BBC official admits the network ‘got it wrong’ on Fogel murders


The British Broadcasting Corporation “got it wrong” in its reporting of the massacre of the Fogel family by Palestinians in the West Bank village of Itamar, the broadcaster’s outgoing director-general said at a parliamentary committee hearing.

In March 2011, Palestinians entered the Fogels’ home and murdered Udi, 36, Ruth, 35, and their children, Yoav, 11, Elad, 4, and Hadas, who was 3 months old. Another daughter, who was outside of the house at the time of the killings, came home and discovered the bodies.

Two Palestinian men were each sentenced to five consecutive life sentences for the Fogels’ murders.

Mark Thompson of the BBC made the admission June 19 while being quizzed by Conservative member of parliament Louise Mensch, according to the London Jewish Chronicle.

In complaining about the light coverage of the event on BBC radio and television programs, the newspaper reported that Mensch said, “I only found out, after the event, from an American blog, called ‘Dead Jews is no news,’ and the more I went into it, the more shocked I was. There was a feeling that the BBC just didn’t care and that if a settler had opened the home of a Palestinian family, slit the throat of their children, that the BBC would have covered that.”

Thompson, according to the Jewish Chronicle, responded that the story occurred during a “very busy news period,” including the fighting in Libya and the tsunami in Japan and that “news editors were under a lot of pressure.” 

He reportedly added, “Having said that, it was certainly an atrocity which should have been covered across our news bulletins that day… But I do want to say, to all our audience, including our Jewish and Israeli audiences here and around the world, we do want to make sure we are fair and impartial. We made a mistake in this instance.”

Tamar Fogel, the 12-year-old who discovered her murdered family in Itamar, speaks out


Tamar Fogel, the 12-year-old girl from the Jewish settlement of Itamar who discovered the murders of her parents and three siblings when she came home last Friday night from her youth movement, speaks with Israel’s Channel 2 during her shiva for her family.

Tamar talks about her lack of fear living in Itamar, a West Bank settlement near the Palestinian city of Nablus, recalls her family’s extraction from the Gaza Strip settlement where they used to live and says it’s time to free Jonathan Pollard already. The interview also includes footage from the condolence visit Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu paid to the surviving Fogels.

Netanyahu says of the Palestinians, two of whom are suspected of murdering the Fogels: “Now we understand who we’re dealing with.”

A sobbing Tamar shoots back: “And what will happen if you do something? Will America do something to us?”

Netanyahu responds: “They murder, we build. We will build. We will build our land.”

Watch the video (in Hebrew) here.

Hoenlein denounces lack of U.S. outrage after naming of square for terrorist


Presidents Conference leader Malcolm Hoenlein slammed governments, including the Obama administration, for not denouncing the naming of a square in a West Bank town after a terrorist.

Hoenlein, the executive vice president of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, made his comments Thursday in New York at a memorial service for the parents and three children of the Fogel family who were murdered March 11 in the West Bank settlement of Itamar.

“If governments, even our own, do not stand out and shriek and condemn and take action when they see this kind of action by the Palestinian Authority and their representatives”—and the incitement continues despite repeated promises—then “we must make sure that our voices are heard,” Hoenlein said. “We have to demand accountability and that there will be consequences.”

Hoenlein compared those behind the killings to Nazis, and said they were “likely driven by a vicious hatred fostered by the continuous anti-Israel and anti-Jewish incitement of their political and religious leaders, starting with “Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.

The naming of the square, which took place just two days after the murders, drew a relatively muted response from the White House—relatively low-level officials said they were seeking clarification on the matter and denounced incitement by “all parties.”

Those spokespeople, at the White House and at the State Department, responded only after calls from JTA. They called “disturbing” reports that Palestinian Authority officials attended the renaming of the square for a terrorist, Dalal Mughrabi, who was involved in killing 37 Israelis.

Hoenlein also decried responses around the world to the murders, describing them as “a balanced statement or at most a lip-service condemnation.”  He said, “Where is the outrage? Where is the indignation?”

Ruth and Udi Fogel and three of their six children—Yoav, 11; Elad, 4; and Hadas, 3 months—were stabbed to death as they slept in their Itamar home. Israeli and Palestinian forces are still searching for the perpetrators.

The initial White House response, which condemned the murders as “terrorism” and said “there is no possible justification for the killing of parents and children in their home,” was issued in the name of a relatively low-level National Security Council staffer. It was later upgraded to the White House spokesman, Jay Carney.

President Obama has yet to pronounce on the killings, although U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton condemned what she called the “inhuman” killings “in the strongest possible terms.”

Hoenlein was addressing the memorial at Congregation Kehilat Jeshurun in Manhattan.

The Anti-Defamation League and the Zionist Organization of America also issued statements saying the State Department statement was inadequate.

“We respectfully suggest that a forceful, unequivocal, and public condemnation of incitement must be heard around the world and should also be directed to all Palestinians through their media,” the ADL said in a letter to Clinton.

Pro-Israel officials, speaking on background, also have said they were irked by the State Department’s expression of “deep concern” after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced 500 new housing starts in West Bank settlement as a response to the murders. 

Mainstream Palestinian leaders have condemned the killings.

Palestinians in an official March 13 ceremony named a town square in Al-Bireh, near Ramallah, for Mughrabi. Members of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah faction were on hand for the unveiling of the plaque in her memory. No PA government officials attended the ceremony, according to Reuters.

Mughrabi was killed in a 1978 bus hijacking on Israel’s coastal road. She had directed the hijacking of two buses on the coastal road between Haifa and Tel Aviv, which led to the murder of 37 Israelis, including 13 children.

Japan disaster and Itamar killings put Jewish giving on the spot


Almost as soon as the catastrophe in Japan began unfolding last Friday, Jewish groups scrambled to figure out how to get help to the area.

In Israel, search-and-rescue organizations like ZAKA and IsraAid readied teams to head to the Japanese devastation zone. In Tokyo, the Chabad center took an accounting of local Jews and began organizing a shipment of aid to stricken cities to the north. In the United States, aid organizations ranging from B’nai B’rith International to local and national federation agencies launched campaigns to collect money for rescue, relief and rebuilding efforts in the Pacific.

But then Shabbat came, and with it the news that a suspected Palestinian terrorist had brutally murdered five family members in the Jewish West Bank settlement of Itamar, and the focus of the Jewish community seemed to shift.

“Not sure who to think about first,” Nadia Levine, a British Israeli event planner living in Jerusalem, wrote on Facebook on Tuesday. “The devastated remaining members of the Fogel family from Itamar, Gilad Shalit — 5 years in Hamas captivity — or the survivors of the Japanese tragedy and the dangers they may be facing.”

The Orthodox Union, which sent out a message last Friday calling on supporters to donate to the organization’s newly established earthquake emergency fund, sent out another urgent message two days later calling on donors to give money to the OU’s victims of terrorism fund.

As of late Monday, the totals collected by each fund were running neck and neck, the OU’s chief operating officer, David Frankel, said in an interview.

“We have an obligation to care for our own,” Frankel said, “but the enormity of the tragedy that happened in Japan is so extraordinary that for the Jewish community not to have an outpouring of support would not only be a denial of one of our primary obligations to care for everyone in their time of need,” he said, but also a missed opportunity to honor the memory of Chiune Sugihara — the Japanese consul general to Lithuania who in 1940 helped save at least 6,000 Lithuanian Jews from the hands of the Nazis by getting them transit visas to Japan.

“The Japanese community helped us in our time of need; this is our way to help them in their time of need,” Frankel said. “We can never repay the debt, but this is the right thing to do.”

By Tuesday, Israeli teams of rescue personnel, emergency medical officers and water pollution specialists had reached the suburbs of Tokyo, and they were in contact with aid workers in the northern part of the country where the tsunami hit hardest, according to Shachar Zahavi, chairman of IsraAid.

Several American Jewish organizations, including the Jewish Federation in Chicago and the American Jewish Committee, are funneling money to IsraAid for disaster relief in Japan.

In Tokyo, the Chabad center commissioned a bakery in Sendai, one of the cities battered by the tsunami, to bake bread for its residents and surrounding areas. The center also trucked several tons of food and supplies to Sendai, Chabad officials said. The officials estimated that Chabad’s relief in Japan is costing approximately $25,000 per day.

In the United States, Jewish humanitarian organizations reported that the money was coming in fast for mailboxes set up to receive donations for Japanese disaster relief.

“We are determined to provide emergency relief as quickly as possible and to work with our partners to provide support over the longer term as well,” said Fred Zimmerman, chairman of the Jewish Federations of North America’s Emergency Committee.

The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, the main overseas partner for the Jewish Federations, said it had collected more than $100,000 over the first weekend.

What makes the Japanese situation a unique challenge for Jewish humanitarian organizations is the absence of relationships in a country that traditionally has been an aid donor, not a recipient.

Indeed, when the American Jewish World Service, which led the Jewish aid response to the 2004 Asian tsunami, was asked what its aid effort would be for Japan, the answer was none at all because AJWS has no partners in the country, spokesman Joshua Berkman said.

The JDC found itself in a similar situation.

“We had no programs in Japan prior to the earthquake; we just worked with the local Jewish community,” said Will Recant, an assistant executive vice president at JDC.

But almost immediately after the earthquake and tsunami hit, the JDC consulted with the Jewish community in Tokyo to identify local Japanese nongovernmental organizations working in the affected areas. By Tuesday, JDC had begun funneling money to JEN, a Tokyo-based organization specializing in shelter reconstruction, support of the socially vulnerable and emergency supply distribution that had managed to send personnel to the ravaged Japanese prefectures of Miyagi and Fukushima.

As with other disasters, Recant said JDC will stick around to help with long-term relief, budget allowing. Only money raised specifically for Japan will be spent on disaster relief. There is no money in JDC’s budget for additional nonsectarian, humanitarian work, Recant said.

While Japan continues to reel from the triple disaster of an 8.9-magnitude earthquake, a massive tsunami and a subsequent nuclear crisis, experts in Israel are trying to figure out what lessons from Japan can be applied to the Jewish state, which lies on two fault lines, the Carmel fault and the Dead Sea fault.

Israel experiences tremors every so often, but the last time a ruinous earthquake struck the area was in 1927, when the West Bank city of Nablus suffered serious damage. An 1837 earthquake destroyed much of the northern Israeli cities of Safed and Tiberias and left thousands dead.

Israeli building codes have been updated for better earthquake safety compliance, but regulations and enforcement still are said to lag behind places like California, which experiences larger and more frequent quakes.

“There’s still a lot that has to be done as far as building codes are concerned,” said professor Michael Lazar, a tectonics expert at the University of Haifa. “There’s an attempt to encourage people to renovate older buildings and make them earthquake ready, but it really hasn’t caught on.”

A scenario in which Israel’s nuclear facility at Dimona, in the Negev Desert, would face the kind of meltdown scenario situation that Japan is seeing now is much less likely, Lazar said, because Dimona is far from the tectonic lines that cross Israel.

“But,” he cautioned, “it’s hard to tell how an earthquake would disperse.”

Japan earthquake relief: How you can help

Abbas denounces West Bank murders on Israel Radio


Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas called the killing of five members of a West Bank Jewish family “despicable,” “inhuman and immoral.”

“A human being is not capable of something like that,” Abbas said in Arabic during an interview Monday morning on Israel Radio. His words were translated into Hebrew by the interviewer.

“Had we had advance information, we would have prevented this,” Abbas said of the March 11 attack that left five members of the Fogel family of Itamar dead, including a 3-month-old baby.

Abbas also said that the Palestinian Authority would work to find the killer or killers responsible, and that he has agreed to a request by Israel to launch a joint investigation.

Abbas, who called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday to offer his condolences—Netanyahu called them “weak and mumbled statements”—took issue during the interview with Netanyahu’s accusation that the Palestinian Authority incites against Israel in its mosques and schools. The PA leader offered to set up an Israeli-Palestinian-American committee to look into the allegations.

More on this story: David Suissa: Behind the Itamar murders

 

West Bank square dedicated for Palestinian terrorist


Palestinians in an official ceremony named a town square in the West Bank after a terrorist involved in killing 37 Israelis.

Members of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah faction were on hand Sunday for the unveiling of a plaque in memory of Dalal Mughrabi in Al-Bireh, near Ramallah, Reuters reported. No PA government officials attended the ceremony, according to Reuters.

Mughrabi was killed in a 1978 bus hijacking on Israel’s coastal road. She had directed the hijacking of two buses on the coastal road between Haifa and Tel Aviv, which led to the murder of 37 Israelis, including 13 children.

One year ago, the Palestinian Authority had canceled official ceremonies to name the town square for Mughrabi after pressure from U.S. peace envoy George Mitchell and Vice President Joe Biden at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s request. The planned ceremony conflicted with a Biden visit to the region.

The PA said at the time that it would place the official monument at a later date.