The father of a teenage girl who was among 15 people murdered in the 2001 suicide bombing at the Sbarro restaurant in Jerusalem condemned the BBC this week for giving one of the terrorists involved in the attack a platform, the UK-based Jewish News reports.
A BBC Arabic program had reported that Ahlam Tamimi, who masterminded the bombing, was appealing to Jordanian King Abdullah II to intervene after her husband’s Jordanian residency was revoked.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] program 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”.
While the network subsequently apologized for airing the terrorist’s remarks, Arnold Roth, whose 15-year-old daughter Malki was murdered in the Sbarro attack, told the Jewish News that the apology for was “empty, cruel and pointless”.
Tamimi was a college student at Birzeit University in 2001, when she was brought into a Hamas terror cell planning a bombing attack on central Jerusalem.
In August of 2001, Tamimi planned and aided in the Sbarro bombing. She was captured and sentenced to 16 consecutive life sentences after being found guilty but in 2011 was released as part of the deal which secured the release of IDF soldier Gilad Shalit, who had been taken captive by Hamas and held in the Gaza Strip. She subsequently moved to Jordan.
Tamimi has in the past expressed pride in her role in the Sbarro attack, telling a Jordanian interviewer, “I dedicated myself to the path of jihad for the sake of Allah… I would do it again.”
In 2012, Hamas decided to show its pride in Tamimi by giving her a talk show focusing on terrorists imprisoned in Israel.
A BBC spokesperson had told Jewish News of Tamimi’s appearing on the network, “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 apologize for the offense 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”.
“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,” he added.
“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,” continued Roth.
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.
The BBC has in the past been at the center of controversies related to its anti-Israel bias.
In 2017, the network chose to use the headline "Three Palestinians killed after deadly stabbing in Jerusalem" for a story on a terror attack in Jerusalem. It apologized following criticism.
That year, a BBC host apologized for saying it is “great” that music artists are no longer being managed by “some random fat Jewish guy from northwest London”.
In January, a BBC reporter caused an uproar when she appeared to claim that the Holocaust has distorted Israelis’ perception of reality and the country's security needs.