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Guest Post: Sharing Views on Terror with Sarah Silverman

Ms Sarah K. Silverman

Dear Sarah,

We didn’t get off to a good start. A couple of weeks back, you decided to put your name recognition behind an Amnesty International marketing campaign – the latest in a string of Amnesty efforts to whip up enthusiasm for the notorious Palestinian Arab Tamimi clan and their specific view of human rights and wrongs.

If their focus in the past was on a media activist called Bassem Tamimi, this time Amnesty got behind his daughter Ahed, widely described in the media by reference to her elaborate mane of blonde curly hair. Arrested by Israel soldiers on December 19, 2017 in her village of Nabi Saleh, an easy drive from where we live in Jerusalem, she now awaits trial in an Israeli court on a long list of charges. News sources have said they include assaulting security forces, incitement and throwing stones, among other counts

FREE AHED TAMIMI said the Tamimi clan, and then Amnesty, and then you. Which got my attention because of the extremely unpleasant history my family and I have with both (but not with you – we’ve never met or spoken.)

Why wasn’t Ahed Tamimi already free? And with all the world’s current and growing human rights disasters, what caused one of the world’s richest political activism organizations (global expenditures of US$350 million in 2016 alone) to give her un-freedom such full-volume treatment?

Starting as a little girl, Ahed Tamimi has been the central character in countless news and social media reports, yelling into the faces of bemused but always-restrained Israeli military personnel and occasionally thrusting a fist in the general direction of their faces without (until this last episode) making physical contact. In our blog, my wife and I summarized this with text and photos: “24-Dec-17: Nabi Saleh, the media and a Tamimi child’s journey”.

Video clips show her in her pre-teen years doing this over and again as someone out of camera range directs her. For some, this was mildly amusing. But it was hard to avoid wondering about the motivations of people – parents! – who put their child in serious harm’s way like this and then instruct her to perform for the cameras. Her parents make videos for a living.

I was never able to see the amusing side. The Tamimi clan are violent extremists with a Machiavellian sense of what highly motivated people are capable of achieving with the news media. I pay attention because one of them is the woman who murdered my daughter Malki in 2001. They cheered the killer’s  release from life imprisonment in an act of massive extortion that Hamas carried out with success against Israel in the 2011 Shalit Deal. Many Tamimis from their village of Nabi Saleh, including Ahed, attended her wedding in Jordan in 2012. As with many Tamimi couples, the groom was the bride’s cousin; like his bride he’s also a convicted and unrepentant killer of Israelis.

Most people don’t know these very dark sides of the Ahed Tamimi story. Their know-nothingness is ensured by willing helpers in the media who portray an Ahed who never existed: an innocent girl, suddenly caught up in an unprecedented moment where IDF men came along uninvited, aggressively trampling her garden, leaving her with no alternative but to slap the big lugs.

The cloudiness is especially notable on the matter of how old the girl actually is. Bottom line: she turned 17 on January 31. But for years, the cultivators of her image (we assume her parents) have at various times given her year of birth as 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002 and 2004. We lay out the evidence in another post of ours: “28-Dec-17: So how old is the Tamimi girl?

Bassem Tamimi’s family appear to glorify violence of the most brutal kind directed against Israelis. They, their children and extended family members (many have been in the social media and the news) praise Arab-on-Israeli violence, celebrate those who do it and explicitly call for more of it.

A major New York Times Magazine story in 2013 was headlined “If There is a Third Intifada, We Want to be the Ones Who Started it”. Portraits of Bassem, Nariman, their daughter Ahed and assorted cousins are arrayed on the magazine’s cover. To understand the venom of the title, recall that thousands were maimed or killed on both sides of the Second Intifada. My daughter Malki was one.

Everyone rational wants peace rather than war. The Tamimis keep getting away with the pretense that they are for non-violence; it’s at the heart of their claims but it’s untrue. The deception works thanks to the help of people in parts of the news media and the human rights industry.

Few push the point harder than Amnesty International. They organized a coast-to-coast month-long speaking tour for Bassem Tamimi in 2015 [“04-Sep-15: Mr. Human Rights Defender, a question if we may”]. His interaction with elementary school children (old habits die hard) in a small upstate New York community attracted attention, and eventually disciplinary action, for the way he asserted his view of Palestinian Arab rights to children… in a Grade 3 class. His US visa was revoked shortly afterwards by the Obama administration’s State Department.

The misguided enthusiasm for Ahed as a “resistance” symbol in the style of Rosa Parks, Malala Yousafzai or Joan of Arc stems, in many cases, from straight-out lack of awareness of the grooming she has undergone for years at her parents’ hands and the values she consequently espouses. At the age of 9, how much freewill or awareness did she have beyond what her parents and village culture had managed to instill? Can anyone seriously argue this is something other than cynical child abuse?

The Ahed Tamimi case is a wake-up call about the culture embedded deep inside the two perpetually-feuding Palestinian Arab regimes, Hamas and Fatah. School curricula, summer camps, social media, messages from the president or the imam – praise children who attack Israelis as heroes if they live to talk about it, as martyrs if they die trying. They explicitly encourage killing and being killed.

The notorious PA Martyrs Fund scheme invests more than US$350 million every year in pensions paid to terror attack perpetrators, and to the families of terrorists convicted or killed. Weak efforts are made to explain this away as a social welfare scheme. But that theory evaporates once people confront the way the payments grow as the seriousness of the crime does. It’s clear that this is a terrorism-incentive scheme pure and simple. No Palestinian Arab child is unaware of where he or she is being incentivized to go.

Still, there are people – you might be one of them of them, Sarah – who manage to put all of this aside and fixate on the spitting, kicking, taunting girl who has finally had enough. What made her so angry, you tweeted:

Because, I think you mean, people just don’t get as angry as this without having powerful grievances and really meaning it.

But from living here, enduring life after the murder of a child by an act of bigoted hatred at the hands of this girl’s cousin, I know that sometimes what drives these people to do hideous things is far uglier than the mere sense of being wronged.

You might remember we sent you a couple of tweets on February 16, right after you pushed out that Amnesty one. The first was devoted to the violence in Ahed Tamimi’s “message to the world”, the name her mother gave it as she thrust the camera in her daughter’s face:

People like my wife and me who are horrified by the extreme violence expressed by Palestinian Arab children jumped onto Ahed Tamimi’s words.

And just as rapidly, others came along to say she meant something else entirely, or nothing, or at least her intentions weren’t violent but progressive and peaceful. Then there were those, like the reporter from the Australian public TV/radio network ABC and/or her editors who, taking no chances, brazenly erased the call to violence when the Tamimi message went to air. Our feelings about shabby journalism like that are explained in this post of ours: “21-Feb-18: News industry activism, its tendentious outcomes and the Tamimis

You didn’t respond to our Tweet on Ahed Tamimi’s incitement to violence. So in a second tweet we decided to tell you about our daughter:

This time, there was a response. You wrote:

We didn’t think you were being snarky but we thought you would show signs of understanding what’s actually going on behind the façade of the Tamimi girl and the efforts to camouflage Palestinian Arab society’s embrace of child weaponization. We tweeted this to you in response.

For us, this was an important thing to say. The woman in the picture, Ahlam Tamimi, Ahed’s cousin, has never stopped taking credit for the Jerusalem Sbarro massacre where our child’s life ended along with 15 others, most of them also children.

Ahlam Tamimi, a Jordanian-born Jordanian citizen lives free today in Jordan. She’s protected there by the Hashemite king from US efforts to extradite her to Washington. She faces trial on serious Federal charges arising from the massacre she carried. A $5 million reward for information leading to that outcome was posted by the State Department at the end of January. We’re hopeful she will be brought to justice soon.

After we mentioned the Sbarro jihadist, you replied with this one word Tweet:

We took you seriously, and tweeted this

Saying the Palestinian Arabs don’t love their children, don’t protect them, don’t guide them away from self-harming and dangerous extreme violence is always going to be a challenging thing to do. Not because it’s untrue but because it invites explosive responses. My wife and I have had plenty of time and opportunity to look at what they say to their own children, and – by contrast – what they say to the foreign media. We write and speak about this a lot. We don’t have any doubts that saying it publicly or via Twitter is right, justified and terribly important.

And in case you were wondering, yes, we get plenty of vile hate-mail.

Since criticizing you on your Ahed Tamimi gambit, our Twitter traffic went through the roof (by our standards). Not all the messaging was supportive. Some was ugly. A lot came from people who appeared to think Ahed Tamimi was a new phenomenon. Of course, she’s been prepared for exactly this kind of exposure for most of her life and has gotten exposed along the way to some truly repulsive political figures. A few days ago, we showed her with one of them in this Tweet: Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, today president and previously prime minister of Turkey:

This past Friday, we tweeted this:

On this, no response from you so far

Before signing off, a few words about the venom that emanates from some of the people who happen to look to you for leadership.

The far-left Mondoweiss blog ran an article on February 19, 2018 [“Sarah Silverman stands by Ahed Tamimi: ‘Do you wonder where her rage comes from?’” by Assistant Editor Allison Deger. She mentioned our exchange of Tweets in passing. That was too much for some of the people contributing comments to bear.

In hers, Annie Robbins, Editor at Large for Mondoweiss and “a mother, a human rights activist and a ceramic artist” wrote that Ahed Tamimi “is not a performer and claiming she is propaganda. silverman didn’t chicken out, she addressed those parents, respectfully, who, sad as it is what happened to their child 16 years ago, are online bullies [she’s referring to my wife and me]. silverman doesn’t “exploit her fame” anymore that those parents exploit the death of their own child. it’s sad that after so many years their anger is so on the surface and it doesn’t appear the death of their child has led to any reflection or healing but instead anger and revenge, aimed at a child. it’s almost as tho they are trying to superimpose the cousin whose crime was committed when ahed was maybe a year old, onto ahed, for slapping the soldier… calling ahed a terrorist is outlandish. and one would have to be in way over their head (like these parents) not to realize that. [For the record, we don’t think she’s a terrorist, and have never called her one. Thanks, Annie.]

Annie Robbins again in a separate comment: how could these parents [she means us again] possibly extract justice for the death of their child 16 years ago by slandering Ahed Tamimi today? everything about their continued injection into the conversation surrounding the slap reeks of bitterness, anger, pain and revenge. please explain how you think these parent could find justice in this situation. Ahed is trapped, imprisoned, so what would these parents preference be? execute her, life imprisonment? put her on trial for the death of their daughter? perhaps by some tribal justice? one of yours killed one of mine therefore sacrifice another from your tribe to extract a price? this kind of thinking is what one might expect from someone hardened by pain and grief but it’s nothing worth emulating. it doesn’t give their voice moral authority. it creates a situation in which anyone who doesn’t agree with them could be expected chastisement such as ‘how cruel of you’. it’s 16 years later and they’re using their pulpit like bullies to condemn a cousin. while their loss is tragic it doesn’t give them license to make false accusations. [Thanks again Annie.]

Another Mondoweiss commenter: It’s a shame the Roth’s have allowed their tragedy to pervert their moral base.

And one more:  Israel kills way more kids in the Occupied Territories than do the Palestinians kill Jewish kids and that the Palestinians are the invaded and oppressed and Israel the invader and oppressor. Further, the Israeli society certainly seems to take delight (and certainly defends) the murder of Palestinian kids by the IDF in contradiction of the Roth’s statement. And I find no evidence that most Palestinians”delight” in the killing of Israeli kids — would seem to be projection on behalf of the Roths.

None of us want the Palestinian Arabs to take delight in the deaths of Israeli children. But ignoring that reality doesn’t make it go away.

Ahed’s hero, Ahlam Tamimi, has been as clear as a sociopath can be in telling of the joy the murders she masterminded gave her and those riding with her that day. There’s a video of it, showing her interviewed on a Hamas-operated Al-Aqsa TV program that first aired on July 12, 2012. That, and the transcript, are here: “03-Jun-17: Watch the chilling joy of a terror-massacre mastermind”.

Anyone who has the stomach for it can watch and hear Tamimi recount the taxi ride back to Ramallah as the smoke was still rising from the devastation of the pizzeria in the center of Jerusalem:

“Two minutes later, they said on the radio that the number had increased to five. I wanted to hide my smile, but I just couldn’t. Allah be praised, it was great. As the number of dead kept increasing, the passengers were applauding. They didn’t even know that I was among them. On the way back [to Ramallah], we passed a Palestinian police checkpoint, and the policemen were laughing. One of them stuck his head in and said: ‘Congratulations to us all.’ Everybody was happy…”

It’s hard to be the side that keeps pointing out the destructive evil of the opponent. But pretending it’s not there is a lot more dangerous.

I hope we can find the opportunity to meet and speak in Jerusalem on one of your family visits here.

Arnold Roth

Arnold Roth, born and educated in Australia, has made his home in Jerusalem since 1988. He and his wife Frimet formed the Malki Foundation, a respected charity that empowers families raising a child with serious disabilities. The foundation honors the memory of their daughter Malki, murdered in a 2001 Hamas terror attack in Jerusalem. Frimet and Arnold Roth blog at and frequently write and speak about terrorism and its impact. In his professional life, Roth has been a lawyer in Israel and Australia and now focuses on corporate management, entrepreneurship and human rights advocacy.

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