” Or in simpler terms, a terror attack. Quote:
“The investigation of the incident, as well as the findings from the scene and documentary materials, indicate that this was a nationalistic attack,” police say. The police statement comes after reports said the driver was angry after receiving a parking ticket.
Few details at this stage about the attacker. It appears a court may have issued a gag order preventing name and background from being published though several sources are currently saying the driver of the Hyundai is a male, an Arab, not from Akko and the bearer of a blue (regular Israeli) identity card. All Israeli citizens are issued, and must carry with them, government-issued ID.

UPDATE 5:00 pm on Sunday March 4, 2018: The Jerusalem Post confirms what we reported earlier - that from the standpoint of the police, this was terrorism:
A gag order was placed on additional details of the incident by police who said that the investigation continues. “This is an extremely serious incident,” said Acre’s Chief Superintendent Yaniv Ronen, adding that “the identity of the driver is known and we are also looking into that.” Unconfirmed reports in Hebrew media stated that the driver was a 51 year-old man from the town of Shfaram.
Shortly after the incident witnesses said that the driver of the jeep had received a parking ticket and had run over the soldiers in anger. “The driver got a ticket for NIS 1,000 ($290) for parking in a handicapped spot. He got pissed off and went up on the sidewalk [and] then struck a traffic light and some bushes and ran over a border guard,” eyewitness Shimon Cohen was quoted by the Ynet news site as saying.
Video footage filmed by a bystander on his phone from outside the market where the border police officer was hit showed the jeep driving onto the curb hitting the officer before he turned around in a possible attempt to hit the officer again. He is then seen fleeing the scene as police arrive and as the officer is seen receiving help from bystanders. Other CCTV footage showed the jeep accelerating before it strikes a soldier who is seen flying through the air as the jeep drives off... MK Zuhair Bahlul (Labor), who lives in Acre, stated that Acre “has always been an example of a strong, values-based city where coexistence and strong neighborly ties exist between its Jewish and Arab residents.” Wishing a speedy recovery to those wounded, Bahlul added that he “hopes and believes that the police investigation will reveal that this was not a deliberate terrorist attack. I call upon all the residents of the city to maintain restraint and patience,” adding that “even in difficult times we in Acre know how to join together to preserve the common fabric of life."
The identity of the rammer is still undisclosed, but the indications are (we think) that he's the injured person in his fifties mentioned by Times of Israel.

As far as we know, no one in the news reporting industry appears to have asked yet whether the driver is about to become a beneficiary of the Fatah/PA/Mahmoud Abbas Rewards for Terror scheme.

UPDATE 8:00 am on Tuesday March 6, 2018: A video clip of a senior doctor, Dr Eli Kakashvili, at Nahariya Hospital where all the injured, including the alleged attacker, are being treated, seems to suggest the driver is a male in his twenties (no longer in critical condition after surgery) and the man in his fifties is an innocent victim. Formal announcements by the security authorities as to who did the ramming and why have not yet been made.

Thursday, March 01, 2018

01-Mar-18: Rachel's Tomb: Yet another Pal Arab female teen with a knife

The concrete walls that today secure ancient Rachel's Tomb [Image Source]
There was another of those utterly pointless attempts around the middle of this morning (according to this Hebrew social media report) to harm Israeli security personnel. Once again this was by (a) a teenage (b) female (c) Arab (d) attacker armed with a knife. The armed assault was fortunately thwarted, the attacker is in the hands of the Israeli security forces for interrogation and no one was injured.

Today's failed attack took place at the Rachel Crossing on the northern edge of Bethlehem. The ancient tomb of the Jewish matriarch Rachel used to be, 25 years ago when we last visited it, just an historical site on the road leading from Bethlehem to southern Jerusalem. 

Then after a series of shooting attacks on Jewish worshipers, the simple tomb became a complex surrounded by thick, high walls and with secure stations for the IDF personnel who do guard duty there. It's a major attraction:
Judaism's third-holiest site, has been the scene of prayer and pilgrimage for more than three thousand years... Rachel, the beloved wife of the third Patriarch, Ya'acov (Jacob), died in childbirth on the way to Hebron returning to his family's home... She was buried on the road to Efrat -- now Bethlehem....
Ya'acov buried Rachel at this spot, rather than a the family burial plot at the Cave [Tomb] of the Patriarchs in Hebron, because he foresaw that his decedents would pass this site during the the forced exile to Babylon in the year 423 BCE [Source:]
Why the IDF places security personnel there, day after day, was brought home again today:  
Female terrorist arrested near Bethlehem | A female Arab terrorist aged 18, a resident of Bethlehem, arrived Thursday morning at the Rachel Crossing near the city, and threatened to attack policemen and soldiers stationed there. Border Police officers subdued the terrorist and found a knife in her bag. She was arrested and taken for questioning... [Israel National News, today]
The Jordanian version raises doubts:
Palestinian girl arrested for alleged stabbing attempt | Ramallah, March. 1 (Petra) -- Israeli occupation forces arrested an 18-year old Palestinian girl for allegedly trying to stab Israeli soldiers at a checkpoint north of the West Bank city of Bethlehem, Radio Israel said on Thursday. The radio said that Israeli troops at the military checkpoint arrested a girl, whose identity wasn't disclosed, for allegedly attempting to attack Israeli soldiers with a knife. [Jordan News Agency/MENAFN, today]
Family and friends outside Rachel's Tomb in 1991 when access was
directly from the Jerusalem/Bethlehem road. The massive
security walls hadn't been constructed and weren't needed
The scurrilous Ma'an/Palestinian Arab version is even more doubtful - but it's their standard pose:
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Israeli forces detained an 18-year-old Palestinian girl for allegedly attempting to stab soldiers at Checkpoint 300 in northern Bethlehem city on Thursday, in the southern occupied West Bank. Israeli media reported that soldiers at the checkpoint detained a Palestinian teenage girl who was “carrying a knife and attempted to attack soldiers.” The girl was reportedly taken in for questioning. Though her identity remained unknown, the girl was reported to be a resident of Bethlehem city. Israeli forces have detained scores of Palestinians, many of the minors, for allegedly being in possession of knives following a spate of alleged and actual small-scale knife attacks by Palestinians that surged in the fall of 2015. [Ma'an News Agency, today]
Depending on decisions to be taken by the IDF and the military prosecution, this young woman may qualify under the PA's Rewards for Terror scheme with monetary benefits flowing to her and her parents, so there's that.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

27-Feb-18: On Australia's ABC and being unbalanced

If you have spent time living in Australia, as we did before moving our family to Israel thirty years ago, you know of the pleasures and disappointments that the ABC is capable of delivering:
The Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) is Australia's national broadcaster, funded by the Australian Federal Government but specifically independent of Government and politics in the Commonwealth. The ABC plays a leading role in journalistic independence and is fundamental in the history of broadcasting in Australia, its model based on – but not restricted to – the BBC in the United Kingdom... In recent times, the Corporation provides television, radio, online and mobile services throughout metropolitan and regional Australia, as well as overseas through Australia Plus and Radio Australia... [Wikipedia]
Its annual funding from the Australian government had already easily exceeded a billion Australian dollars in the 2016 budget year and it has kept rising since then. A serious operation on any view.

We posted a pained analysis last week of the coverage the ABC gave to the violent and aggressive Tamimi clan and especially to Ahed Tamimi, the 17 year-old rising star of the Tamimi collective's robust "in your face" anti-Israel political activism ["21-Feb-18: News industry activism, its tendentious outcomes and the Tamimis"]. If you haven't already read it, please do before reading on. We feel we raised serious points worthy of rational discussion and consideration. But we have been ignored by the ABC and by Sophie McNeill, its correspondent.

It now occurs to us that our past experiences with the ABC are depressingly consistent with the latest chapter.

A decade and a half ago, we documented what we experienced ["ABC Producer: "It will be difficult to proceed without appearing unbalanced...""] and published it on the Malki Foundation website since it bore directly on the foundation's work in Australia. That report is now unfortunately hard to access (stuck inside the archived edition of the website). So now and via this blog of ours, we want to revisit what happened and the issues it threw up.
NOTE: Most of the text that follows is lifted verbatim from the archived 2003 report, with some light editing we have just done to reflect the passage of the years. Here goes.
In August 2001, the then-head of the ABC's Middle East bureau, Tim Palmer, emailed me [Arnold Roth]. This was just a few days after Malki's murder. He invited me to join him for a press interview in Jerusalem. I immediately agreed. For reasons described below, that interview never took place. 

Baby carriages everywhere: The scene outside the Sbarro pizzeria in
central Jerusalem in the first hour after the massive 2001 bomb explosion.
The body of our murdered 15 year old daughter was likely inside
the devastated shell of the building when this news photo was snapped.
In fact Palmer and I did not meet then or, despite efforts on my part but not his, ever. A little after our conversation, he was posted to the ABC's Jakarta bureau and after that, I think, took up a senior ABC management position in Australia. I have not kept up with his career during the past decade and don't know where he is now or what he does. 

Fast forward. A day or two before I was due to travel back to Melbourne in August 2003 to visit my mother (who has since passed away), the ABC contacted me again from Australia. They had learned I was coming and I was invited to be an on-air guest on their widely-heard Radio National breakfast program to speak. The subject was the work of Keren Malki, the charitable foundation my wife and I had created in September 2001 to honour the life of Malki and to do good in her name for families coping with the challenges of a seriously disabled child, as we ourselves do. This early morning interview was set to take place just a few hours after my scheduled arrival from Israel. 

Late on the night before the program, just as I reached my mother's home from Melbourne airport, a phone message and an email were waiting for me. The key part, sent to me by a radio producer at the ABC, was this:
"Given the coverage we gave on today's programme to the latest explosion in Jerusalem - my executive producer and I agree that we will have to cancel. This morning we devoted considerable time to representatives from both Jewish and Palestinian organisations, and always seek to put both views forward.  Although your foundation is working to benefit both Israeli and Palestinian families, it will nevertheless be difficult to proceed without appearing unbalanced."
The quote is verbatim; I added the bolding.

The ABC's message left me astonished and perplexed. Balance, whatever view you take of how to achieve it, cannot mean - I felt - what this ABC producer interpreted it to mean.

About her mention of "the latest explosion": this referred to a ghastly Arab-on-Israeli terrorist massacre on a city bus in Jerusalem the previous night. It happened just as two of my daughters and I were stepping out of our Jerusalem home to drive to Tel Aviv airport at the start of our Australian visit. The neighbourhood where the bomb attack was carried out is close to where we live.

This New York Times report filed right afterwards says 18 were killed but eventually it turned out to be 24, with about 130 seriously injured. The dead included 8 children. Two of them were babies of 3 months and 11 months. One of the adult dead was a young mother in the eighth month of her pregnancy. From experience, we know Arab-on-Israeli terrorists usually have a strong sense of whom they want to kill and what sort of impact they hope for. Given the location, this attack was aimed at Haredi mothers, children and infants.

Piers Akerman, then as now an influential and widely-read and respected newspaper columnist whom I did not know until this visit and had never met previously, took up the issue in his weekly newspaper column a few days later.
Aunty trips up on its balancing act  
Piers Akerman | The Daily Telegraph, Sydney | August 25, 2003 | [Originally posted at this non-current location] | FIFTEEN-year-old Australian-born Malki Roth was murdered by a suicidal bomber as she sat among her girlfriends in a Jerusalem pizzeria two years ago. PIERS AKERMAN writes.
Her killer, Izzadin Al-Masri, 23, a member of the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas, came from a middle-class Palestinian family with investments in Jenin and Nablus.
He'd been hinting for about a month that he planned to become an Islamic "martyr".
Young Palestinians are encouraged to hate Jews and to believe they are destined to martyrdom (with a complete suite of virgins, in the case of the young boys) from their earliest childhood by the Palestinian authorities. 
Al-Masri's father, Shaheel, was subsequently quoted expressing pride in his son's suicide and at his son's slaughter of 14 Israelis. 
Arnold Roth, the father of the murdered teenager expressed his outrage at the barbarism in The Washington Post. This prompted the ABC's then-Middle East bureau chief Tim Palmer, to ask him for an interview.
Mr Roth said he would "have no objection at all to speaking with you on the record, and if it can help get out the story of how sad Malki's loss is, then I would like to do it".
But in a response which reveals either an appalling absence of any moral compass on the part of the ABC's senior staffer, or a total lack of any understanding of the conflict, Palmer said he intended to bracket Mr Roth with an interview with the murderer's proud father.
Can it be that this is what ABC boss Russell Balding has in mind when he babbles about "balance" at the national broadcaster?
Does it believe there can be some "balance", some symmetry, some moral equivalence in presenting the father of a murdered teenager who spent her school holidays providing care for severely handicapped children and the father of a young man who believed it was his religious purpose to murder innocent people? 
Palmer promised to get back to Mr Roth but did not.
Last week, Mr Roth, who has set up the Malki Foundation to raise funds to assist families with severely retarded children in memory of his daughter's passion, arrived in Melbourne from Israel to find a message from an ABC radio producer, who had earlier asked him to be a guest on a morning program.
The note said: "I'm writing to let you know that unfortunately we are going to have to cancel arrangements to interview you Friday morning on our programme.
"Given the coverage we gave on today's programme to the latest explosion in Jerusalem, my executive producer and I agree that we will have to cancel.
"This morning we devoted considerable time to representatives from both Jewish and Palestinian organisations, and always seek to put both views forward.
"Although your foundation is working to benefit both Israeli and Palestinian families, it will nevertheless be difficult to proceed without appearing unbalanced.
"My apologies and best wishes for your trip."
How a discussion with Mr Roth about the Malki Foundation which places no religious or racial qualifications on those it helps affects the ABC's "balance" is bewildering. The second family it assisted was in fact a Jordanian Palestinian.
Could it be that the ABC searched for an equivalent Palestinian charitable organisation but drew a blank? Perhaps it could ask Federal Labor's pro-Palestinian lobbyists Leo McLeay and Julia Irwin to point them to an Arab organisation as even-handed in its approach as the memorial to the murdered Australian Australian volunteer child care worker?
It might produce a program explaining that Israeli children are taught peace education while the Palestinian Authority's approved curriculum and Palestinian television teaches hate and prepares young people for "martyrdom". Or would such a program also fail the ABC's nonsensical idea of "balance"?
Mr Roth says the Malki Foundation is his retaliation at those who killed his daughter.
"These people, Hamas, radiate hate," he said. "We cannot out-hate them but we can help Palestinian Arabs and show them that their strategy of hate has failed. If they choke on our aid, so be it.
"They are non-entities, when they murder they will be forgotten, but my daughter will live in the memories of those we help."
In the warped ABC culture, however, Malki Roth will be forever marked as the equivalent of murderous "martyr" Izzadin Al-Masri all in the interests of "balance".
Battle lines were quickly drawn. Responding later that week, the ABC's managing director (equivalent to its CEO) at the time, Russell Balding, published a letter in the same newspaper. A longer version of it was then posted on the ABC's own website (the following text is from there):
Thursday 28 August  2003 | Letter by the Managing Director to the Daily Telegraph 
Dear Editor 
Usually, it hardly seems worth the effort to respond to Mr Akerman's predictable criticisms of the ABC. It is better to trust in the readership of The Daily Telegraph to decipher his unique form of prejudice. Unfortunately, Mr Akerman's latest exercise in poor taste, ("Aunty trips up on its balancing act," August 26), demands a considered response. The article criticises the award winning ABC Journalist, Tim Palmer, for attempting to construct a story featuring the father of a suicide bomb victim (Malki Roth) and the father of the perpetrator (Izzadin Al-Masri). The Daily Telegraph did precisely this when it published two stories on the same page featuring the respective fathers on August 11, 2001. The attack occurred in Israel two years ago and Mr Palmer covered it extensively, including reporting on the reaction of other relatives of the victims. 
According to Mr Akerman, the ABC has no right to feature both fathers in a story, and such an approach reveals an appalling absence of any moral compass on the part of the ABC's senior staffer. Not only was Mr Arnold Roth told about the other interview - he was given the opportunity to reject having his words broadcast in a manner unacceptable to him. This was done as a courtesy and out of respect for a grieving father. The article's conclusion then drew a startling analogy: in the warped ABC culture, however, Malki Roth will be forever marked as the equivalent of murderous martyr Izzadin Al-Masri. 
This is a disgraceful and thoroughly unjustifiable slur on the ABC and Tim Palmer. The ABC never tried to argue there was a moral equivalence between the death of Malki Roth and the murder by Izzadin Al-Masri. In the end, Tim Palmer decided not to proceed with the story and Mr Roth was not interviewed. The fact that Mr Akerman acknowledges this and still continues with his theory of ABC moral turpitude compounds the overall offence of his article. 
Malki Roth's father, Arnold Roth, was interviewed by the ABC's 7.30 Report on August 21. He spoke of his foundation to help Arab and Israeli disabled children. Also on the program were Khaled Abu Awad and Robi Damelin, other parents of children killed in the Israel-Palestine conflict. They were involved in organising camps for Israeli and Palestinian children. Mr Damelin noted: "The idea is to get them to interact for four to five days and to create a friendship by the end of this, because they can go out and be ambassadors to their friends - and maybe that will start to grow from that age-group". I invite your readers to view the transcript. Does Mr Akerman detect an `absence of any moral compass' in this story? Unfortunately, I suspect he does, as he quite simply lacks the capacity for impartiality. 
Yours sincerely
Russell Balding
Managing Director, ABC
Believing that Mr. Balding's letter did not do justice to the issues, I sent a letter of my own to the Daily Telegraph. This was published on August 30, 2003 but in a highly edited version which failed to convey the points I intended to make. The full text of my letter in the form I actually wrote it now follows.
Thursday 28th August 2003
The Editor
The Daily Telegraph
Sir: Russell Balding, the ABC's managing director, criticizes Piers Akerman's very cogent column "Aunty trips up on its balancing act". I'm sorry to be getting drawn into an unpleasant conflict over the actions and policies of the ABC. But the mis-characterization of events in the letter demands an answer. 
Mr Balding makes no mention at all of what occurred last Friday: an interview by ABC national radio with me, to focus on the work of the Malki Foundation, was cancelled because, as the producer wrote to me "it will... be difficult to proceed without appearing unbalanced."
The Malki Foundation exists to honour the memory of my murdered daughter, born in Melbourne and murdered in Jerusalem at the age of 15. The Foundation provides equipment and therapies for families, with absolutely no regard to their race or religion, so long as they want to give their disabled children the best possible home care. It does very decent humanitarian work.
On Wednesday, this human interest story was going to be a national radio feature. The following day -- not. What changed?
Just one thing: the fact that a terror attack -- the "massacre of the children" -- took place on a bus a few minutes drive from my Jerusalem home, proudly executed by Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorists.
Thus the question of whether a human interest story about an Australian family is suitable for broadcast on the ABC has turned into a function of whether or not a terror outrage occurred in Israel that day. Was that the intention? Does "balance" have to mean this?
Mr Balding's letter describes a conversation that took place two years ago between me and one of his reporters, the "award-winning" Tim Palmer (as Mr Balding carefully describes him). In doing so, he has seriously mis-stated aspects of what happened, perhaps because he took no part in that conversation himself.
My wife and I have been determined to ensure that Malki's death two years ago never becomes a mere statistical blip. This has meant we frequently meet with, and speak to, journalists from all over the world. We talk publicly about Malki at every possible opportunity.
Thus, when Tim Palmer, the ABC's man in Jerusalem at the time, approached me for an interview after the Sbarro restaurant massacre, I agreed immediately. Then Palmer told me it would take place only if I consented to his bracketing me with the father of the murderer. He explained that this was a political story and had to be told in a political fashion with both sides being heard.
If you ask me what he meant by "bracketing", I don't know. Did he mean to put the murderer's father and me in the same room, or have us both on the same phone line? Most likely not, but I don't know. We never got to the part where he explained it to me, because I told him right away I could never give a hand to his attempt at false comparisons and bogus moral equivalence. And if you wonder what the other side of the murder of a fifteen year-old could possibly be, then you can join the club. I'm simply baffled by this way of looking at things.
The ABC's MD says his organization "never tried to argue there was a moral equivalence between the death of Malki Roth and the murder". But Tim Palmer himself said in one of his emails that he dropped the interview with the murderer's father because he "was unable to present the counterpoint". To many people, the notion that there is a counterpoint to the murder of a child will be grotesque. It greatly hurt my wife and me.
Mr Balding's letter says that whatever the ABC did, the Daily Telegraph did the same or worse, and seems to imply this is good for the ABC's case. But I have carefully read the Telegraph's report of my daughter's murder [The actual August 2001 page is posted here - AR] and it is perfectly clear to me that Mr Balding's assertion on this point is wrong. The Telegraph's treatment of the story is fair and reasonable. The ABC's treatment of me was not. 
Finally, I'm puzzled that Mr Balding's letter does not seem to address the question of whether or not Palmer and the ABC acted properly towards me. I think it is inappropriate to raise matters of this kind in a newspaper, so I am preparing a brief for Mr Balding which will include copies of all the emails passing between Palmer and me over the past two years. I will be asking him to inform himself about the judgement and approach of the journalist he seeks to defend. His answer will be very important to me.
Arnold Roth
I didn't hear from Mr Balding after the letter was published - not in 2003 and not in all the years since then. And I found it hard to follow up with a brief for him, so I let the matter drop.

One of the ABC's several regional headquarters [Image Source]
Piers Akerman then provided his own commentary on Balding's letter in another Telegraph column published the following week:
It's someone else's ABC ignoring facts
Piers Akerman | The Daily Telegraph, Sydney | September 2, 2003 | [Archived here]
ABC boss Russell Balding is in serious need of a reality check. His response to my column last Tuesday was full of argument but light on facts, as Arnold Roth, the father of murdered Australian schoolgirl Malki Roth, lucidly demonstrated in his letter published in The Daily Telegraph on Saturday. 
The bean counter's tasteless attack and threadbare defence clearly illustrated how profoundly the public broadcaster has lost its moral compass.
Unfortunately, such brainless bluster from the top appears to be in keeping with much of the ABC's warped culture of denial. Take the numerous complaints made about a Radio National broadcast just over a year ago in which reporter Peter Cave unequivocally asserted a massacre had taken place in Jenin in April, 2002.
The issue is of importance to Australian audiences as some Australian Muslims still believe that Israeli troops participated in the fictitious massacre, just as they choose to believe the US was behind the attacks on the World Trade Centre, despite Osama bin Laden's jubilant claim of responsibility, and that the US is a colonising power.
The ABC refuses to correct the record despite the fact that there have been two investigations, one by Human Rights Watch and the other by the UN, which have failed to support the claim.
The Human Rights Watch report, based on interviews with people present during the Jenin fighting, is straightforward. It states it "found no evidence to sustain claims of massacres or large-scale extrajudicial executions by the IDF [Israeli Defence Force] in Jenin refugee camp".
The UN report, compiled without a visit to Jenin, typically does not rule decisively either way. It appears to draw heavily on the Human Rights Watch report but does allow that an allegation by a Palestinian Authority official that some 500 people had been killed "has not been substantiated in the light of the evidence that has emerged".
Not good enough for the ABC, however, which remains the sole Western media outlet to maintain its curious but inflammatory view that a massacre took place.
A rational national broadcaster would recognise its serious error and atone and any examination of the record and the investigators' reports would indicate that the ABC has a clear responsibility to correct Cave's report.
But those who have asked for a correction have been treated very shabbily indeed.
When ABC listener Ralph Zwier sought a review of Cave's explicit report, he was told that the Independent Complaints Review Panel (ICRP) would first see whether it would accept the complaint. It did not.
In a patronising response, ICRP convenor Ted Thomas tartly told Mr Zwier: "You and I surely cannot be certain how all Western media dealt with the story."
He then went on to split hairs over whether the ABC's charter meant it was required to be a "mainstream" or a "specialist" broadcaster and dismissed the charter's requirement for balance and impartiality with the thought that "it does not require them to be unquestioning..." 
Mr Zwier then asked if the "independent" panel would clarify the criteria on which it determined whether to review complaints. He was told that it's up to the convenor of the ICRP - that is, it's arbitrary.
Under the ABC's risible complaints procedure, either the managing director or the convenor of its ridiculously titled panel call the shots if they are of the opinion that a complaint "alleges a sufficiently serious case of bias, lack of balance or unfair treatment to warrant independent review; or is a matter of public notoriety which warrants such a review". 
While some Muslims in this country continue to claim a massacre took place in Jenin, despite all the proven facts, and use this assertion to reinforce their ridiculous claims about a global conspiracy against their religion, it is obvious the matter is serious.
That it is a matter of public notoriety goes without saying. 
Mr Zwier is now considering whether to take his complaint to the Australian Broadcasting Authority, the next link in the chain. 
It is to be hoped that he will pursue this option - and forward copies of all his correspondence to Communications Minister Richard Alston, Senator George Brandis and Opposition leader Simon Crean. 
The ABC's refusal to correct the record and apologise about the Jenin claim indicates "our" ABC belongs to Yasser Arafat's propaganda unit.
In wrapping up the 2003 version of this article, I noted that Palmer of the ABC, who sought to bracket me with the father of my child's murderer,
emailed me several times in the two years after Malki's murder, most recently on the day Akerman's first column appeared. I was puzzled and very bothered by some of the things he wrote and did. When a politically charged issue has to be covered, there's room for debate about whether and how the media achieve a balanced presentation of the competing versions of the facts and opinions. In the case of the ABC's coverage of my daughter's murder and of the work of the foundation we set up in her memory, I feel that the failures and mistakes of ABC management and staff are plain and clear. They call, it seems to me, for lessons to be learned and changes to be implemented. I intend to do what I can to advance that process.
From an APC brochure
Several months after this 2003 report above was published, Palmer filed a complaint against Piers Akerman with the Australian Press Council.

Crikey, a widely-read independent online source of analysis about Australia's media industries, gave it coverage [archived here]. In October 2004, the APC, which had rejected my [Arnold Roth's] written request to make a submission so that my obviously highly relevant position would be heard, ruled against Akerman and in favour of Palmer and the ABC. The text of the decision is reported in the Sydney Daily Telegraph [PDF here] which appealed. Its appeal was rejected.

The Australian Jewish News reported on November 4, 2004 [PDF here] about the outcome. Here's the part where they quote me:
Roth, who now lives in Jerusalem, has not been a party to the proceedings, but wrote an open letter to the ABC last year complaining of how it covered Malki’s murder. He told the AJN from Israel this week: “The notion that an opinion piece needs to incorporate the response of the person about whom the opinion is expressed seems to me to be very odd. Bearing in mind the complaint was made by [the ABC's Palmer] one of the most influential journalists in Australia – one who manages to get his views across at will – makes this even odder.” Roth said that of around 150 interviews he has given about Malki’s murder, Palmer was one of only two journalists who said they planned to weld the interview to an interview with the bomber’s father. “I said I will not give a hand to a bogus comparison between my views and those of the father of the murderer.” Roth said he was affronted by Palmer’s plans for the interview, regardless of what the final product might have looked like. “I don’t think that the issue of what the interview would have said ought to have been the matter that decided how the Press Council reached its decision. I think it’s a totally irrelevant question.”
In its statement, the Press Council made no comment about Akerman’s account of how, on a visit to Melbourne in 2003, Roth was asked to appear on ABC Radio to talk about Keren Malki, a foundation which he founded to raise money for Jewish and Palestinian families with disabilities, in memory of Malki’s work in this area. But, recalled Akerman, Roth was later notified that the interview would not take place because of coverage given to another Palestinian bombing and that it would be “difficult to proceed without appearing unbalanced”.
The way today's ABC Middle East correspondent and her editors and managers have been tackling the Tamimi phenomenon is very much on our minds - especially their obdurate silence in the face of criticism. We mean of course our criticism, though we have the impression they are not responding to other critics on this Tamimi issue either.

Reflecting on the same ABC's conduct of fifteen years ago, it's hard to see how the mistakes of the past have been addressed or the lessons learned. We find the similarity of mindset on display depressing and discouraging.

Monday, February 26, 2018

26-Feb-18: Fifteen: A Purim meditation

Purim image from the sixteenth century
Sefer Minhagim, Venice, 1593 [Image Source]
Purim, for those not so familiar with the intricacies of the age-old Jewish calendar, works in a slightly unexpected way.

Throughout the world, Jewish communities will begin marking it this coming Wednesday night, February 28, 2018. That evening and then again the following morning, Thursday, observant Jews will gather to hear the reading of the Book of Esther.

In Jerusalem where we live, we do the same - but exactly 24 hours later. The day is called Shushan Purim. (Shushan in the Purim narrative is where the Persian royal palace was located.)

The first of the two readings of Esther in Israel's capital takes place Thursday night (March 1, 2018). The second will be the following morning, Friday (March 2), during Shacharit, the daily morning prayers.

Then a little later in the day on Friday, Jerusalem's Jews - but not the Jews of almost every other community around the world - will celebrate what Purim stands for by means of a festive meal and appropriate beverages. Being the eve of the Sabbath, the intensity and scope of both the meal and the beverages will be reduced in recognition of Shabbat's nearness and its own special events, particularly the Friday night meal.

At exactly this time of year, but thirteen years ago, Arnold Roth was given an opportunity to publish a reflection about how Purim, with its family-focused joy and celebration of good triumphing over evil, feels to a family like ours that has lost a loved child to an act of hatred-based terrorist murder.

The result was a short essay published on the website (and then republished in this blog four years ago) on March 19, 2005. The themes which the article touches remain on our minds, so here is a replay.


The number that conceals G-d's name also represents the mysterious turning point for three generations of my family | Arnold Roth 

Most Jewish teenagers growing up in Australia during the 1960s were, like me, children of concentration camp survivors. Our parents were involved in owning small businesses or were employed. There was hardly a professional among them. At birth, most of us lacked even a single grandparent; almost all of us were named after family members who perished at the hands of the Nazis.

It was clear that we were everything to our parents, and no one needed to tell us why. Top of their priorities list was ensuring that we gained the best possible education. Little wonder that several of the largest and most successful Jewish schools in the world were started in Melbourne in the years right after World War II. And the community's interest in things Israeli was unlimited; the occasional Israeli film and Israeli visitor to Australia's distant shores were memorable events.

The Six Day War happened when I was 15. The weeks of rising tension leading up to it left an indelible mark on me: the grainy television images of Egyptian and Syrian troops on the march; Nasser's strident speeches and unilateral blockade of the sea lanes to Eilat; the massing of Egyptian forces on Israel's Sinai border and of the Syrians on the Golan frontier; U Thant's disgraceful capitulation in removing UN peace-keeping forces from Sinai precisely when they were most needed.

Our daughter Malki Z"L with her beloved grandmother
Genia Roth Z"L who was visiting us in Jerusalem,
April 2000
And the blood-curdling threats of one after another of the Arab dictators and monarchs: "The existence of Israel is an error which must be rectified... This is our opportunity to erase the ignominy which has been with us since 1948... Our goal is clear - to wipe Israel off the map."

Holocaust Horrors

Fifteen marked a turning point in my life. A few months after Israel's stunning defeat of the forces bent (once again) on the liquidation of the Jews, I enrolled for the first time in a Jewish day-school. My ideas about being a Jew in the world, about history and how it affects our lives, about the Holocaust and the chain of Jewish life, began taking grown-up shape.

My mother grew up near Lodz in a town located close enough to the Polish/German frontier to have been overrun by Nazi forces on the first day of the war. Among the men rounded up by the invaders on that September day was her father, the grandfather whose name I was given. As a father myself, I have to breathe deeply in calling to mind the image of my mother throwing herself at the feet of a German soldier, begging, screaming for her father's life to be spared.

On the day the Nazis marched into Poland and began the process of destroying a world, trampling a unique culture into the mud, murdering Jews by the millions, my mother had just turned 15.

My awareness of my parents' lives begins, in a certain sense, with the end of the war: their four or five years as displaced persons in post-war Germany, their long journey to Australia as a young couple with no English, no marketable skills and no roots beyond their few personal ties and their very Jewish sense of community.

An unexpected photograph changed this for me a few years ago.

I have a cousin, a kibbutznik, the daughter of my father's oldest brother. She was brought to Tel Aviv in the 1930s as a baby by her parents who fled pre-war Galicia, and has lived her life in Israel. Returning as a tourist to her roots, she traveled to Krakow in 2000, and via a chain of circumstances ended up in possession of four photocopied pages which she shared with me. These were Nazi documents - census forms which the Germans required the Jews in the Krakow ghetto to complete prior to dispatching them to the death camps.

The first page had been completed in the distinctive handwriting of my father, of blessed memory. A small snapshot attached to the form showed him as I had never seen before: virile, handsome, young. Two other pages were the census forms of two of my father's sisters. Their names were known to me from a family tree I had put together years earlier with my father's help. But until that moment, they were nothing more than names. Now I gazed at the portraits of two vibrant young women.

My oldest daughter, Malki, had just completed a family-roots project at school and I knew she would be interested. A glance at the pages and she said exactly what I had been thinking: Malki bore a striking resemblance to my father's beautiful sister Feige.
Feige, at left, who did not survive the Holocaust. And Malki, at right.
For us, and for Malki, a striking resemblance

Unlike my parents, Feige did not survive the Nazi murder machine. Whatever promise her life contained, whatever talents she was developing, whatever gifts she was planning to give the world - all these were overturned by a massive act of violent, barbaric hatred.

Some months after we gazed on those extraordinary pictures for the first time, Malki sat down and quietly (without telling us) composed the words and music of an infectiously upbeat song: "You live, breathe and move - that's a great start!... You'd better start dancing now!"

Living in the land promised to the Jewish people was a source of deep contentment to this granddaughter of Holocaust survivors. The discovery of Feige's picture enabled Malki, I think, to gain a strengthened sense of her personal role as a link in an ancient chain.

Unbearable Questions

Arafat's intifada war against Israel's civilian population broke out around the time we received those precious pages. From the diary she kept, it's evident that the near-daily toll of injuries and deaths weighed heavily on Malki's mind. She writes of having to leave her classroom to weep in privacy upon learning of another terror attack… and another and another. We, her parents and siblings, were unaware of the depth of her empathy for the victims of the war raging in her precious land. The turmoil and pain, to Malki, were deeply personal. Though born in Australia, she had lived in Jerusalem since age two. She felt deeply connected to Jewish history.

In August 2001, my daughter and her friend Michal interrupted the activities of a busy summer vacation day to grab lunch in a crowded Jerusalem restaurant, Sbarro. If she had noticed the man with a guitar case on his back striding through the unguarded door and positioning himself next to the counter where she was engrossed in tapping out a text message on her cell phone, would Malki have recognized the hatred, the barbaric ecstasy, on his face before he exploded?

Malki and Michal were buried the next day. The closest of friends since early childhood, they lie side by side, forever, on a hill near the entrance to Jerusalem. Malki was 15.

Her diary is full of questions: How can such terrible things happen to our people? Why is our love for the Land of Israel not better understood by outsiders? What kind of Divine plan calls for teenagers to be injured and killed by people for whom we hold no hatred at all? How can such intense hatred even exist?

The unbearable question marks left behind by my daughter scream at me every day.

The Hidden Name

Jewish life, viewed from a distance, is an astonishing saga of tragedy, achievement, grandeur, destruction and greatness, played out over millennia. There is a risk we lose this perspective when we are the individuals living it.

Our daughter Malki and her close friend Michal Raziel:
the two girls were standing side by side at the counter
of the Sbarro pizzeria when the human bomb walked in
and exploded
At Purim, we feast, we drink, we ceremoniously deliver gifts, we celebrate with those we love and like. But the narrative at the heart of this festival is of a close brush with tragedy: the Jewish victory over a genocidal conspiracy by murderous Jew-haters.

Here in Jerusalem, a day later than almost everywhere else in the world, Purim is marked on the 15th day of Adar. Jewish calendar dates are written using a simple alphanumeric code: alef is one, bet is two and so on. But longstanding tradition is to avoid the straightforward way of writing the number 15. You would expect it to be yud-heh (lit: ten-five); however these two letters happen to form the first half of G-d's name and are accorded special treatment and respect. Accordingly, 15 is written as tet-vav: nine-six. G-d's Name, as it were, is hidden within the number 15.

Purim is odd in another way: the name of G-d is completely absent from Megillat Esther.

Does this mean the victory of the Jews over their oppressor happened without His involvement? Jewish tradition answers with a firm 'no'. G-d's role was crucial, but our ability to make sense of how and why He acts is limited, inadequate.

Those of us raised in the shadow of the Holocaust, and who have experienced the tragedy of a child's death by hatred, struggle to understand the nature of the Divine role in our lives as individuals and as a people. There are times, according to Jewish wisdom, when you need to know that G-d's hand is at work even when the evidence is difficult to see, even when there are more questions than answers.

Malka Chana Roth's memory is honored by the Malki Foundation. It supports families wanting to provide their severely disabled child with quality home care. More information at the Malki Foundation website

[A Dutch version of the article above is online here.]

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

21-Feb-18: News industry activism, its tendentious outcomes and the Tamimis

ABC studios in Ultimo, a Sydney suburb [Image Source]
We've been busy the last few days responding to social media comments - some supportive, some critical, a lot of it disgustingly hateful - about Ahed Tamimi, a close relative and unabashed admirer of our child's murderer Ahlam Tamimi ["Ahed Tamimi and Her Family Aren't the Palestinian Saints You Want Them to Be", Haaretz].

Our Twitter account [here] has had orders of magnitude more traffic in the past week than we have seen before.

Yesterday, we saw that Sophie McNeill [background], whom we have never met and with whom we never had any conversation or email, had filed her own report on the Ahed phenomenon for Australia's ABC News. The ABC's site calls Sophie McNeill "a video-journalist based in the Middle East for the ABC". It doesn't mention that she's based in Jerusalem (or so we have been told) which is where we live.

Given the loaded nature of the issues in the ongoing Tamimi saga, it's a shabby and tendentious job of reporting and analyzing news.

Honest Reporting yesterday highlighted an outrageous problem with it - unprofessional recklessness or perhaps something much worse - that ought to have generated a fire-storm of controversy in the Australian media. But hasn't.

Here's how it starts:
On February 20, Australia’s 7.30 current affairs program on national broadcaster ABC included a ten minute segment on the Ahed Tamimi case. In the report, it appears that video footage of Tamimi has been deliberately cut mid-sentence to alter the impression that Tamimi was inciting violence – a key allegation in her trial... Not surprising given that the segment was put together by Sophie McNeill, who has a history of advocacy journalism and vilifying Israel. ["ABC’s Sophie McNeill Selectively Cuts Ahed Tamimi Video", Simon Plosker, February 20, 2018]
Ahed Tamimi speaks - but at the ABC she isn't heard: Some context
We aired our views some weeks back on the significance of what was yesterday excised from the Ahed Tamimi ABC record: see "04-Feb-18: The embarrassing violence of Ahed Tamimi and its fig-leafers". It's hard to understand anyone trying to get away with analyzing the Ahed Tamimi story without paying close attention to the violent things she actually said for the record. And intended to be heard since her mother held the camera and urged her to unload and then published it.

There's nothing especially new in angry allegations of bias concerning Ms McNeill. Honest Reporting, among others, raised what seem to us to be serious and valid concerns when she first got the job: see "Should ABC News Have Given Advocacy Journalist the Keys to its Jerusalem Bureau?". The concerns are highlighted by a look at Section 4 of the ABC's own Code of Practice:
The ABC has a statutory duty to ensure that the gathering and presentation of news and information is impartial according to the recognised standards of objective journalism.
The Honest Reporting analysis goes on to say that Ms McNeill's reporting
does not show a clear record of separating her media career from her activism. And there is little doubt that her activism continues and influences her reporting in terms of how she frames stories, particularly about the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.
Like her ABC Jerusalem bureau predecessors, Sophie McNeill could have done - but didn't ever do - a report that ties the conflict, the controversies, the human dimension of events here in Israel with her home market of Australia by doing a story on the Malki Foundation.

As many who read our blog know, we created the foundation in 2001 in the weeks after the murder of our Melbourne-born daughter Malki. It does wonderful, non-sectarian work and positively impacts on people's lives. More than that, it's worth pointing out that there is zero political dimension to its activity. In fact, people familiar with it have often commented that the Malki Foundation is exemplary in the way it provides benefits to a needy segment of the population in Israel without any regard for the political views, religion or ethnicity of the beneficiaries - of whom there are many thousands (roughly one-third are Arabs).

Ms McNeill was invited to interview us founders at a charity benefit hosted by the then-ambassador of Australia to Israel in his official Herzliya residence in the summer of 2015. We were told at the time that she had accepted. But she failed to show up on the night and the interview never happened. Nor did she ever try after that (or before) to contact us. Her privilege, of course.

Now her time here is drawing to a close. An Australian Jewish News report in December said
ABC’S controversial Israel correspondent Sophie McNeill is set to move back to Australia to join Four Corners next year. McNeil has been the focus of several complaints from Jewish communal leaders, and politicians, since she became the ABC’s Middle East correspondent in 2015.
Yesterday, for what we therefore assume will be the first and last time, Ms McNeill included a reference to our murdered daughter in one of her reports - the one on Ahed Tamimi who joyously danced at the wedding of her adored cousin, Malki's killer.

Concerning our daughter, here verbatim is the little that Ms McNeill and the ABC said about our Malki yesterday:
Israeli activists have long accused the Tamimi's of condoning violence, pointing to a cousin of Ms Tamimi's father, who was jailed 17 years ago for aiding a suicide bomber who killed 15 Israeli civilians in 2001 — including a 15-year-old who held Australian citizenship.
Just one sentence. Our comments:
  1. Condoning violence? No, that's what the ABC arguably does. Critics of the Tamimi clan say the Tamimis do violence and incite more violence and worse ["Advocates for Terror: Why Ahed Tamimi and Her Family are No Heroes", Tablet, January 5, 2018, for instance]. It goes way beyond condoning.
  2. Is it really only "Israeli activists" who see the reckless, dangerous and bigoted violence of Ahlam Tamimi and her uncles, aunts, cousins and extended clan? The FBI added Ahlam Tamimi to its Most Wanted Terrorists list in March 2017 and described her as "armed and dangerous". She faces Federal charges. The US State Department announced a $5 million reward for her apprehension and conviction three weeks ago. See also what we recounted in our recent article: "04-Feb-18: The embarrassing violence of Ahed Tamimi and its fig-leafers"
  3. "Pointing to a cousin of Ms Tamimi's father" is a disingenuous way of avoiding the notably tight-knit nature of the Tamimi clan. In an interview, Manal Tamimi (Bassem Tamimi's sister-in-law and aunt of Ahed) here described the Tamimi reality: "Almost 600 residents. Most of us are Tamimis, one big family". It's a key point in understanding how the Nabi Saleh villagers operate. We drilled into this in our widely-read article: "17-Mar-13: A little village in the hills, and the monsters it spawns". There's further little-known background in these posts of ours: "29-Aug-15: Revisiting a Palestinian Arab village and its monsters"; "01-Sep-15: A tale of two villages: one devoted to non-violence, another that actually exists"; and "19-Dec-17: Uncovering some of Nabi Saleh's hideous buried secrets"
  4. "For aiding a suicide bomber" is just as disingenuous. Ahlam Tamimi masterminded the August 2001 Sbarro pizzeria massacre. 15 people were immediately murdered; 130 or more were left badly injured and maimed; a sixteenth victim, a young mother when this happened, lies unconscious to this day and her then-two-year old daughter has been raised motherless. This was Ahlam Tamimi's second Arab-on-Israeli terror attack that month on behalf of Hamas, whose first-ever female terrorist she was. It earned her a criminal conviction from a notably furious judicial bench and an Israeli prison sentence of 16 life terms (in the end she served just 8 years). Some aid! It also turned her into a global, pan-Arab celebrity.
  5. "Including a 15-year-old who held Australian citizenship". That's factual enough. But with all Ms McNeill's fawning attention to the details of the Tamimis and especially 17 year old Ahed, it might have been appropriate for the reporter to state Malki Roth's name, that she too was a girl, and that she not only "held Australian citizenship" but was Melbourne-born with an extended family who are based in Melbourne. Small and insignificant points in some people's eyes, we know. But the absence of any attempt to humanize and connect to the murder of an Australian girl strikes us as cold, deliberate and agenda-driven. Consider also when Sophie McNeill last addressed Malki's tragic murder during the several years of her Jerusalem posting. Hint: never.
  6. On an ongoing basis, we want to engage the government of Australia to help us get the Sbarro bomber Ahlam Tamimi extradited from Jordan to the United States. She's wanted there, as we noted above, to face serious Federal charges and Australia has unusually good relations with the Hashemite Kingdom. Jordan is tight-lipped about its refusal to comply with its extradition obligation which arises under a signed and valid treaty (according to the US State Department). Parts of the Australian media gave this some appropriate attention during 2017: see "Help bring Malki’s murderer to justice, Mr Turnbull" and "Dad’s plea for justice as killer of Aussie girl spreads message of hate". But not Sophie McNeill, the only Australian reporter stationed in the city where we live. And not Australia's ABC. Busy, most likely.
We're not totally unrealistic. We realize that few people have the intensity of concern that we do about Malki's life and her murder. And that there might be very little interest in the story among the Australian news-consuming public. Those aren't our concerns. The pursuit of justice, never a quick process, continues to keep us focused and active, but has always gotten less media attention than we would have liked.  

But the Sophie McNeill phenomenon goes well beyond our private feelings. The ABC is one of Australia's most influential and significant national institutions. You don't have to be, to use Ms McNeill's inappropriate term, an Israeli activist to be outraged at the soft-pedaling she does on those who see value and even redemption in Palestinian Arab terrorism as the Tamimi clan do. 

She's entitled to her private ideological agenda - that goes without saying. But ABC management ought to be open enough and genuinely committed enough to the values of world-class journalism to know when to step in and object to brazen crusading, distortion and obvious manipulation of the news record. That's just outrageous.

In this latest case, they weren't and they aren't ready to act as far as we can tell and there are many losers as a result. And yes, of course we would have been glad to put these views to their Jerusalem correspondent if she had ever made contact.

UPDATE February 27, 2018: We decided to put up a post that revisits an unpleasant chain of experiences we had with the ABC back in the period immediately after our daughter's murder in a Hamas attack, and then again a couple of years later. See "27-Feb-18: On Australia's ABC and being unbalanced"