|ABC studios in Ultimo, a Sydney suburb [Image Source]|
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|
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's the little that Ms McNeill and the ABC said 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:
- 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.
- 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"
- "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"
- "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.
- "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.
- 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. Parts of the Australian media gave this some appropriate attention: "Help bring Malki’s murderer to justice, Mr Turnbull" and "Dad’s plea for justice as killer of Aussie girl spreads message of hate" during 2017. But not Sophie McNeill, the only Australian reporter stationed in the city where we live. And not the ABC.