Arnold Roth, whose daughter Malki was murdered in the 2001 Sbarro Pizza terrorist attack in Jerusalem by the unrepentant antisemitic terrorist Ahlam Al-Tamimi, met with BBC executives after a sympathetic interview was broadcasted on the 8th October episode of BBC Arabic’s Trending. The attack took the lives of fifteen civilians, half of whom were children.
Ms Al-Tamimi is a Jordanian national who was convicted for the terrorist attack, which killed fifteen people, half of whom were children. She was also behind a previous failed terrorist attack. She has repeatedly expressed pride at her actions and never remorse; she was even disappointed that the death toll was not higher. Although she was given several life sentences, she was released as part of a prisoner deal that secured the release of the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit from the genocidal antisemitic terrorist group Hamas. The sympathetic interview saw her appeal for the return of her husband – also a convicted terrorist – from Qatar to Jordan, where she resides and enjoys a celebrity status of sorts.
The families of numerous victims complained to the BBC, with an internal report finding that the Corporation had breached its own ethical guidelines.
The Director of the BBC World Service, Jamie Angus, apologised, calling the episode a “lapse in our editorial standards”, but Mr Roth reportedly criticised the apology as “empty, cruel and pointless”.
Mr Roth, who met with Mr Angus and the Head of BBC Arabic, Samir Farah, on 9th November, said that the episode went beyond a mere lapse in editorial standards, noting that the episode omitted reference to the victims and described Ms Tamimi’s crimes as allegations, and that the episode was promoted on social media with the hashtag “Ahalm Tamimi, your voice is loud and clear”. Mr Roth said that the episode was contrary to journalistic and ethical values.
It is believed that Mr Roth observed that the BBC Arabic anchorman presented the apology by saying “I read you a message from the BBC”, which he claimed showed that BBC Arabic was failing to take responsibility. The BBC apparently considered, to the contrary, that this introduction gave the apology more prominence.
It is understood that Mr Roth wished to speak with BBC Arabic’s Trending staff to present on the work of the Malki Foundation, named for his daughter, which works with disabled children of all faiths in Israel, and to record a segment for the programme outlining his criticism of the interview.
According to the JC, the BBC decided to “respectfully decline” his request.
A spokesperson for BBC Arabic reportedly said: “Airing an apology on live TV gives it the highest of prominence. The fact that BBC Arabic did this, and the breach in editorial guidelines acknowledged by the programme, is a reflection of the seriousness with which BBC Arabic dealt with it. The very clear apologies published online in both English and Arabic also show how seriously it is still taken.”
Ms Tamimi is wanted in the United States on terror charges.