This is a guest post by Petra Marquardt-Bigman
Roughly a month before the 9/11 terror attacks, Palestinian terrorists bombed a crowded Sbarro pizzeria in downtown Jerusalem on August 9, 2001. Fifteen people were killed, including seven children and a pregnant woman, and some 130 people suffered injuries; one young mother was left in a permanent vegetative state. Unwittingly or not, the Guardian marked the 15th anniversary of the bombing by promoting a book that extols the humanity and lovingkindness of the family of the Hamas-affiliated terrorist who planned, and helped perpetrate, the bombing: Ben Ehrenreich’s recently published “The Way to the Spring: Life and Death in Palestine” focuses heavily on the Tamimis of Nabi Saleh, who remain proud of their relative Ahlam Tamimi, the unrepentant mastermind of the Sbarro massacre.
Ehrenreich’s book has already won high praise from the New York Times, which recommended it warmly as a “Love Letter to Palestine” that is full of “heartbreaking and eye-opening” stories; similarly, a teary-eyed review in The Economist fawned over Ehrenreich’s “elegant and moving account” and emphasized that “[it] is in the author’s descriptions of the Tamimis that the hope, and the love, are to be found.”
The few hints Ehrenreich provides in his book about his protagonists’ sympathies for terrorism and terrorists apparently didn’t strike any reviewer as worthwhile investigating. Ehrenreich does acknowledge in passing that Ahlam Tamimi’s “relatives in Nabi Saleh still speak of her with great affection,” and he does get around to mentioning that two other Tamimi family members were convicted of the 1993 murder and burning of Chaim Mizrahi. One of them, Nizar Tamimi, happens to be the nephew of Ehrenreich’s dear friend Bassem Tamimi; Nizar is also the presumably proud husband of Ahlam: the two murderers were both released in the 2011 deal that freed Hamas hostage Gilad Shalit in exchange for 1027 convicted Palestinian terrorists – an event that was celebrated in Nabi Saleh – and they married shortly afterwards in Jordan. Bassem Tamimi and his wife Nariman, as well as their famous daughter Ahed, attended the happy occasion; needless to say, the murderous couple reportedly planned to “have resistance children.”
While Ehrenreich doesn’t tell his readers much about Nizar or Ahlam, he does devote a few pages to the stories of Said Tamimi, who helped his cousin Nizar kill Chaim Mizrahi and who was released in December 2013 in a US-brokered deal “to bring Palestinian leaders back to peace negotiations.” It’s noteworthy in this context that a still available media report published shortly after Mizrahi’s murder in 1993 stated that the killing was claimed by Hamas, describing it as “an attack by extremists determined to disrupt the peace process by provoking Jewish anger.”
Ehrenreich doesn’t bother his readers with these details, but after presenting Said Tamimi as a somewhat tragic and sympathetic figure, he does address the murder:
“About Mizrahi, Said expressed no remorse. ‘I didn’t know him personally,’ he said. ‘Those were the means that we used. It was part of the resistance and part of the struggle. I was considered a fighter, a soldier. The role of a soldier is to kill or be killed.’ Bassem interrupted: ‘This was not a personal issue,’ he said. Said nodded and agreed. ‘It wasn’t personal,’ he repeated. ‘My father was killed in a battle. I killed in a battle.’ [Note PMB: Mizrachi was reportedly a religious student in Beit El who went to the Tamimis to buy eggs.] I asked him where it happened. Bassem answered for him. ‘Near Beit El,’ he said. I asked him how. Again Bassem answered. ‘With a knife,’ he said. Out the window, the muezzin’s cry was rising from the mosques. Said stubbed out his cigarette, excused himself and kneeled in the corner to pray. I poured Bassem another coffee. ‘Ben,’ he said, laughing, ‘fuck you. Why do you ask all these questions?’”
Well, no worries: It was the only time Ehrenreich asked his friends some mildly probing questions. After all, Ehrenreich didn’t want to know too much about the Tamimis’ unpleasant views and the occasions they acted on them – or at least he didn’t want his readers to know much about all that.
But as I have shown in a fairly detailed documentation that is based on examining publicly available social media posts and other material where the Tamimis freely express themselves, their image as “non-violent” activists who valiantly fight for a noble cause is hardly more than a façade designed to attract the support of gullible “pro-Palestinian” westerners and organizations like Amnesty International. While Ehrenreich worked hard to bolster this image, the Tamimis freely share their enthusiastic support for terrorism and their ardent Jew-hatred among themselves on social media (though mostly in Arabic). Bassem Tamimi tends to be more careful about the “non-violent” Tamimi brand and only occasionally betrays his admiration for terror groups like Hezbollah or the Qassam Brigades, but the Facebook page of his wife Nariman provides a steady stream of posts and interactions with friends and family that leave little doubt about the Tamimis’ shared enthusiasm for terror.
As I have already noted in a recent piece for Tablet, Nariman has repeatedly promoted posts by Ahlam Tamimi (whose Facebook page is adorned with images of the suicide bomber who carried out the Sbarro massacre) inciting and glorifying terror attacks; she has also posted graphic instructions on where to aim a knife to ensure a lethal outcome for a stabbing attack, and whenever there are news about a terror attack, Nariman Tamimi will rush to celebrate with her Facebook friends. Even if a teenage Palestinian murders a 13-year-old Jewish girl sleeping at home in her bed, Nariman Tamimi and friends & family will hail the teenage terrorist as a heroic “martyr” who helped “to restore to the homeland its reverence.” Nariman Tamimi is also more than willing to go public with her admiration for Ahlam Tamimi: just last year, Israeli media reported that Nariman defended the Sbarro pizzeria bombing as “an integral part of the struggle,” declaring firmly: “Everyone fights in the manner in which he believes. There is armed uprising, and there is popular uprising. I support every form of uprising.”
Bassem and Nariman Tamimi are the first people Ehrenreich lists in his Acknowledgements, where he thanks them profusely: “I would not have been able to write this book without the abundant help, generosity, hospitality, kindness, laughter, encouragement, insights, and wise counsel of Bassem Tamimi, Nariman Tamimi, Bilal Tamimi, [and] Manal Tamimi.”
A clip I made together with veteran blogger Elder of Ziyon provides a glimpse of what these four paragons of lovingkindness really stand for.
Perhaps the most outspoken member of the Tamimi family is Manal Tamimi, who represents the Tamimis’ cause on Twitter in broken English under the well-chosen handle @screamingtamimi. Manal is always happy to flaunt her enthusiastic support for terror and her ardent Jew-hatred. While Bassem Tamimi will only occasionally acknowledge that the “struggle” he advocates is not just directed against Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, but against Israel’s existence as a Jewish state in any borders, Manal Tamimi will frankly announce on Twitter: “We will keep resisting until the last zionist either got killed or leave palestine.” Her hatred is so intense that she sometimes just can’t resist posting the most vile antisemitic material imaginable – even if it means equating Palestinians with the Nazis, as she did in this tweet [archived here: http://archive.is/s6dvM; an almost identical image identifies the hideous creature that is beaten up by the Nazi figure as a “Jew Rat”].
It is not hard to find out that Ehrenreich shares the Tamimis’ view that one Jewish state in the world is one too many – as he put it in a 2009 op-ed in the Los Angeles Times: “Zionism is the problem.” Obviously enough, however, reviewers for highbrow outlets don’t really have a problem with a writer who doesn’t want Israel to exist, but who wants everyone to share his love and admiration for a clan that has already produced several murderers, that openly justifies past terrorist attacks like the Sbarro bombing, and that cheers every new murder of Israelis quite publicly.
Note: Translation of Arabic texts courtesy of Ibn Boutros