Monday, December 16, 2019

16-Dec-19: Like talking to the wall

Congressman Adam Smith in  Amman (Source: Jordan Times)
About six weeks ago, we noticed a Jordanian news report about an official visit to the sumptuous palace of Jordan's ruler by a senior US Congressman, Representative Adam Smith.

A Democrat, Smith represents Washington state's 9th Congressional district. Before that he served in the Washington State Senate. He has been a member of the House Armed Services Committee since 1997 and is its current chairman.

The details of his formal visit to the royal palace appeared on the website of Jordan's embassy in Washington DC. They also appeared on the website of Jordan's Royal Hashemite Court and a little later in the government-controlled Jordan Times. If it goot US media coverage, we haven't seen it.

We noted and commented on the visit here.

Smith's was one of three Congressional Delegation visits to the royal place in Amman that we know of between the first week of October and the first week of November. There may have been others that we didn't spot. We're new to the business of tracking the activities of US Congress people when they're outside the US. The US media seem to pay them little to no attention.

So why is this an issue for us?

Arabic and English reward posters issued in 2018 by the US State Department
If you know much about this blog, you will probably be aware of how Jordan refuses to extradite the Islamist savage who bombed the Sbarro pizzeria in Jerusalem. And that this flies in the face of years of Jordan complying with the bilateral extradition treaty with the US that has been in effect since 1995 during the Clinton/Hussein era.

Our 15 year old daughter Malki was one of the many children inside that pizzeria who were blown to pieces.

Ahlam Tamimi, whom we consider a monster, has taken credit for years - on television, in the print media, on multiple social media platforms - for selecting the site (the large number of Jewish children inside at that hour was the key factor) and for personally bringing the bomb (a human, enrwapped in  explosives and ugly little nails) to the door of the pizzeria just before fleeing to save herself.

She calls it "my operation" and has never denied the charges. She has publicly and repeatedly confessed.

Our disappointment at the repeated failure to act of a long and bipartisan string of US politicians and officials to whom we have turned is exacerbated by our fury at the brazenness of the Jordanians whose bad faith in this matter is, as we see it, beyond all doubt.

It's highly unlikely that the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan will ever voluntarily extradite this woman. If the mainstream media paid attention - but they do not - more people would understand how much of a national hero she is for Jordanians. On the other hand, no one seriously doubts, given the history and the realpolitik, that the US can ensure Jordan hands her over to face trial in Washington. But it does not.

Meanwhile we're pained by how US/Jordan relations roll right along with most of the players choosing to ignore the grotesque elephant in the room. That Jordan's king is a frequent honored visitor in the US Congress and the White House, and that his palace in Amman is a remarkably popular destination for a stream of elected US officials are matters that embitter us.

On Friday November 8, 2019, Arnold Roth emailed this letter to Representative Adam Smith's staff:
Caitlyn Cole
Office Manager
District Office of Rep Adam Smith
101 Evergreen Building
15 S. Grady Way
Renton, WA 98057

Dear Ms Cole,
I am writing on a matter of justice in the personal and literal sense. 
In 2017, the Department of Justice unveiled terrorism charges against a Jordanian woman, Ahlam Tamimi. She is the confessed murderer of my daughter Malki. My child was 15 and a US citizen when her life ended in a Jerusalem Sbarro pizzeria.
Jordan immediately rebuffed the US request to extradite her even though there has been a valid and active extradition treaty between the two countries since it was signed during the Clinton Administration's days. 
Jordan's highest court ruled, just days after the US charges were announced against Tamimi, that the treaty is invalid and unconstitutional. Not only that, but it has always been invalid and unconstitutional siince the day it was signed. 
An announcement made less than a week ago by the State Department [described at] makes plain that the US rejects Jordan's interpretation. 
In the meantime, Tamimi lives free in Jordan's capital, not in hiding, a celebrity whose constant acts of incitement to further Islamist terror atrocities are amplified by her frequent and essentially unfettered access to Jordan's media.
Mr Smith's visit to Jordan, reported today in the Jordanian media (see, comes on the heels of one by Speaker Pelosi in October and one by Rep Jason Crow a few weeks before that.
It prompts me to ask these questions:
  • Was Mr Smith briefed by the State Department or the US embassy in Amman prior to meeting the king and Jordan's foreign minister?
  • Did the briefing/s touch on US efforts to extradite Tamimi to Washington DC?
  • Did Mr Smith urge his hosts to ensure compliance by Jordan with its treaty obligations to the US?
  • Is Mr Smith willing to speak with me about this after he returns?
My questions are for the record, and I do plan to publicize them and whatever response your office shares with me.
Arnold Roth
Separately but at about the same time, we reached out to a contact in the US State Department to find out about briefings given to Congress persons who come calling on Jordan's king in his palace. What, in effect, we asked was whether Representative Smith was told ahead of sitting down with the king about Jordan's breach of its extradition treaty obligations with the US and/or of years of US efforts to extradite Ahlam Tamimi to Washington.

The answer we got was cloudy and unhelpful.

Just after sending the letter, Arnold posted this tweet:
A mildly encouraging reply arrived by email later that day from Representative Smith's staff:
Fri, Nov 8, 8:35 PM
Hi Arnold,

Thank you for reaching out! I’m looping in Monica Matoush and Caleb Randall-Bodman from the HASC communications team who can help answer your questions. I’m also adding Chairman Smith’s Communications Director Justin Weiss for his awareness.

If there’s anything else I can assist with, please don’t hesitate to reach out.

Caitlyn Cole
District Scheduler/Office Manager
Congressman Adam Smith (WA-09)
And then another from Caleb Randall-Bodman from the same Smith team:
Nov 8, 2019, 9:12 PM
to Frimet, Arnold, Monica, Caitlyn, Justin
Thanks Caitlyn,
Arnold - thanks for your questions. The Chairman is actually still in transit back from the trip. We’ll make a point to touch base with him about your questions when he is back home, and we will be in touch in the coming days. 
We waited four days for a proper response. Then Arnold emailed this:
November 12, 2019
Dear Mr Randall-Bodman,
I appreciate your acknowledging my email to Rep Smith. 
As you may realize, my wife and I are campaigning to see delayed justice done in the case of our murdered daughter. The questions in my letter are framed as yes/no to encourage a timely response. 
We would appreciate knowing if an answer is on the way.
Arnold Roth

Arnold waited two more days and then sent this:
Nov 14, 2019, 11:16 AM
to Caleb, Frimet, Monica, Caitlyn, Justin
Ladies and gentlemen,
If there is a reasonable justification for us to keep waiting for an answer to our straightforward questions, please let us know what it is. 
But if we don't hear it from you today, we plan to press forward on the assumption that we are once again being ignored.
The only reason we are dealing with Members of Congress is because our child's murderer, an FBI Most Wanted fugitive terrorist, is living a dream life instead of being extradited to Washington.
We can deal with excuses and political differences. Being ignored is unacceptable.
Arnold Roth
Later the same day, this arrived from Monica Matoush on behalf of Representative Smith:
Nov 14, 2019, 5:03 PM
to Caleb, Caitlyn, Justin, Connor, Arnold, Frimet
Good Morning Mr. Roth,

I apologize for the delay.  Chairman Smith returned to DC just yesterday and was immersed in meetings, hampering my ability to engage with him on this sensitive subject.

In speaking with staff who accompanied him on the trip they were not in room, so they are unable to advise if the subject of Ms. Tamimi’s extradition was part of the discussion.

We will make a point today to discuss with Chairman Smith whether he had any prior knowledge to the specifics you’ve mentioned below, what information, if any, our State Dept provided him and what will be his follow on actions, now that he is tracking the issue.

I will get back to you as I have something more.

Monica Matoush
HASC Comm Director
Arnold waited four days. Then emailed this:
Nov 14, 2019, 5:50 PM
to Monica, Caleb, Frimet, Caitlyn, Justin, Connor
Thank you. Please refer to my four questions. Just four. 
Then five days later, this:
Nov 19, 2019, 12:30 AM
to Monica, Caleb, Frimet, Caitlyn, Justin, Connor 
Eleven days after my first message to his office, it seems safe to assume at this point that no response is going to come from Rep Smith. 
Arnold Roth
Then after nearly three more weeks of no response, Arnold emailed this
Dec 9, 2019, 8:54 AM
to Monica, Caleb, Frimet, Caitlyn, Justin, Connor
Ladies and gentlemen,
A polite reminder to you that, as the parents of a US citizen who was a beautiful and caring 15 year old when she was killed in the bigotry-driven bombing of a pizzeria filled with children, we have tried to extract responses from a string of US political figures who have paid official visits to Jordan's king during the past six weeks. 
There are surprisingly many such Congressional representatives. What's harder for us to understand is that not a single one of them has responded when we have reached out to their offices to ask if they know about King Abdullah II's brazen disregard for his kingdom's treaty obligations to the United States. 
One of those, as you know, is the office and staff of Chairman Smith.
Our only leverage is the little we can achieve as ordinary parents, unaided by political alignment (of which we have none), reaching out to the media. But this does not mean we are powerless. If you take a look at our blog, you will see that we have managed to get the system to issue Federal charges and a $5M State Department reward offer and to have her added to the FBI Most Wanted Terrorists list. 
We will keep doing all we can until we see Ahlam Tamimi extradited from Jordan to a Washington court-room, nothwithstanding the totally bilateral cold shoulder we keep encountering. And despite the nauseating protection the bomber gets from Jordan's royal leader.
I am baffled by your indifference to all this.
Arnold Roth

The following day, Arnold emailed this final note:
Arnold Roth
Tue, Dec 10, 8:26 PM (6 days ago)
to Monica, Caleb, Connor, Justin, Caitlyn 
None of you has responded.
As of now, we regard ourselves as free to publicize what has passed between us and your office.
Arnold Roth
A week has passed and there has been nothing but silence from Representative Adam Smith's team.

This is far from the only instance of our reaching out to elected officials or government appointees asking for basic clarifications connected to the dream life being lived in the Arab world by our daughter's killer. And being rebuffed.

The list includes some significant names. During October and November 2019, in addition to Rep Adam Smith, it included:
  • Ranking Member Mac Thornberry, House Armed Services Committee [Source]
  • Chairman Eliot Engel, House Foreign Affairs Committee [Source]
  • Chairman Bennie Thompson, Homeland Security Committee [Source]
  • Chairman Adam Schiff, House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence [Source]
  • Congressman Ron Kind, House Ways and Means Committee [Source]
  • Congresswoman Susan Davis, House Armed Services Committee [Source]
  • Congressman Stephen Lynch, Chairman, House Oversight and Reform Subcommittee on National Security [Source]
  • Congresswoman Elaine Luria, House Armed Services Committee [Source]
  • Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi [Source]
  • Congressman Jason Crow [Source]
We documented some of how this works here: "14-Mar-19: Two years after Federal charges are unsealed, Ahlam Tamimi remains free. How is this happening?"

And also here: "19-Oct-19: House Speaker Pelosi led an official visit today to the chief protector of our child's killer".

With few exceptions, mainstream editors and reporters in the news industry won't touch this battle we are waging as bereaved parents to see our child's killer stand trial in Washington on the US Federal charges she faces.

But we certainly plan to keep pressing on. We frankly don't understand how they view this. But for us, it's purely a matter of justice.

UPDATE January 12, 2020: They're back from the Congressional winter vacation and there has been not a single additional word from Rep Smith or his staff to us since the correspondence we published here. Nor from any of the other Congressional champions listed above.

Sunday, December 15, 2019

15-Dec-19: The Sbarro bomber trashes the ruler who protects her from the FBI

Tamimi, a wanted fugitive from US justice with a $5M reward on her head,
was interviewed in her home by Associated Press reporters two years ago
The Hamas terrorist who chose a Jerusalem pizzeria to bomb because of the many Jewish children inside whom she sought to kill - and succeeded - lives free today in Jordan. In an absolute monarchy, this can only be because Jordan's King Abdullah II wants it that way.

We suggest in this post why that shocking reality (a) is irrational from the king's standpoint, given what the bomber's values and goals are; and (b) involves much blurring and denying of facts and some disgraceful pretending.

The continuing freedom of the bomber, Ahlam Tamimi, is an almost-completely-unreported scandal. Though she’s officially regarded as an on-the-run fugitive by the US Department of Justice and is one of the FBI's 28 most wanted terrorists (there's an FBI website that lists them), she's not undercover, disguised or in hiding. She lives free-as-a-bird in the capital city of a country ruled by a close strategic ally of the United States.

Starting in January 2018, the US State Department began offering a reward of "up to $5 Million" for the capture and conviction of this Jordanian Islamist. But as we have come to understand, so long as she stays within Jordan's borders, she is safe from the US legal system.

That's not how the US officially looks at this. All its relevant agencies say she needs to be handed over to US law enforcement and taken to a Federal courthouse in Washington for trial.

So why doesn't that happen?

It's not because she's hard to find. Journalists tell us her home address in Jordan's capital is well known. Associated Press had no problem at all arranging a video interview which its people recorded in her living room a while back. Aljazeera has made her the focus of several adulatory, in-person, long-form interviews (here for instance) for its television and print media platforms. For five years starting in September 2012, she was the presenter of her own weekly made-in-Jordan television show, sponsored by Hamas and robustly advocating terrorism and the rights of imprisoned terrorists.

And it's certainly not because the authorities in Jordan are unaware of the seriousness of the charges against her. She has confessed repeatedly to killing Israelis and Jews and makes a point of explaining that she has no regrets at all. In front of the cameras, she has said she would "do it again today".

All well and good.

But the reason she doesn't have to cover her tracks or watch her back is because the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan explicitly protects her.

Tamimi found it expedient to praise Jordan's king when his courts blocked
her extradition to the US
She's a resistance hero in their lethally-dishonest lexicon. She managed to kill an extraordinary number of innocent Israelis and Jews, half of them children. Watch her make that clear in this video interview (starting about 1m30s into the clip). Among Jordanians at every level of their society, she enjoys incredible popularity.

The presenter of a popular TV show said it clearly a year ago on Jordan's most watched channel:
You, the people of the struggle, elevate the name of Jordan!” 
To be clear, "the people of the struggle" she's referring to are Ahlam Tamimi and her cousin Nizar Tamimi who is also her husband. He is aligned with Fatah; she is heart-and-soul for Hamas. Both are committed, unrepentant terrorists and convicted killers. And both walked free the same day in the catastrophic October 2011 Shalit Deal.

The life of our daughter Malki, just 15, was one of the many snuffed out by this hideous woman. That's the principal reason we are so sharply focused on her undeserved freedom and the almost entirely unreported details of how she stays free.

It's been a hugely frustrating process - but there has been significant progress. Since March 14, 2017, there have serious US criminal charges against her that if proven will likely mean she is locked away for the rest of her life.

The US has for decades had an extradition treaty with Jordan, and has called on Jordan to respect it in the Tamimi case as it has on every previous occasion when the US has invoked the treaty. Jordan refuses.

This has some puzzling aspects worth pondering:
  1. The United States which wants her arrested and extradited to Washington where she faces trial is blocked from getting what it wants. Yet the US is by far Jordan's largest provider of security and aid funds.
  2. Jordan's economy is "among the smallest in the Middle East, with insufficient supplies of water, oil, and other natural resources, underlying the government's heavy reliance on foreign assistance" [CIA]. A 2018 survey says of Jordan that its "Debt is 95 per cent of GDP. Unemployment was 18.7 per cent during the last quarter; youth unemployment has reached 35 per cent" [Irish Times]. And not surprisingly, "Public dissatisfaction with the economy is a pressing concern for the monarchy." [Congressional Research Service, December 4, 2019]
  3. Since it provides the safety net that keeps the kingdom going, the US could easily exert pressure of the kind that would bring Jordan to comply with the 1995 Clinton-era Extradition Treaty. But it doesn’t
  4. And Jordan, massively dependent on American largess, could be expected to overcome its enthusiasm for killers of Jewish children and hand this one over. But it doesn’t.
  5. Jordan's highest court declared the 1995 treaty unconstitutional and unenforceable ["20-Mar-17: The Hashemite Kingdom's courts have spoken: The murdering FBI fugitive will not be handed over"] nearlly three years ago. That sudden and somewhat surprising ruling came less than a week after the US Federal terrorism charges against Tamimi were unveiled by the Department of Justice in Washington. The court held that the treaty ought to have been ratified by the Jordanian parliament as required by the kingdom's constitution but wasn't. 
  6. We argued in an opinion piece ["30-May-19: Paris, Amman, Washington: Extradition and what it can reveal about governments and terror"] that Jordan's approach to another of its extradition treaties - with France - shows how unlikely that Tamimi case decision is. There's much that's quite absurd aboout Jordan's legal argument including the reality that its parliament (meaning its king) could have arranged the ratification at any time since 1995 and could do it today too. But of course they won't. And of course no journalist is going to point this out.
  7. The United States after initially avoiding any direct comment on Jordan's obstinacy finally said last month - openly, leaving little room for doubt - that its treaty with Jordan is valid and that it rejects Jordan's claims to the contrary: see "03-Nov-19: In Washington, a step towards bringing the Sbarro bomber to justice". Nonetheless the US continues to tolerate Jordan's open breach. For all practical purposes, the US is doing nothing to press for Tamimi's extradition.
  8. Jordan, while avoiding any official comment on the matter, has acted as if there is no obligation for it to extradite and still does. The treaty was invalid from the day it was signed in mid-1995 said a panel of its most senior judges. But its diplomats (special mention to Ambassador Dina Kawar and her colleagues in the kingdom's Washington embassy) and politicians, all evidently aware of the rules of this sordid game, avoided all comment. The media co-operated, and still do, by keeping the egregiious and damaging breach out of the news. With one significant exception - an excellent news report written by Amir Tibon, Haaretz's Washington correspondent just a month ago ["U.S. Rejects Jordan's Refusal to Extradite Hamas Terrorist Wanted for Trial"]. We quoted it at length in this post of ours: "12-Nov-19: On Jordan, the US and the children killed in a pizzeria". 
  9. Perhaps because of the Haaretz piece, Jordan's official silence on how it safeguards Tamimi ended just a few days later. We described how in an open letter addressed to one of Jordan's longest-serving cabinet ministers, Ayman Safadi: "13-Nov-19: Thank you, Mr Foreign Minister". In it, we focus on an Arabic news report published on November 12, 2019 in a prominent Jordanian paper, under the headline "Safadi: We have received US requests to extradite Ahlam al-Tamimi. We confirm our commitment to the law that prevents it". The title says it all, leaving not much room for doubt about where Jordan stands.
The fugitive bomber, Ahlam Tamimi, has been cheerily public about her gratitude, along with her family, to Jordan's court and especially to King Abdullah II himself, for saving her from trial in Washington. His Majesty, after all, appoints all the judges, replaces prime ministers at will, controls the army, and decides whether to extradite or refuse. It's a kingdom with a very distinct center of power.

But something's just changed.

In the past week, Jordan's boastful Islamist has gone public in the Arabic-language media with  comments sharply critical of her king and protector. In an op ed on Arabi21, an online, pan-Arab news platform, and without naming him, she compares King Abdullah II unfavorably with his late father, King Hussein. The claim of her December 3, 2019 piece is that Jordan's government is not doing enough to secure the release of twenty-some Jordanians held in Israeli prisons. Jordan's official media mouth-piece calls them "detainees". (We're preparing some background notes now about the monsters among them and how it happens that they are imprisoned. Arab calls to free Arab prisoners from their Israeli cells, as Tamimi herself was, invariably skip the part about what they did to earn their lengthy prison terms.)

Writing under the provocative title "If Hussein were alive, the captives would be free", Tamimi says Jordan ought to force Israel to do a deal, trading an Israeli who is currently on trial in Amman for the captive Jordanians in Israel:
What Jordanians cannot understand is why Jordan hasn’t considered swapping the Zionist infiltrator [Konstantin Kotov] in its custody for 21 Jordanian prisoners in the custody of the Zionist entity... The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan must bear in mind the words of His Majesty the late King Hussein Bin Talal, "Man is the most precious thing we have" to take an historic stance for its citizens locked in the prisons of the Zionist occupation... [Machine-translated from Arabic]
A Tamimi tweet (translated below) from an account that Twitter has
so far refused to shut down
In simpler terms, she's saying Jordan's current king isn't pressing for Jordanian prisoners to be released but if he were alive today, his father would have. In a country with an exceptionally unfree media, this is startling.

And it's gotten traction. Among the Arabic publications that have re-published Tamimi's op ed: Abu Dhabi NewsAl Hayat News (Jordan), Palestine Online (PA), Akhbar Al Balad News (Jordan), Sabq News (Saudi Arabia), Al BidaaShehab News (Palestine), Rawafed News.

She has been critical of Abdullah in her personal Twitter account as well. (As an aside, each time we have referred Twitter management to Tamimi's Twitter accounts, they have shut them down - in 2017, for instance. As of this writing, they are refusing to shut down this latest one.)

Some of the Arabic tweets posted by Tamimi ten days ago (all machine-translated):
  • How frustrated Jordanian prisoners feel for their government's indifference to their fate [Tweet
  • The Jordanian government seems to believe the Zionist narrative that our prisoners live in five-star hotels [Tweet]
  • Had it not been for the government of Jordan, the Zionist Prison Service would not have secured our prisoners [Tweet] [Archived]
  • When the Jordanian government intensified its tricks, it organized a visit to a part of the Jordanian prisoners in 2008 while the rest were ignored [Tweet] [Archived]
  • The lives of Jordanian prisoners in the occupation prisons is a suspended death [Tweet][Archived]
  • The permanent question is what did the Jordanian prisoners benefit from the Wadi Araba agreement? [referring to the still-current 1994 Jordan/Israel peace treaty] [Tweet[Archived]
The State Department's Rewards for Justice unit
currently offers a $5M bounty for Tamimi's capture and conviction
How confident of her position Tamimi must be if she can launch a public attack on the monarch who, more than anyone else, is the reason she is free today and living under his protective rule. She evidently knows things about public opinion in Jordan that don't get well reported in the West.

Then again, she might not fully realize that if King Hussein, who made the 1995 treaty with Clinton, were alive today (he died in 1999), Tamimi would today be in chains somewhere inside the US penal system? Thanks to his son and the law courts that serve him, she's outrageously free enough to publish op eds, to appear on pan-Arab TV networks and to be the poster child for Islamist bigotry, terrorism and the redemptive power of murdering Jewish children.

A larger puzzle is why do Jordan's king and his many backers and apologists in US politics [see "09-Nov-19: Another delegation from US Congress at Jordan's royal court. Did extradition come up?"] continue to make this possible? Why is Tamimi still free, still toxic, still living her dream?

Tuesday, December 03, 2019

03-Dec-19: Tuesday morning on Israel's Jordan border

Israeli visitors undergo inspection by Jordanian border officials
this morning. Image Source: David Ben-Zion, Israel Hayom
Another instance today of the ugly petty bigotry that characterizes a great deal of the daily contact Israelis have with Jordan: 
Hamodia | Jordan to Israeli Deputy Mayors: No Kippot, Tzitzis Allowed | Dov Benovadia | Tuesday, December 3, 2019
A large group of Israeli deputy mayors, mostly from religious and chareidi communities, were prevented from entering Jordan Tuesday morning – because some were wearing tzitzis. Entry would not be allowed until the tzitzis were removed, the members of the group were told. The Foreign Ministry said it was “examining” the incident.
The incident occurred at about 7:30 a.m., Yisrael Hayom reported, when the group gathered at the crossing point into Jordan at the border between Israel and Jordan east of Eilat. On the Jordanian side of the Gulf of Eilat is the city of Aqaba, with the Israeli group intending to visit Petra. Members of the delegation had been told in advance to wear hats or caps to hide their kippot – for security purposes, of course – but were shocked to discover that they were refused entry because some were wearing tzitzis.
The presence of the tzitzis set off the Jordanian security guards, witnesses told the newspaper. The guards forced all members of the group to go through a security check three times, and also forced all of them to remove their clothing. “They did this to all of us, even those who could not be suspected of wearing tzitzis – there were deputy mayors from Abu Ghosh and other Arab towns here,” one member of the delegation said. “The feeling was one of abuse and an effort to make us suffer. It appeared to be a strongly anti-Semitic act. All the other groups – Ukranians, Koreans, and more – went in without even one security check.
“There is supposed to be a peace agreement with Jordan, but I know of no other country where Jews are treated like this for their religious practices,” the delegation member told the newspaper. “The demand that we take off tzitzis in order to enter Jordan is nothing less than anti-Semitic, and another sign of how real the ‘peace’ we have with them is. I can only imagine how the Israeli Foreign Ministry would fall all over itself apologizing if something was done that was perceived to be anti-Christian or anti-Muslim,” he added.
And this tweet:
Our translation:
An incident at the crossing with Jordan: Tens of religious and Haredi deputy mayors were asked to remove their tzitziyot [ritual fringes prescribed by halacha - Jewish religious law] and their kippot in order to enter Jordan. They refused heatedly and the Jordanians prohibited their entry. Itzik Ohana.
And this from Israel Hayom:
For security reasons, they had agreed to replace their skullcaps with hats for the duration of the visit, but when they arrived at the Jordanian side of the border, they were refused entry over the fact that some of them were wearing a tzitzit – the specially knotted ritual fringes – under their clothes...
"During the first security check, we were told [by Jordanian border security] to take off our kippot and put hats on instead," Givatayim Deputy Mayor Moshe Goldstein told Israel Hayom. "When the security screening was over, they stop us again because they realized some in the group were wearing a tzitzit. They even took aside the women and made then undress." "After the second inspection, they still weren't pleased and asked the entire group to wait for a third security screening. At this point, our guide said that they [border security] contacted Amman for approval and that we had to sign something saying we were only going to visit Petra and nothing else.
"At that point, we just decided to go back to Eilat. The atmosphere was harsh and alienating and our religious friends were greatly offended," he said.
The fact that the group was denied entry and the multiple security screenings are especially odd given that the tzitzit is not a visible religious garment. According to Goldstein, the group included Arab deputy mayors as well. "The whole thing just felt like harassment. It felt like anti-Semitism."
David Ben-Zion, deputy head of the Samaria Regional Council, said, "The whole experience was humiliating – it felt like a national humiliation. Even the secular members of the group were furious about it," he said.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

27-Nov-19: The Washington Institute has a response. Not to us, but yes: a response.

From today's Jewish Insider mailer
If you have followed the irritating way the Washington Institute for Near East Policy honored Jordan's king a week ago while simply ignoring the polite and relevant -- and even important -- comments we sent them and published, you may be interested in their somewhat delayed response.

No, they didn't respond to us. Neither today nor ever. We see that as being self-evidently shabby and counter to their professed values. It really speaks for itself.

But that's not our focus.

Today, a journalist whom we approached at Jewish Insider published a brief summary of what we have been saying about the Washington Institute's choice of honoree and then asked its executive director to react.

Which he did.

Here's the text as published some hours ago in a longer piece under the headline "INTERVIEW | Washington Institute’s Rob Satloff on honoring King Abdullah II" in Jewish Insider's Daily Kickoff mailer to its subscribers:
Pointed criticism: Arnold and Frimet Roth, the parents of U.S.-born [sic] Malki Roth — who was killed in the 2001 terror attack at the Sbarro's pizzeria in Jerusalem — penned an op-ed criticizing The Washington Institute’s decision to honor the Hashemite ruler. The Roths argued that the Jordanian king shouldn’t be feted while he refuses to extradite Ahlam Tamimi — a Jordanian national convicted for her role in the Sbarro bombing and freed in the Gilad Shalit deal — to face U.S. federal charges. 
Satloff’s response: “I am very proud of hosting the King of Jordan, who has steadfastly remained committed to the Jordan-Israel peace treaty throughout the 20 years on the throne and has been an important partner with the U.S. on a broad range of security and strategic matters throughout the Middle East. I have great sympathy for the issue that [the Roths] raised and believe it deserves high-level engagement by the appropriate American authorities with the appropriate Jordanian authorities. It is one important item on a lengthy agenda of bilateral relations.”
He has "great sympathy for the issue" which might mean something sincere and human and (bearing in mind that he hasn't given us the time of day) might not. But really, the head of the Washington Institute seems to be saying, the Roths' concern isn't our concern. It's other people's.

Got it, Dr Satloff.

As parents of a murdered American citizen whose confessed killer is the subject of a years-long effort by the FBI and the Department of Justice to have her extradited to Washington, there's room to wonder how your personal viewpoint as resident Jordan expert at your workplace (and its long-time executive head as well) fits its mission statement
" articulate a coherent and realistic view of U.S. national interests..."
One of the last photos we have of Malki, from
a family celebration
More than that: it's startling to realize that the murder of several US women by a big-mouthed, remarkably upbeat and enthusiastic Islamist Jordanian is so far outside your interpretation of your own raison d'etre that you're fine with lavishly honoring the autocrat who keeps her safe and out of US clutches.

While pointedly ignoring us, the grieving and justice-minded parents of one of her innocent victims.

We will leave the figuring out of all this to others.

Bottom line: sometimes it helps just to know how influential and ostensibly thoughtful people actually think.

But it's nonetheless a shame (that's an apt word in this context) that the troubling questions about honor, justice and decency we raised here and about which you are utterly silent remain unanswered. And seem likely to stay that way.

27-Nov-19: Jordanian ruler honored in Washington calls for empowering young people

At the NYC gala (the king is the one wearing the medal)
The Jordan Times is widely regarded to be an English-language mouthpiece for the kingdom's Royal Palace.

Earlier this week, it published a generous account of King Abdullah II's remarks at a glittering New York City event honoring him, hosted by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy on November 21, 2019.

We believe the WINEP recognition is ill-conceived and have said so, and explained why, in several places (see below).

The king makes all of Jordan's important decisions as well as appointing its political leaders and judges. But he also demeans the 1995 extradition treaty entered into by his late father King Hussein and the Bill Clinton Administration - all, it appears, in order to safeguard a popular jihadist with a strong Jordanian following.

That jihadist happens to be the confessed mastermind of the mass-casualty Sbarro pizzeria bombing in which our daughter Malki was killed. The bomber, Ahlam Tamimi, is a fugitive from the FBI who lives openly, never in hiding, in Jordan's capital city Amman.

We have published three related pieces in recent days expressing a viewpoint that is deeply critical not only of the Jordanians but of the Washington Institute whose leadership continues to ignore all our attempts to engage them in discussion.
The full text of the Jordan Times article reproduced below (originally published here) provides insight into how the WINEP award is viewed from the Jordanian perspective.

Not surprisingly, even as the king speaks of peace, countering extremism and paying close attention to the future being prepared for young people, the extraordinary enthusiasm his country shows for Ahlam Tamimi's massacre of Jewish children and Jordan's unjustifiable dismissal of its treaty obligations to the United States go unmentioned.

* * *

King, at Scholar-Statesman Award dinner, urges countries to believe in their peoples, give them opportunity
Jordan Times, November 23, 2019

AMMAN — His Majesty King Abdullah participated in a conversation in New York on Thursday evening, held by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy with its executive director, Robert Satloff.

The conversation, held as part of the 2019 Scholar-Statesman Award dinner held in honour of King Abdullah, covered regional developments, the threat of terrorism and efforts to achieve peace in the region, according to a Royal Court statement.

Responding to a question on lessons learned on leadership over the past 20 years, His Majesty said: “With all the challenges that we have in our part of the world, you always have to look to the positive, you always have to reach out and do the right thing.”

“As challenging and as confusing as our part of the world looks, I am optimistic; we will move to the future, and I get that inspiration, not only from my family, but from young men and women in Jordan that have that aspiration to make life better,” the King continued.

“Youth want to move forward, live together and make a better world for themselves, and that’s what gives us, I think, the energy to continue,” His Majesty said.

Commenting on extremism, the King noted that the challenge is global, adding that Daesh has been defeated in Syria and Iraq but not destroyed, according to the statement.

His Majesty pointed to renewed threats from the group, warning that “until politicians understand who the enemy is, it’s two steps forward and one step back”.

The King said the challenge comes from the outlaws of Islam, including takfiri jihadist groups like Daesh that utilise the Internet and social media to create a global reach and recruit around the world.

“So unless we call the enemy and those who support them for what they are, it’s going to take a long time for us to be able to deal with this,” His Majesty added.

Commenting on protests in the Middle East and similar past movements, the King said the Arab Spring was led by youth who were frustrated and wanted opportunities, the statement said.

“We look back at that point in history, and it is obviously a very defining road for us in Islamic and Arabic history, and I think we’ll look back on it and say that was a crossroad that we needed to cross,” His Majesty noted.

Responding to a question on how monarchies have handled protests, the King said: “Monarchies in the way I was brought up by His late Majesty and he was brought up by his father and his father, is we are there for all of society.”

“We are the balancer for everybody in society… We are the ones that make sure that everybody is protected and everybody is supported, and I think that is what has helped the monarchies be stable during a very difficult time for our region,” His Majesty continued.

Discussing efforts to rekindle peace efforts in the region, the King stressed the important role of the United States in bringing both sides together, according to the statement.

“I think there’s quite a few of us in this room that believe that the only way to move forward is a two-state solution, because the alternative is worse for all of us — an Israel looking inwards, which none of us can afford. We then have an immediate challenge of equal rights, which, again, is something that we can’t deal with,” His Majesty stressed.

On the current prospects of the two-state solution, the King said, “Every time we lose a year, it is going to be much more complicated, and much more difficult for the Palestinians and Israelis to get to go forward together”.

Noting that Israel’s future is being part of the Middle East, His Majesty said that cannot happen “unless we solve the Palestinian problem”, which is a sensitive and emotional issue.

“Unless we can solve the Israeli-Palestinian issue, we’ll never have the full integration that all of us deserve in our part of the world,” the King said.

Pointing to the recent elections held in Israel and the current stalemate, His Majesty said, “we are all in pause mode, and we have not been able to get people back around the table talking to each other”.

In January 2018, the US announced a $5M reward
for the capture and conviction of Tamimi
whose home address and
movements in Jordan's capital are well-known
“The Jordanian-Israeli relationship is at an all-time low. Part of it is because of Israeli domestic issues. We are hoping that Israel would decide its future, whether it is in the next several weeks or in the next three months, and then it is very important for all of us, and I am saying, our friends here in the United States, to refocus our energies on bringing all of us back to the table, and looking at the glass half-full,” His Majesty added.

“The problems that we’ve had with Israel are bilateral. Part of it is internal politics; I understand that, but not at the expense of something that my father and the late prime minister Rabin fought so hard to achieve, as a symbol of hope and opportunity for Israelis, Palestinians, Jordanians and others,” the King continued.

His Majesty pointed out that the Jordanian-Israeli peace was the result of the two sides sitting together “because they had the confidence in each other to create this peace”, voicing hope that the two sides can go back to talking to each other on simple issues “that we have not been able to talk about for the past two years”.

Reacting to calls by US officials to come back from the Middle East, the King expressed understanding for the desire to bring back young men and women out from harm’s way.

“I am absolutely sympathetic with the desire for people to bring their troops back… The United States is in a unique position of being the most powerful, capable country in the world, and with that comes a moral responsibility to help stabilise the world,” His Majesty said.

“From an ex-military point of view, and this is my personal opinion, sometimes when you move out of a campaign before it is over, you are only going to be back tomorrow to try to fix it again, having lost all that ground,” the King underscored.

“Nobody can fault Americans for wanting their loved ones back. But they will be back, unless we solve it, and that is the problem,” His Majesty added.

The King concluded by reiterating the need to empower young people.

“Just know that there is a younger generation of people in our part of the world that just want to get on with their lives,” His Majesty said. Be they Jordanian, Palestinian, Yemeni, Israeli or Iranian, they want to be able to find jobs, settle down with families, and move on, the King explained.

“Believe in your people, because they do want to have the right thing but give them the opportunity. And I am not just talking about our part of the world in the Middle East. This is all over the place. So, give the young people your love and your consideration, because they will make the world better if we give them a chance,” His Majesty concluded.

Saturday, November 23, 2019

23-Nov-19: We have some unanswered and troubling questions about honor, justice and decency

From left: WINEP Executive Director Robert Satloff, Chairman of the WINEP
Board of Trustees James Schreiber, Jordan's king, someone else
No one from the Washington Institute for Near East Policy - not their board members, not the executives who run it, not the communications professionals who work hard to keep it in the news - bothered to respond to us or any of our emails, tweets or opinion pieces (one on the home page of the Times of Israel, one on our blog) in relation to their giving an award called "Scholar-Statesman" to Jordan's ruler this past Thursday night.

We think that's extraordinary. Not in a good way.

Our concern focuses on how Jordan, an absolute monarchy, defeats justice by brazenly shielding a mass murderer who happens also to be the killer of our teenage daughter Malki. Malki was a US citizen whose life ended in a massive conflagration before she reached her sixteenth birthday.

In the wake of the glittering event at which the award was presented, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan's embassy in Washington, where Ambassador Dina Kawar blocks us on Twitter, has just published the kind of self-serving report we have learned to expect, emphasizing and re-emphasizing King Abdullah II's wisdom, wise policies and how he "confronts" extremism.
22 November 2019 (Archived)
His Majesty King Abdullah, in the presence of Her Majesty Queen Rania Al Abdullah and His Royal Highness Crown Prince Al Hussein bin Abdullah, received the 2019 Scholar-Statesman Award on Thursday evening.
The award, presented to King Abdullah by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), has been awarded to His Majesty in appreciation for his wise policies and efforts towards peace, stability, harmony, and tolerance in the Middle East.
The award was presented to His Majesty by WINEP Chairman of the Board of Trustees James Schreiber, during a dinner held to mark the occasion.
The award celebrates distinguished leaders who, through their public service and achievements, underscore the importance of research and deep knowledge of history in effective and wise policies to promote peace and security in the Middle East.
In remarks at the ceremony, WINEP Executive Director Robert Satloff noted that when His Majesty talks, people listen, be they leaders around world or the millions of his people, who count on him to provide wisdom and guidance, vision and balance, leadership and security.
For his part, WINEP Chairman of the Board of Trustees James Schreiber addressed the King saying, “you have led your country with strength, compassion, moderation and wisdom.”
He added, “you have been a committed warrior for peace, and a determined leader in the battle to confront extremism. In your faith, and in all faiths, you have been a true partner of our country, the United States.”
During the ceremony, a tribute video was screened, highlighting His Majesty’s achievements and efforts to pursue peace in the region and to promote dialogue and interfaith harmony, as well as his role as the Hashemite Custodian of Islamic and Christian holy sites in Jerusalem.
After receiving the award, His Majesty sat for a conversation with WINEP Executive Director Satloff, during which His Majesty spoke of the latest developments in the Middle East, the threat of terrorism and extremism, and efforts to pursue peace in the region.
Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi, Adviser to His Majesty for Communication and Coordination Bisher Khasawneh, Jordan’s Permanent Representative to the UN Sima Bahous, and Jordan’s Ambassador in Washington, D.C., Dina Kawar attended the award dinner.
No mention was made at any point in the gala event of 
  • Jordan's egregious and continuing breach of the active and binding 1995 Extradition Treaty made by the awardee's father, King Hussein, and the Clinton Administration
  • The State Department confirming just three weeks ago [see "03-Nov-19: In Washington, a step towards bringing the Sbarro bomber to justice"] that although Jordan continues "to cite a court ruling that its constitution forbids the extradition of Jordanian nationals... the United States regards the extradition treaty as valid."
  • The fact that Ahlam Tamimi, a Jordanian national, is wanted on US Federal terrorism charges arising from a bombing attack in Jerusalem to which she has openly and repeatedly confessed and that took the lives of 16 innocent people, half of them children, one of them our fifteen-year old daughter Malki. She is one of just 28 terrorists classified as being the FBI Most Wanted Terrorists.
  • Jordan's blunt refusal to hand her over to the US Justice Department, a disgraceful stance that has been barely reported in the mainstream news media in the US but which was explicitly confirmed earlier this month by Jordan's foreign minister ["13-Nov-19: Thank you, Mr Foreign Minister"] who was present at the Washington prize-granting event.
The most recent of our tweets asks a question, still unanswered, that we intend to pursue:
Finally a reminder that the Washington Institute's mission is "to advance a balanced and realistic understanding of American interests in the Middle East and to promote the policies that secure them."

Please recall that three of the lives stolen in the Tamimi atrocity were those of citizens of the United States. Does anyone doubt that this counts as an American interest in the Middle East?

We're baffled and pained by every aspect of how the Washington Institute for Near East Policy has conducted itself in this exceedingly shabby affair. We're especially troubled by how its leadership disdains us and our questions and acts as if we, our questions and our murdered child simply don't exist or aren't worth the trouble of acknowledging.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

17-Nov-19: Jordan's king to be honored for profound commitment to peace and moderation

Image Source: Aljazeera, March 21, 2017
Let's make something clear: the title of this blog post is not a parody, not a joke, not an attempt to be sarcastic. 

The Washington Institute for Near East Policy issued this announcement today:
The Washington Institute to Honor Jordan's King Abdullah II ibn Al Hussein with Prestigious 'Scholar Statesman Award' 
November 17, 2019
‪Washington, D.C.‬ – The Washington Institute for Near East Policy will present its 2019 Scholar-Statesman Award to King Abdullah II ibn Al Hussein of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan at a gala event in New York City ‪on November 21, 2019‬, the research organization announced today. The Institute will also pay tribute to Institute Trustees Merryl and James Tisch, leaders in the business, educational, and philanthropic communities.
"It is our great privilege to recognize His Majesty King Abdullah II of Jordan for his courageous leadership and profound commitment to peace and moderation," stated Institute leaders Executive Director Robert Satloff, President Shelly Kassen, and Chairman James Schreiber. "In a region troubled by violence and extremism, the King has shown over two decades on the throne that a mix of compassion and strength is a recipe for visionary statesmanship."
King Abdullah II has been the head of Jordan's monarchy since 1999, following the passing of his father, King Hussein. Throughout his reign, he has prioritized investing in the potential of his people, countering violent extremism, and working to expand the prospects for peace in the Middle East. The 41st generation direct descendant of the Prophet Muhammad, King Abdullah II has been recognized around the world for efforts to advance harmony and peace within Islam and among the world's great religions.
The Scholar-Statesman Award celebrates outstanding leaders who, through their public service and professional achievements, exemplify the idea that sound scholarship and a discerning knowledge of history are essential to wise and effective policy and the advancement of peace and security in the Middle East. Past Scholar-Statesman honorees have included President Bill Clinton, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, as well as former secretaries of state Condoleezza Rice, George P. Shultz, and Henry Kissinger.
The Scholar-Statesman Award Dinner, chaired by Institute Board of Directors member John Shapiro of New York City, will also pay tribute to Merryl and James Tisch, longtime supporters of the Institute and other charitable organizations in New York City, around the country, and abroad. Senator Charles E. Schumer (D-NY) will offer remarks in their honor.
A member of the Institute's Board of Directors, Merryl is the chair of the State University of New York and served formerly as chancellor of the New York State Board of Regents. Among her many leadership roles, she sits on the boards of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the New York City Charter Revision Commission, the Citizens Budget Commission, and the Trust for Cultural Resources of the City of New York.
James Tisch is the president and chief executive officer of Loews Corporation, and is also the chairman of the board of directors of Diamond Offshore Drilling, Inc. He is co-chairman of the board of trustees of the Mount Sinai Health Systems, where he and Merryl endowed the Tisch Cancer Institute in 2008. He has led numerous nonprofits boards including WNET, the Jewish Agency for Israel, the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations, United Jewish Communities, and UJA-Federation of New York.
For questions about the Scholar-Statesman Award Dinner or for press requests to cover the event, please email ‪before November 20, 2019‬.
About the Washington Institute: The Washington Institute is an independent, nonpartisan research institution funded exclusively by U.S. citizens that seeks to advance a balanced and realistic understanding of American interests in the Middle East and to promote the policies that secure them. Drawing on the research of its fellows and the experience of its policy practitioners, the Institute promotes informed debate and scholarly research on U.S. policy in the region.
The Washington Institute's mission is "to advance a balanced and realistic understanding of American interests in the Middle East and to promote the policies that secure them."

There's obviously not a syllable here that deals with how King Abdullah II has demeaned the extradition treaty that his late father King Hussein entered into with the Clinton Administration in 1995.

Nor about how Jordan rebuffs ongoing efforts by the United States via its Department of Justice and State Department to effect the extradition of Ahlam Tamimi, confessed bomber, Hamas terror agent, Jordanian jihadist/celebrity and the killer of our teenage daughter Malki, to a Federal court in Washington where serious terrorism charges involving American victims await her.

Nor about those American victims like our Malki. Or their "American interests".

We have contacted the Washington Institute's executive director and head, Dr Robert Satloff, tonight asking for a discussion.

We can be reached at

UPDATE November 21, 2019: We penned the Top Op opinion piece on the Times of Israel site today. It's called "A tribute unfit for a king who harbors our child’s killer | Jordan’s monarch won’t extradite the woman behind the horrific Sbarro massacre. Why is he getting the royal treatment at a New York gala?" [online here]